Zim: I Returned to my Country a Stranger

Zim: I Returned to my Country a Stranger

Date: March 21, 2018
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In August 2000, Violet Gonda left her home country to study for an MA in International Journalism in London. She expected it would be for one year. However, she was to spend the next 17 years in exile as a result of being banned from returning to Zimbabwe by President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

But she found that her media work in exile meant that she was not a stranger to many Zimbabweans.

In January this year (2018) she was able to return home because the unthinkable had happened. After being in power for 37 years, 93-year-old Robert Mugabe was finally forced to resign. “It happened so fast. I never thought this day would come. I had spent almost two decades exposing Mugabe’s excesses but when he was finally removed from power, I was in the Philippines at the IAWRT Biennial conference” Violet said.

n on of the ironies of this story, she was elected President of this organisation in the same week, having been a valued member since 1997.

Violet was already an activist for media freedom when she left Zimbabwe in 2000, she worked for a video/film production company, which produced political documentaries which would not be broadcast on the heavily censored Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). At Edwina Spicer Productions, the team travelled out to villages for community showings and began monitoring the ethical standards of Zimbabwe’s media. This was the start of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ)

Within a year or so, Mugabe’s media crackdown intensified, with intimidation of journalists, arrests and beatings leading to her colleague, Gerry Jackson, relocating to London, where SW Radio Africa was set up to broadcast back into Zimbabwe in December 2001.

Violet became one of the six journalists at the radio station which covered the ongoing political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. Their broadcasts telling the stories of the oppression of Zimbabweans, in defiance of the extreme censorship of Mugabe, led to all six being barred from returning.

Those broadcasts about protests and attacks by ruling party supporters or the military on supporters of the then opposition led by Morgan Tsvangirai, were virtually the only news Zimbabweans heard about what was really happening. “It was so hard listeningthe stories of rape and torture and killings told by the people brave enough to call us” she says. Audio report about Violet and SW Radio broadcasts in 2005.

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