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How Chiwenga's soldiers took over ZBC studios

18 Jul 2019 at 14:21hrs | Views
The dramatic November 2017 coup that claimed the life of CIO Boss Peter Munetsi and ended 37 years of President Robert Mugabe's iron rule is captured in the Hagiography Two weeks in November by Douglas Rogers.

Rogers describes how the soldiers stormed the Zimbabwe Broadcasting studios and took over before the coup was announced by General Sibusiso Busi Moyo.

Read below the passages where he describes the incident:

Rumbidzai Takawaira, 27, is beautiful – a dead ringer for the young Diana Ross. "News Bae", the fashion mags and twitterati call her. She's also tough. A black belt in karate, before she became head presenter of the ZBC's flagship 8pm Newshour programme, she pumped petrol at her uncle's garage in Mutare.

She's a canny social-media operator too, and at 9.05pm, after she's finished that night's news broadcast at the ZBC's Pockets Hill campus, she hangs around the studio taking selfies to post to her Instagram account.

She's heard all the rumours during the day, but she's the first to admit she doesn't report the news: she reads what's put in front of her by her bosses. This being the ZBC, a relentless propaganda machine for ZANU-PF and the government of President Mugabe, there's been a complete blackout of Chiwenga's press conference and no mention of any tanks and soldiers moving into the city.

She's selecting which selfies she likes best when her cameraman bursts into the studio, puts a finger to his lips and in a panicked whisper tells her: "They are here! Hide! Hide!"

"Who's here?" she asks.

"Soldiers!" he says as he dives into a closet.

She hides under her desk – the same desk from which she's just read that night's news – and holds her breath. She can hear footsteps and shouting outside.

She's a millennial, though, and she still finds time to update her status. She tweets that she's at the ZBC and soldiers have entered the building. Then the studio door bursts open and she feels a kick in her side.

"You!" says a voice. "Get out of there!"

She staggers to her feet and gets a slap across her face. Three plain-clothes men are in front of her, probably MI.

The slap is nothing worse than any she's felt in karate, but still, she's terrified.

"Where are the CCTV cameras?" they ask. She takes them to the control room, past the news room where she sees combat soldiers in uniform, their helmets covered with leaves and foliage, forcing six or seven staff on duty to lie on the floor.

The staff are petrified too. Rumbi still has her phone on her and during a distraction wisely finds time to delete her earlier tweet.

"Why did you not read the statement you were supposed to read by General Chiwenga?" one asks. "I only read what I am told to read," she says.

He shrugs; he seems to understand. Then Rumbi hears a loud rumble. Two tanks have arrived at the front doors of the ZBC. Rumbi thinks to herself: "Wow – this is war."

Back in Johannesburg, Gabriel Shumba is frantic in the back seat of the rental car. He knows the soldiers have reached the ZBC and entered the building. "Guys, guys, this is important – whatever they do, tell them not to harm the journalists. They cannot be hurt. If the ZBC people want to leave they must be free to leave."

The trio relay the message but Gabriel has no way of knowing if it's received





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