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Bill Saidi: Resolute, Protector of Journalism

Harare – Current and future journalists worth their salt owe their allegiance to the late grandmaster and defender of the journalism fratern...

Harare – Current and future journalists worth their salt owe their allegiance to the late grandmaster and defender of the journalism fraternity – Zimbabwean born – William ‘Bill’ Saidi for stubbornly safeguarding the noble profession.

Though I never met Saidi in flesh, I encountered his writings through the defunct Horizon magazine in the mid-90s. Back then, he penned a candid opinion piece – the Last Word. Each month, I saved to purchase the magazine – and my first stop was his wittily woven column.

A piece that attracted me was titled: “So what if Dr Stan Mudenge wears a Rolex?” In this amusing, yet revealing critique, he interrogated as he normally did throughout his illustrious career, the excesses often connected with public office bearers at the expense of the masses.

Without a doubt, his style plus approach to writing ignited my interest in the profession. By the time Saidi shuffled to the Daily News around 1998 when my high school tenure was concluding, I knew which profession to pursue. 
The Late Bill Saidi

During my ensuing journalism training, missing a dose of Bill Saidi on Wednesday column in the Daily News was a cardinal sin. He was a pacesetter – an opinion architect – and an echoing trumpet of people’s wishes. Each word exuded a patent skill refined by decades of practice within various newsrooms.

Since then, I religiously followed Saidi’s writings with envy, especially when he wrote in defiance and defence of his sworn career.

“What the Mugabe government has been anxious to drum into the journalists’ mind is that only if they are loyal and patriotic will they be allowed anything like free rein in their work. The message has been hammered home through the high-profile sacking of any “dissident” editors from their jobs in the State media,” wrote Saidi in one of his blog posts.

The late Saidi championed press freedom through his works – making him a darling of many in the fraternity, including myself – but an enemy to some.

“Clearly, under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, this was a myth. AIPPA marked a period in Zimbabwe when there was a naked attempt to muzzle the free press. The proponents tried to defend this evil, draconian law creating an imaginary “enemy of the state”, a bogey, phantom whose evil design was the destruction of the country through the propagation of so-called “falsehoods,” observed the veteran journalist in a no-holds-barred post.

Saidi was also an author, becoming one of the few Zimbabwean journalists to publish a memoir: Sort of Life in Journalism, just like Geoff Nyarota. He went further to post periodical memoirs on his blog – a rare feat among African scribes.

I first heard of Saidi’s death through a Facebook post – thereafter, heartfelt condolences messages followed from colleagues. Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, secretary-general Foster Dongozi mourned the late scribe. 

“As a union, we are deeply saddened by the death of a veteran journalist who has been in all manner of speaking seen it all in the industry and was a reservoir of knowledge and history pertaining to the media industry and that of the nationalist movement.”

Even after his demise, I am delighted to have chosen a noble profession that Saidi defended with all his might as noted in his submission below. “Journalism is loaded with perks for the person who is not squeamish about accepting such “gifts”, even if there is no obvious graft involved. But I have been criticised for not bending the rules in any way.

“When I was the editor of a magazine, I was urged by the chief executive officer to personally campaign for advertising for the publication. But I said the group had an advertising department – wasn’t that their function?”

Saidi joins my list of celebrated Zimbabwean scribes such as Tommy Sithole, Alexander Kanengoni, Funny Mushava and Sam Munyavi.

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