Geoffrey Nyarota started off his career as a teacher in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe in the 1970's. He describes firsthand the brutalities civilians endured and those he himself experienced at the hands of both the security forces of Ian Smiths government and ZANLA guerrillas fighting in the area where he taught. The intensification of the war forced the closure of many schools resulting in him embarking into a career in journalism. Having the unique experience of being a black journalist in the white dominated media of Rhodesia provided him with the necessary experience and qualifications allowing him to rise to the top of his field post-independence with postings as Editor of the Manica Post and most notoriously the Chronicle of Bulawayo. He gives insight into the extremely difficult situation he found himself in as Editor of the Bulawayo Chronicle during the Gukurahundi massacres, facing the dilemma of risking personal safety and telling the public a story that needed to be heard. As a youth growing up in Zimbabwe in the 1980's I personally feel one of Mr Nyarotas greatest achievements was his exposure of corruption in Robert Mugabe's government through the Willowgate car scandal and resultant Sandura Commision. An extremely brave act fuelled by his belief in freedom of the press and his uncompromising tenacity in pursuit of the truth, these unfortunately were not seen as admirable qualities by his superiors and cost him his job as Editor.
Mr Nyarota continued in his fight to expose corruption and fraud as founding editor of the Daily News, an independent newspaper and a breath of fresh air to us Zimbabweans for years force fed government propaganda through the state controlled media. The odds were stacked heavily against the Daily news however it persevered and won a few battles but unfortunately the Government won the war forcing closure of the paper and Mr Nyarota into exile.
The book is unique in that although autobiographical, it covers important periods of Zimbabwean history by a resident Zimbabwean, most recent works charting the rise and decline of Zimbabwe have been penned by non-blacks and foreigners. He follows the transformation of notorious Zimbabwean politicians and military figures from their student and liberation war days to their rapid accumulation of wealth and power post-independence. He gives recognition to Zimbabwean heroes snubbed and forgotten after having fallen out of favor with ZANU PF such as Dzinashe Machingura and Willie Musarurwa to name a few. Unfortunately his accounts are not always chronological and at times he digresses, however his experiences of Zimbabwean politics, politicians and society coupled with his good sense of humor make the book in general very interesting to read.
Very importantly, he highlights the grave dangers African journalists and their families risk in pursuit of the truth, the repercussions being more harsh and brutal than western journalists protected by their respective governments.
My hope is that his story does not end here and that he will return home soon to continue uncovering the truth.