Friday, 28 July 2006

[Interview] Matthew Nyashanu, Zimbabwean journalist

Matthew Nyashanu is a Zimbabwean teacher, journalist, political analyst and media commentator currently living in the United Kingdom.

He is a member of the Zimbabwean Association of Journalists in the Diaspora.

He writes for a number of newspapers, particularly zimbeat, and since 2002 he has been a contributor to SW Radio Africa where he presents a political commentary program.

Nyashanu is also the U.K. spokesperson of the Zimbabwean opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

In addition to this, Nyashanu is one of the founding members of, and spokesperson for, the Diaspora Vote Action Group, which took the Zimbabwe government to court in an effort to secure the right to vote for Zimbaweans living outside the country.

In a series of ongoing emails and telephone conversations that started in January 2006, Matthew Nyashanu spoke about the Diaspora Vote Action Group and the hardships journalists are facing in Zimbabwe.

What motivated the Diaspora Vote Action Group to take the Zimbabwe government to court?

We were motivated by the fact that despite getting independence in 1980, many Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora were unable to exercise their basic fundamental right of choosing the leader they preferred. Other countries in the region, countries like Mozambique, for example, have been able to put such arrangements in place.

Who else was involved in these efforts?

The court case was actioned by seven people namely Matthew Nyashanu, Makusha Mugabe, Emily Madamombe, Lincoln Makotore, Jefta Madzingo, Brian Makuzva and Farai Maruzani.

How did you go about it?

We set up a website and we received a lot of support in the form of signatures from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. We also had a very wide press coverage, which helped us to reach far and wide in terms of building a support base. The only problem we had was that of paying legal costs but we managed to fork the money out of our own pockets.

Although the Zimbabwe government still would not allow Zimbabweans living abroad to vote, I believe that our campaign was successful. Our action exposed, to the world, one of the many ways the Zimbabwean people are being oppressed by President Robert Mugabe's regime.

How did your participation in this affect you and your family?

The participation further strained my relationship with the Zanu PF administration and I am viewed as a traitor especially for suing them from U.K., the former coloniser and number one enemy to Zanu PF. Because of that and because of my broadcasts and writings I am one of those not allowed in the country by the regime.

What would happen to you if you returned?

Anyone trying to fight for justice and anyone trying to inform the international world about the dark side of President Mugabe's rule is likely to face the wrath of the ailing regime.

In Zimbabwe just before Christmas, last year, a number of journalists were arrested. More journalists have been arrested again this year. What, in your view, is the Zimbabwe government's motivation for these and other arrests?

The journalists were arrested because the Harare administration is under immense pressure following their unplanned land seizure and the establishment of political thuggery in the country. Zanu PF is looking very insecure especially after demolishing the shelters of poor urban dwellers and moving them to remote and unsanitary places like Hopely Farm.

These arrests are a well-calculated strategy to put on hold the free flow of information -- especially the information disseminated by the independent press. The government is hoping to create a vacuum of information on Zimbabwe and, in this way, make sure that the inhumane way, in which it is treating its citizens, remains a secret. This is also meant to induce fear in all journalists and human rights activists wishing to square up with the regime.

Although these arrests may induce fear in the media fraternity, in another way they will make journalists to grow stronger in their quest to expose the wrong activities of this despotic regime.

What would you advise journalists currently living and working in Zimbabwe?

The way forward for journalists in Zimbabwe is to keep the pressure on by reporting all the abuses coming from this regime. The journalists should also, where possible, file stories with international media organizations to make sure that the regime is exposed for what it is.

This article was first published on OhmyNews International.

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