Footage of BBC documentary linked to MDC
Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Herald (Harare)
March 10, 2004


The footage of the BBC documentary, which falsely claimed that the Zimbabwean Government has set up secret camps across the country to train youths to rape, torture and kill, was done by political activists with strong links to the MDC working with well known media personalities, it has emerged.

Sources yesterday said the footage of the documentary was not done by the producer of the documentary, Hilary Andersson, who has since admitted that the stories were inconsistent and could not be substantiated, or the BBC itself but by political activists and media personalities.

According to the sources, among the media personalities co-ordinating the footage was Silas Nhara, a cameraman.

The sources said Nhara is said to have played a key role in the assembling of the hotly disputed footage and links which have been described by some observers as amateurish.

They said Nhara was assisted by Reuters photographer Howard Burditt, who was using his accreditation to do undercover work, and Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, a former photographer of the Daily News.

"This is the core team which has been assembling the fictitious footage. This is a reinforcement particularly in the wake of the demise of the Daily News," the sources said, adding that the British intelligence and the British Embassy in Harare were also involved in co-ordinating the operation.

They said following growing criticism of the BBC documentary, which is now widely seen in diplomatic circles as crude propaganda, the team has been beefed up.

Those brought in to beef up the team include Andrew Chadwick who, together with Charlene Smith, ran the failed MDC media support centre in the run-up to the 2000 parliamentary elections, Edwina Spicer, the Reuters head for Southern Africa and other foreign correspondents based in Zimbabwe.

Spicer had fled the country with her son to Britain who is a well known MDC activist who is wanted by police in connection with a murder case.

The Herald understands that Spicer and Chadwick have since their return been under close surveillance by security authorities because the activities they have been involved in have raised eyebrows.

The back-up team is also linked to the United Nations news agency IRIN in Johannesburg, which is headed by a Nigerian who is known to be anti-Zimbabwe.

According to the sources, the head of IRIN was trying to recruit Zimbabweans in the local media but the recruitment has not been successful following the crackdown on journalists moonlighting for hostile foreign media.

The IRIN head and the Reuters head for southern Africa were also understood to be linking up on the operation.

The Reuters head was recently in Zimbabwe to meet the team running the operation.

The sources added that Tom Kirkhood, who heads Reuters Television, "and is a strong Rhodesian with family land in Zimbabwe and is said to be very bitter about losing land" had been assigned to take over the work of Mighty Movies, which had been doing footage for the same group.

"He has come in because Mighty Movies 'had the luxury of telling a balanced story'," the sources said.

Some of the people accused of co-ordinating the programme denied involvement in the exercise when reached for comment yesterday.

Nhara said he had no dealings with the BBC and that he worked for Independent Television Channel 3, UK.

"Where did you get that? I don't understand how I fit in this and I have no dealings with the BBC at all. I have been a freelance for 10 years now and worked for IT (Independent Television) which competes with the BBC," Nhara said.

Howard also said he had no connections with the BBC and said he was a still photographer.

"I have got nothing to do with the BBC. I'm a still photographer and BBC is a television," Howard said.

The others could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Asked for a comment, a Government spokesman confirmed these developments saying they were fully aware of the whole plot.

"Soon or later they (the co-ordinating team) will find themselves in the quandary of a spider web trapped by its own web," the spokesman said.

The BBC's onslaught to discredit Zimbabwe's human rights record has suffered a major hitch after Andersson backtracked on claims of alleged torture camps in the country.

As part of efforts to place Zimbabwe on the agenda of the March 15 United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting to be held in Geneva Switzerland, the BBC last week recycled discredited claims that the Zimbabwean Government has set up secret camps across the country to train thousands of youths to rape, torture and kill opponents of the Government and Zanu-PF.

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