Thursday, 23 December 2021

FIRST MUCKRAKER DIES

FORMER Zimbabwe Independent editor, Iden Wetherell has died.

Wetherell (73) died peacefully at his Harare home this morning after suffering from Alzheimer’s for a long time, according to a family spokesperson.

The award-winning editor, who frequently clashed with and was arrested by former President Robert Mugabe’s regime several times, was the deputy editor of the business weekly at its inception in 1996.

He deputised current Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) chairman, Trevor Ncube, who was founding editor.

The Mugabe regime was unsettled by Wetherell’s tough editorial stance against poor governance.

Ncube said he received news of Wetherell’s death with shock.

He said Wetherell’s death had robbed Zimbabwe of a courageous journalist who, through his “powerful editorial comments” was prepared to risk his own safety and speak on behalf of the down trodden.

“Iden taught me a lot of things,” Ncube said.

“He was my tutor and my mentor. We worked together from 1990 at the Financial Gazette and at the Zimbabwe Independent until he was retired. We started the Muckraker column together. The column has grown into a big brand because of the contribution of journalists like Iden. You cannot write the history of Muckraker without talking about Iden. I remember him for some of the very powerful editorial comments we did, which shaped the national trajectory. Iden was the engine of the Zimbabwe Independent, an encyclopedia of the Zimbabwe Independent,” Ncube said.

AMH Editor-In-Chief, Wisdom Mdzungairi said the media fraternity was in mourning over the loss of a fierce defender of Press freedom in the country, who was also a humble person.

“He was a repository of knowledge,” Mdzungairi said.

“We enjoyed working with him. He was prepared to teach journalists and he was a humble guy. This is demonstrated by the fact that after he left the editorship of the Zimbabwe Independent, he deputised the editors that came after him until he became the group associate editor,” he said.

Faith Zaba, the editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, said: “This is a real sad day for the media fraternity in Zimbabwe and for the Zimbabwe Independent where Iden worked for more than a decade. Iden was a fearless and courageous defender of Press freedom. He became the torchbearer for a vibrant and independent Press in Zimbabwe. This quote from Iden is a great reminder of why we do what we do at the Zimbabwe Independent: “Our duty is to expose and confront the powerful ruling elite that has abused power in order to retain it. In a context where so much of the media act as a megaphone for the President (Mugabe, the former President who died in 2019) and his followers and, where formal opposition is manacled, we have a particular duty to speak out on issues of governance and economic management.”

Zaba said Wetherell was an advocate of a Press that promoted justice, equality and nurtured a democratic dispensation in Zimbabwe.

Former Zimbabwe Independent editor, Dumisani Muleya said Wetherell was one of Zimbabwe’s best writers.

A member of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union high command, Wetherell played a prominent role in student politics in the 1970s, heading the student council at the University College of Rhodesia, now university of Zimbabwe. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Honours in History, followed by a Masters in Philosophy and PhD.

He then lectured in the history department at the same university. Wetherell joined the Financial Gazette as an assistant editor in 1992.

He became deputy editor of the Independent when it was established in 1996 and became it’s editor four years later.

In 2002, he was named the International Editor of the Year by the United States-based World Press Review.

While describing the accolade as a great honour for the Zimbabwe Independent and its staff, he said the recognition would inspire his team to work with more courage. Newsday

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