It’s odd this should happen just after my rant about the way we (don’t) report Zimbabwe and Angola. London called this morning. Could I do an interview about the 3000 troops that Angola is going to send to Zimbabwe to help Harare put down local trouble-makers? No, I said, I couldn’t. I’d heard nothing about that here. But I promised to look into it. I’ve just spend the last 4 hours chasing the spokesman for the ministry of interior in Luanda. About 20 minutes ago, he called me back, finally.
‘It’s all lies,’ he said.
‘So you aren’t sending 3000 troops to Zimbabwe?’
‘Are you sending a single policeman?’
‘No one. It’s complete lies.’
So who is telling the truth? Basildon Peta in UK newspaper, The Independent, or my friend, Carmo Neto?
Two days earlier, I reported this:
The British just love Zimbabwe, and British journalists are even more passionate. But why does this mean that they fail to maintain basic journalistic standards when they are writing about their favourite African country? The Times has, today, a story detailing the arrival of thousands of Angolan Ninjasat any minute now in Zim. But the paper fails to point out that the Angolan government has denied this story as ‘a gross lie’. If the US government made such a denial would The Times omit it? Or is the problem that The Times doesn’t have any contacts in Angola? Couldn’t they have called the embassy in Dorset Street, London? They could have called me (if they were really struggling…). But no, it’s only an African problem, so they probably thought it didn’t matter. No one knows any better so they can ignore it. The Angolan authorities might not be telling the truth – they are not well known for transparency – but then nor is the US, nor the UK for that matter. Remember Iraq and that dossier? But that is not the point: at least do them the favour of representing their version of events. If it turns out they have lied, you can still have a field day reporting that.