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#2020: Zimbabwe Loses Three Journalists in a week, 15 in a Year

The Zimbabwe media fraternity has lost three prominent journalists in one week.  Charles Laiton, a court reporter with Newsday died on 21 De...

The Zimbabwe media fraternity has lost three prominent journalists in one week. 

Charles Laiton, a court reporter with Newsday died on 21 December, after a long battle with a kidney ailment. He was 48.

By @Comic24Derick

The late Laiton was hailed as ethical and responsible. “We have buried him, but what is important is to have a purpose in life, our profession requires that we live as role models,” Newsday editor, Wisdom Mudzungairi said.

“It is important for us to be responsible, ethical, and balanced in our reportage, promote nation and peacebuilding so that whatever we report on promotes peace and cohesion in society,” added Mudzungairi.

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The following day, on 22 December, freelance journalist Tendai Ndemera died aged 62. The late scribe was a footballer player at Dynamos before he turned to journalism. He worked at the Herald sports desk for almost 10 years, until his retirement in 2004 to focus on freelancing.

“He had invaluable contacts and sources in the sports fraternity. As I had a small team, Tindo was a valuable contributor and always on hand to carry coverage of important sports events,” former Herald sports editors, Sam Mawokomatanda said.
Late Television Journalist, Zororo Makamba
Veteran sports journalist, Charles Mabika paid tribute to Ndemera in a moving obituary. “He was a large-then-life character who always had the house in endless stitches of laughter with his vast storytelling antics.”

Respected media personality and Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary-general Foster Dongozi died a day later on 23 December, after admission at a Harare hospital. Described as a media pillar, Dongozi was suffering from a persistent heart problem.

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“We have not even reconciled ourselves to the departure of fellow comrades Charles Laiton Mwale and Tendai Ndemera within a few days of each other and this happens. Foster Dongozi is gone,” former Newsday lifestyle editor, Philip Chidavaenzi wrote.

“For me, when it came to wrestling with features and pinning them down, these journalists were gods among men. In later years, I would meet Foster, a jolly good fellow. And often he would commend me for my decision to write novels,” Chidavaenzi added.

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In 2020 alone, Zimbabwe lost 15 journalists. In March, radio and television presenter Zororo Makamba died from coronavirus, just two days after testing positive for the virus. He was the first recorded victim of the virus in the country.

The following month in April, former Radio 3 DJ Peter Johns passed on in London. Johns had suffered a stroke a year earlier and was in and out of the hospital.

“I first knew PJ, as he was affectionately known, on the then Radio 3 from listening to the radio in the late 1980s as well as participating on a number of radio programmes that he hosted during my school days,” radio presenter, Terrence Mapurisana wrote.

Mapurisana continued, “He was one of my favourites, I equated him to John Matinde during those years. I loved his style of presentation, including the music that he played on the radio. Artists that came to mind include Phil Fearon and Galaxy, Billy Ocean, and A Guy Called Gerald.” 

April proved a difficult year for Zimbabwe media after Ray Matikinye was announced dead on April 19. “Ray was humble. He had a thorough command of English, human nature, and a keen sense of humour. Features were his area of expertise,” Noah Pomo, his former media colleague wrote.  

“He laughed through the crisis. His best years were punctuated by the peak of crises in the economy, the media, and the company. He laughed through it all.” 

The same day, Daily News assistant editor Gift Phiri passed on at a private hospital after battling cancer. Phiri has carved a niche in the media industry, enduring torture and harassment by state apparatus. 

“In life, it’s very rare to meet and work with colleagues as nice and with an eternally happy frame of mind as this guy,” Dumisani Muleya tweeted.

Other journalists who passed on in 2020 are, Patrick Langwana, Godwin Muzari, Wellington Toni, and Augustine Moyo. Herald correspondent, Walter Mswazie, and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC) staffer, Janet Munyaka also departed in the same year.

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