Grim trail of atrocities against scribes

Monday December 11 2017

Ndimara Tegambwage is Public Editor with

Ndimara Tegambwage is Public Editor with Mwananchi Communications Limited. 

By Ndimara Tegambwage

        Issa Ngumba, a reporter with Radio Kwizela in Kigoma, went missing, and on January 3, 2013 his body was found dumped in a thicket in Mhange Village, Kakonko District.

Reports have it that John Lubungo, a stringer with the Independent Television (ITV), was murdered on the night of February 12, 2008 in Mahanje, Mbozi District, some 75 kilometres from Mbeya City.

Lubungo is said to have accompanied “three fellows” who brought him information that police had seized smuggled goods in Tunduma on Tanzania’s border with Zambia, and that the goods were worth billions of shillings. He thought that it was worth the trouble.

The reports further said that their car “was hit by another car from the opposite side in Mahanje, and when they got out of the vehicle, the three men drew machetes and hacked him to death”.

It is against this grim background that Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) has demanded that its freelance journalist, Azory Gwanda, be brought back safe.

The Public Editor’s Desk has received 146 messages from well wishers in the media fraternity and rights and freedom loving people all over the world.

At a press conference last week at MCL headquarters in Dar es Salaam, the firm’s managing director, Francis Nanai, made a passionate appeal to the government and all those touched by Gwanda’s disappearance to intensify the search for the scribe who was abducted from his workplace in Kibiti, Coast Region, three weeks ago.

“If he is being held for any crime he is suspected to have committed,” read the text specifically prepared for the occasion, “then those holding him should charge him in court as the law requires and let justice take its course.”

The abduction of Azory Gwanda brings to memory horrors of the near past when some scribes “disappeared” only to be found dead. Let Gwanda’s case be different.

Memories are still fresh with details of the death of Richard Massatu, journalist and publisher of Kasi Mpya newspaper. He disappeared close to midnight and his body was found the following day in Igoma, Mwanza. This was in 2011.

Press reports had it that Massatu was last seen at Cross Park Bar in the city in the company of “easily identifiable persons in public service”.

Unconfirmed reports added that Massatu’s eyes had been gouged out and his legs and ribs broken. The world awaits results of the investigations, if any.

Then there was the brazen, daylight murder of Daudi Mwangosi on September 2, 2012. A freelancer with Channel Ten, Mwangosi was brutally beaten by the police before a tear gas canister was fired at him at blank-point range. The incident occurred at Nyololo Village in Mufindi District, Iringa Region.

Eyewitness and photographer (the late) Joseph Senga of TanzaniaDaima newspaper managed to capture a string of photographs showing in graphic detail Mwangosi being beaten before he was eventually killed. “The police were collecting pieces of Mwangosi’s body with their protective shields,” Senga later told journalists in an interview in Dar es Salaam.

There are many such incidences. The world remembers what unidentified people did to Absalom Kibanda, executive editor of New Habari Media Group – publishers of Mtanzania, Rai, The African and Dimba newspapers; and Saed Kubenea, publisher of MwanaHalisi.

While the former was beaten, blinded in one eye and had a finger cut off, the later had his eyes sprinkled with an acidic substance. One was left for dead at the entrance to his house, while the other was temporarily blinded.

Pleading with the government to intensify the search for Gwanda is therefore not without justification, and one can only hope that the government is doing something about it and tangible results will be seen soon.