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Trelford: Editor who ventured into bloody Gukurahundi killing fields



While there were a few local Zimbabwean journalists writing for periodicals and foreign correspondents like Peter Godwin for the Sunday Times (UK) and some filing for the South African media who wrote stories about the Gukurahundi massacres starting 1983, it was the fearless British journalist Donald Trelford — editor of The Observer for 18 years from 1975 — who first exposed the atrocities in detail to a wider audience after secretly venturing into the Matabeleland killing fields in 1984.

The Observer’s owner Tiny Rowland, who was Lonrho chief executive, threatened to fire Trelford as his company had business interests in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe’s rule.

Trelford, who died last week on Friday, described his interview with Mugabe after his daring adventure as “disastrously dull, unusable for television, of interest only to a specialist African magazine (where, in fact, it subsequently appeared)”.

Trelford wrote: “When I asked him if he would consider a political rather than a military solution in Matabeleland, where a curfew had been in force since February, he replied bluntly: ‘The solution is a military one. Their grievances are unfounded. The verdict of the voters was cast in 1980. They should have accepted defeat then.”

 Then he added chillingly: ”The situation in Matabeleland is one that requires a change. The people must be reoriented.”

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