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    Friday, 13 May 2016

    Anti-corruption crusade – no one like Makonese

    Mathew Takaona
    Media Consultant

    JOURNALISM is a watchdog profession.
    Its members are to keep those in power under check; to alert, to expose, to whistle blow, to warn and to criticise. A good journalist, they say is one who has an insatiable appetite for justice. One cannot be a good journalist if one does not get angry when one comes across an injustice.
    Judges and courts of law can be there but their impact on the delivery of justice will always fall short without the critical role played by journalism; that is to extent justice.
     'Name and shame them' which is a cornerstone in the fight against corruption is that exact role which journalism plays to extend justice.
    All these things I reflect, whenever I think of the man called Makausi Thomas Makonese.
    He was a lawyer and I a journalist. Indeed he was a virtuous lawyer, a model of the profession, a man whose good values of integrity and honest were never compromised no matter the circumstances.
    Journalism and law can be quite apart and there can be very little to bring two people from either profession and make them friends.
    With Thomas we would spend three hours in his office, discussing little places and schools in our home area in Nyazvidzi Gutu and little social issues but what would make us lose our sense of time and miss lunch or his knock off time was our convergence on issues of corruption.
    I realise now that the two of us never argued on corruption; we were so agreed on its debilitating effects that we merely exchanged notes and did the little we could to abate.
    I first went into Thomas' office in 2007 when in the course of my duty I came across a story that needed legal advice. I had just arrived from Harare to Masvingo to imporove on the fortunes of  The Mirror. It was a tiny paper then printing as little as 800 copies and there was no money to pay for legal services. I was directed into his office by his secretary Andy Mutengezanwa and I politely introduced myself. I told him that he and I were home boys and I then pleaded for his free legal advice. He recalled my name from newspaper stories and then asked for evidence to support the allegations I wanted to publish. I rushed back to the office to collect the records and I handed them over  to him. He carefully went through the papers and sternly asked a few questions; he laughed hilariously and dismissively exclaimed, "this man has no leg to stand on, he has no image to protect, go ahead and publish your story. His lawyers are merely making empty threats to you and they know it, these are just threats."
    Thomas suddenly changed from the serious discerning lawyer I had seen a few minutes earlier to a man who could speak so openly, passionately and with a reckless abandon against corruption. He dug out more to me about this obvious criminal who was trying to muzzle The Mirror and stop the paper from publishing more about him. We drowned into corruption issues and we spoke like we have known each other for decades.
    He being a generation older, he gave me loads and loads of examples of corruption and more so in the legal fraternity. I listened attentively; I was moved and it was never the same in my policy towards covering corruption in the judiciary system since then.
    I became more daring, ready to take bigger risks and pay the cost if necessary in order to ensure that people got justice at the courts and not more  and injustice. I felt that Thom and I sang from the same hymn book.
    It has  been like that in my career, fighting and fighting corruption as a newsroom manager, as a president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and a Commissioner at the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
    I left his office a happy journalist and with no bill to worry about. It was the beginning of an almost 10-year relationship that left us so close; so close that there is little that I do not know about Thomas.
    He spoke about his children, the girls in particular and this included those of his two brothers, Francis and Mandaba. He spoke about his ancestry, the gumbo clan and particularly his cousin brother the late businessman Dzimba Madondo.
    He told me how his sister in law Shirley Makausi who is the head at Ndarama High School influenced him to take law at university.
    His teacher at Gokomere and former principal at Bondolfi H B Chikukwa described Thomas as brilliant and the best student in his group.
    He spoke about his father's death and how he as a young boy just doing A level hired a taxi without money from Mpandawana to Harare (nearly 300km away) after hearing of the sad news. We had a beer together once at the Stage Court at Charles Austin Theatre and the night was far too short. I could not avoid noticing his drinking rate relative to mine. He astounded me as for every single pint that I took, he downed three and this is despite that we were both of very slender built. Where were all these gallons of beer going to? That was Thomas.
    Then the inspiration he gave me to uncover corruption in the judiciary backfired. From nowhere The Mirror was handed with a $10 000 granted lawsuit from a Chiredzi Court.
    I took the papers to him and he laughed and he laughed so riotously it did not look like a serious matter anymore.
    "The procedure used here is wrong from the offset.
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