Against the grain

GRAHAMSTOWN, South Africa

I neared the press scrum. Really looked
like some big wig was being interviewed. A South African minister? A popular
news anchor, a role model for the many media students here at the Highway
Africa
conference? In the middle of the crowd, gathered on September 10, the
first day of the biggest African conference on media and journalism, was Geoff
Nyarota
. Anyone know him?

I neared the press scrum. Really looked
like some big wig was being interviewed. A South African minister? A popular
news anchor, a role model for the many media students here at the Highway
Africa
conference? In the middle of the crowd, gathered on September 10, the
first day of the biggest African conference on media and journalism, was Geoff
Nyarota
. Anyone know him?

I didn’t and still don’t. Yes, I know, it’s
maybe a bit too honest to admit such ignorance publicly. But so it is. For those
expecting a in-depth biography, please check out Wikipedia. There is plenty for
you to read about Geoff.

Geoff is no ordinary guy, it seems. In
fact, the gathering crowd is not a phenomenon. That’s normal for a no ordinary
guy. Geoff Nyarota is senior Zimbabwean journalist who’s been noticed by
freedom fighters and especially during the years before Robert Mugabe took power in
that country. He’s been arrested in the days prior to 1980 for his tough
criticism and denunciation of the colonial rule… and guess what? He’s been
arrested lately again, this time by Mugabe’s men.

Geoff Nyarota was the provincial town of Grahamstown on September
10 to launch his book “Against the Grain: Memories of a Zimbabwean Newsman”. In
the book, he recounts the days when he used to work as an editor of the Daily
News, Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper which he started with a colleague
(also present at Highway Africa). In this capacity, Nyarota chronicled the
decline of the country under Mugabe's Zanu-PF-controlled regime. He was subjected
to constant intimidations and  harassment
by the "government" in this glossary). As a general rule, "state" should not be capitalised.

Source: Governance for sustainable human development: A UNDP policy document (Glossary of key terms) and Wikipedia">state

during that period.

“Against the Grain” tells the story of what
it means to be an independent in a society that’s slowly and progressively becoming
monolithic. Nyarotha fled his Zimbabwe
at the end of 2004 and now lives in permanent exile.

Now, the book has been out for a few years
now, but its newsy character remains relevant as never before.
Zimbabwe's former Information
Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo, even reacted to what he calls the "inaccuracies
and fatal errors" in Nyarota’s book, in an open letter published in 2006.
A debate is currently still well and alive on different online spaces,
including on NewZimbabwe.com

The
crowd here in Grahamstown was fully aware of where Nyarotha was coming from. A
young man referred to the “fatal errors open letter” to ask whether Nyarotha
was to address them. Nyaroth: “This is not how publishing works. You can’t
rewrite a book once it’s out. Also, this was not a book critique. A book
critique is never 4 pages long.”

Most
smiled and enjoyed the talk he gave, especially the many students who are
indeed after role models in today’s African journalistic world.

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