Like most Zimbabweans, I was thoroughly disappointed by John Simpson's vacuous undercover report on Zimbabwe on the BBC Ten O'clock News on Monday. The Beeb's newsflash earlier in the day had got Zimbaz in the UK animatedly texting one another over the impending revelations at 10 O'clock, only to find that Simpson's secret presence inside the country was itself THE news! As many Zimbabwean journalists have observed, there was nothing new in the Beeb's report. Simpson simply regurgitated the litany of challenges that now characterise daily life in Zimbabwe - something that both the Zimbabwean press and its online counterpart chronicle daily. In fact, with respect to international coverage of the humanitarian crisis, Mark Austin's special report on Zimbabwe for ITV back in September last year was more revealing and informative.
What had captured the attention of most Zimbabweans wa the claim in Simpson's report that they could 'confirm' the emergence of a rival party from within Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF. That bit had also been broken by the two leading weeklies inside the country earlier that week - The Financial Gazette and The Zimbabwe Independent. However, none of the main movers and shakers of this new initiative have come on record to confirm it and when Simpson was said to have jetted in we all had the assumption that we were for the first time going to see Simba Makoni or his co-plotters categorically confirming their political ambitions. As it turned out, nothing in Simpson's report put the speculation beyond question and would have to look to the Zimbabwean press which broke the story in the first place to furnish us with more details. Meanwhile, Simpson's left Zimbabwe to its poverty and desperation, having notched up for himself a few kudos for 'bravery' for defying Mugabe's ban!