In Zimbabwe, Reporting a Dangerous Line of Work

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Reporter Precious Shumba discusses the hazards of covering the news in Zimbabwe. Shumba is one of the most outspoken critics in the media of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.


For a closer look at the life of a reporter inside Zimbabwe, I spoke with Precious Shumba. He's the secretary of Zimbabwe Journalists for Human Rights, and Shumba lives in the capital city, Harare, in a neighborhood battling crime and poverty.

Mr. PRECIOUS SHUMBA (Journalist): Mbare is one of the oldest township in Zimbabwe. In the past, this used to be the most notorious place so a lot of robberies, and historically this area is so many (unintelligible) people, (unintelligible) but it's a low-income residential area, and back home I stay with my wife, my two daughters, brother-in-law, and a housemaid.

CHIDEYA: Now, you mentioned that Mbare has traditionally been a stronghold for ZANU-PF, which is the ruling political party.

Mr. SHUMBA: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: Have people under the strong duress that's going on economically changed their minds about ZANU-PF at all, or are people still strong supporters of the party?

Mr. SHUMBA: ZANU-PF is incentivizing support for its activities, like if you participate in the (unintelligible) or women's activities, people are usually bribed to (unintelligible) jobs in the city council, getting some favors to do some illegal activities like vending. For example, in the open market, the (foreign word) only ZANU-PF supporters are allowed in.

So it's not like the genuinely supporting the party, but because of the economic hardships, they find it convenient for them just to get into the party, become active supporters, if they get these opportunities to make money.

CHIDEYA: How are people making it on a day-by-day basis in your neighborhood?

Mr. SHUMBA: People have no money to go to work because an average employee gets less than $100 in the U.S. dollars. So the situation really is dead, and people just try to sell things. And if they get a chance to get some foreign currency, they go on the black market. Because the bank rate is unfortunately too low. Each family averagely has a relative who is outside the country, and they always get some U.S. dollars, some pounds, some South African rands, some Botswana pula, and take them to the black market and sell those currencies in order to make a living. Otherwise without that, nobody would be able to survive.

Because the government does not want to be honest with itself. It doesn't acknowledge that we have an economic crisis. It does not acknowledge that the situation is really abnormal.

CHIDEYA: When you look at what's going on in Zimbabwe today, where you have doctors and nurses on strike, you have problems with the currency, you have a cholera outbreak that has recently killed several people, do you believe that Robert Mugabe will remain in office until he dies - because he seems very healthy for an 80-something (unintelligible) - or do you believe that people will force a change?

Mr. SHUMBA: The situation on the ground is the sort of overwhelmed. The institutions of repression, they have been severely weakened. But to really expect a massive revolt against Roberto Mugabe, what is only required is for the leading opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai, civic groups and (unintelligible) Zimbabwe alliance to really come up with the proactive strategies - that is, to keep the pressure on and enforce, in fact to mobilize for more people to go on the streets. Indeed, this might actually force the international community to focus more on Zimbabwe like what if done now, where they just leave the Zimbabwean people alone.

CHIDEYA: Well Precious Shumba, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. SHUMBA: Thank you so much.

CHIDEYA: Precious Shumba is secretary of the Zimbabwe Journalists for Human Rights.

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