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Hey Bob! Don’t forget some other people who helped put you where you are

Dear Mr Mugabe

Do you get the feeling you are running out of friends? Sure, Thabo and a few other leaders in the region who believe that friendship and old school ties are far more important than petty little considerations such as national interest and starvation are still holding your hand.

It’s a friendship that has blinded them to the basic difference between cataclysm and a non-crisis.

But, there are some other, very influential, friends of yours who are certainly not your friends any more; former friends that you no longer allow into your country and then have the gall to wonder why they have turned against you en masse.

I am talking about those many journalists, me included, who suffered the wrath and ignominy of Ian Smith’s government in their attempt to tell the truth to the world about the iniquities of his regime and the logic of installing a democratically elected government.

Ian Smith gagged the press, banned the press and harassed the press. He put local and foreign journalists in jail. As a representative of UPI, BBC and NBC, I was arrested 17 times in three months, But, at least I had no doubt that I was right and the Rhodesian police and intelligence services were wrong.

Now, you are doing exactly what Smith did. Only worse. Your megalomania has already resulted in more Zimbabweans dying at your hands than at Smith’s.

Your treatment of the press in your country is worse than that meted out by the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s. Your shutting down of newspapers reminds me of watching the South African security police storm into editor Harvey Tyson’s office with court orders to close down the Star.

Your harassment of journalists reminds me of the conversation I used to have with New Nation editor Zwelakhe Sisulu about how tough it was trying to run a newspaper under a banning order.

You have proved yourself as bad as the regime you toppled. And every bit as bad as the apartheid government of which you were so critical.

But worst of all, you have insulted all those journalists who risked imprisonment and severe harassment to tell the truth to the world.

You have insulted the memory of courageous journalists such as Don Royale of The Associated Press and George Clay of NBC and countless others who died in Africa trying to tell the world of the disastrous legacy of colonialism.

These childish efforts of yours might have some effect on twisting the truth in your own state media, but there is nothing you can do to prevent, even in the slightest, media criticism from outside your borders.

Those journalists who risked life and limb to tell your side of the story during your struggle are the same journalists on whom you have now turned your back.

They have not changed; you have. Radically.

We are no longer your friends because we just don’t like people who lie to us.

Sincerely and certainly no longer yours