|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
BELINDA ANDERSON: Feeding into this chat, we pre-recorded an interview a little bit earlier with a gent who couldnít talk to us because he was going to be on CNN. So we donít normally pre-record but we thought, we wonít try and shuffle CNNs agenda around. Itís something that has also been picked up by Sky and BBC. Itís the launch of a new newspaper called The Zimbabwean. Itís an opposition newspaper. As I said, we did pre-record this a little earlier. Wilf Mbanga, the founder of The Zimbabwean, a brand new publication, on the line with us from London. Wilf, we will get into the newspaper in just a moment, but did you have a chance to see what President Mbeki had to say on Zimbabwe in his State of the Nation Address today?
WILF MBANGA: I believe he didnít say much.
BELINDA ANDERSON: No, he didnít.
WILF MBANGA; I believe he only talked about working with SADC heads of state to bring about free and fair elections But Zimbabwe is a serious problem. Itís affecting all SADC neighbours. South Africa itself is playing host to millions of Zimbabweans, most of them illegal immigrants. And I would have thought that itís in South Africaís interests to help solve the Zimbabwean question, so that all these people can go back to their country.
BELINDA ANDERSON: So you donít think Mbekiís stance of quiet diplomacy has been quite enough?
WILF MBANGA: He has been too quiet. Itís a deafening silence, in fact. I would have thought that he would make a lot of noise, especially because whatís going in Zimbabwe is affecting South Africa, you know, all the illegal immigrants. The crime rate is so Ö all coming to South Africa.
BELINDA ANDERSON: What Mbeki did say in his speech today Ė he was referring to various of the SADC countries and Africa broadly Ė he spoke about the Togo affair, saying that it was a unconstitutional charade. Thatís quite a strong way to refer to a change of government. Surely it would be the same in Zim if the MDC isnít allowed to participate in elections?
WILF MBANGA: Well, the MDC has no chance of ever winning Ė those elections are not going to be free and fair. For example, we have got two million [indistinct] voters on our roll at the moment. Three million Zimbabweans are outside the country, have been disenfranchised. All the other countries, including South Africa, allows South Africans in the Diaspora to vote. And recently, in the Iraqi elections, Iraqis living in London now were the first to vote. And all three million Zimbabweans outside the country will not be allowed to vote. So youíve got, on the one hand, three million people who canít vote, who have been disenfranchised, and then youíve got two million [indistinct] voters.
BELINDA ANDERSON: You donít believe the elections can be free and fair at all?
WILF MBANGA: There is no way they can be free and fair.
BELINDA ANDERSON: We know about the importance of the media, as a check and balance, a watchdog to government, hasnít been the case in your country. You were one of the founders of The Daily News. It must have been very sad for you to see that being shut down.
WILF MBANGA: Well, the people of Zimbabwe voted with their dollars. The Daily News became the largest selling newspaper in the country within a very short space of time. People had confidence in it, it was the paper that told the story like it is. They didnít believe what they read in the government newspaper. So the people of Zimbabwe were saying "this is the paper we prefer".
BELINDA ANDERSON: How many subscribers did you have at its peak?
WILF MBANGA: Well, we had 150,000 copies per day.
BELINDA ANDERSON: I read a report a little bit earlier, I think in Business Day, saying that Strive Masiyiwa of Econet, who then later bought The Daily News, is sort of giving it back to the workers, heís donating it, and setting up a trust to try and revive that. Do you think in a country, working in a country like Zim, a paper like The Daily News can be revived?
WILF MBANGA: I would like to see it revived. It enjoys popular support in the country, and I think itís a great idea to give it back to the workers. A lot of journalists at The Daily News suffered, a lot of them were arrested, some of them were beaten up, and so on. I really take my hat off to them. They are an incredible bunch of people.
BELINDA ANDERSON: Is that why youíve started another newspaper outside of Zimbabweís borders?
WILF MBANGA: Yes, well, because Iím living in exile now. And I realise that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora need to know what is going on at home. And also the people back in Zimbabwe need to know whatís happening to their compatriots outside the country. So this newspaper will tell you, from the Zimbabweans in the UK, the Zimbabweans in South Africa, and the Zimbabweans inside the country.
BELINDA ANDERSON: And you can get it online, but you are also going to be printing it, I understand, in London and in Joíburg?
WILF MBANGA: Thatís correct. Next week we will go up to 15,000 copies in the UK, for Zimbabweans in the UK. We will be printing 30,000 for our readers in South Africa, and 10,000 this week, actually today, we have flown to Harare and hopefully next week we want to increase that.
BELINDA ANDERSON: So whoever is distributing those around Harare must be watching their back?
WILF MBANGA: Well, it should be on the streets, like any other newspaper.
BELINDA ANDERSON: Are you anticipating government intervention to try and stop it?
WILF MBANGA: I donít now. Iím hoping for the best. They have not stopped other newspapers, South African newspapers, circulating in Zimbabwe. So why should they stop this one?
BELINDA ANDERSON: Best of luck, Wilf Mbanga, founder of a new newspaper, The Zimbabwean, written for Zimbabweans living outside of the country.