Twenty-three years ago, a company owned by Strive Masiyiwa, who is now Zimbabwe’s richest man, took me to court over a story that exposed corruption by employees of the then Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC) which Masiyiwa had worked for. At the time the PTC had the monopoly in the telecommunications sector.
I had only written one paragraph referring to Retrofit, Masiyiwa’s company. I had written the story in my own publication, The Insider, which was only five issues old when I was slapped with the lawsuit. I had published the story in my third issue.
I refused to retract the story which Retrofit claimed was defamatory because I had got my facts right and had documents to prove it. I knew that Retrofit had no case. It just wanted to drag me to court to stop my investigation.
It succeeded in doing that. It took three years for the case to be heard by the High Court. Although I won the case, I lost big time because I could not go ahead with the investigation. The three years had sapped all the zeal in me to pursue the story further. Besides, I was in financial trouble.
I had gone into publishing totally unprepared, relying on my journalism skills, and ended up with a huge debt. My bank was threatening to repossess my house and I had this lawsuit on my hands.
After winning the case, I started writing the story of my struggle to keep The Insider running tentatively entitled: Living on the edge- the making of The Insider, but I shelved the project and forgot about it until October 2013 when I came across a story by Strive Masiyiwa entitled: How I deal with Corruption.
“One of the questions, I am often asked by people who want to invest in Africa, is how do I deal with people demanding bribes…. My answer is really quite simple: I have never had any difficulty with saying, “NO”,”Masiyiwa wrote.
It was a moving story. But when I thought of my brief encounter with his company 22 years earlier, I felt that there was an element of holier than thou attitude. I felt like going back to 1991 because I still had all the documents that I had amassed for my story which I intended to publish as a series.
Masiyiwa’s story triggered memories of what I had read in John Quirt’s book: The Press and the World of Money, that: “There is a perception that anybody associated with large sums of money has special intelligence…” But then, I asked myself: What was the point? What was I trying to prove? What was my motive? I was too close to the story to be objective.
The best thing I could do was to let go. As Masiyiwa himself said in his piece, I too had a deep, deep conviction that I had done the right thing. But I had to walk away because if I walked away, or lost anything because of my conviction that it was wrong, God would replace it with something much bigger and better.
But I still felt that I still had a story to tell. This is it.