Against the grain

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 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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