There was this gem of a letter to the editor in the Herald of February 24:
We need Nathaniel Manheru column
EDITOR — I was saddened to read in your paper last Saturday that we will no longer be seeing the Nathaniel Manheru column entitled “The Other Side.”
Many of us had come to look forward to the Saturday paper because of the column.
Is there any possibility that you could reconsider the decision and carry on with the column? It has provided us with a good analysis of events that are going on in the country and beyond for many years and at a crucial time as this, we need such columns for our weekly reading.
I have not always agreed with what Manheru says but, as he pointed out in his last instalment, the column was about exploring ideas.
It appears to us that Manheru is putting down his pen to avoid offending the inclusive Government, but I believe the new set-up requires robust criticism for it to succeed at all. To this end, it is my hope that Manheru and The Herald bring the column back.
We take note of your concerns, and hope to find a suitable replacement for Manheru.
I had to laugh at both the letter, whether genuine or planted, and the editor’s claim to “take note” of the letter-writer’s expressed concern about the deprivation he says he will suffer as a result of the withdrawal of the column.
The infamous, boastful and mean-spirited column, widely thought to have been penned by bombastic chief Mugabe propagandist George Charamba, no doubt did titillate a lot of readers with its outrageousness. At that sort of level it certainly created a stir which definitely delighted the cowardly anonymous writer, whether it was indeed Charamba or someone else.
Cowardly because of how he could make all sorts of scurrilous charges against anyone who did not agree with every aspect of the absurd Mugabe -is-right-and-infallible project that it seems to be Charamba’s chief task to try to propagate and defend. And despite the letter writer’s claim that ‘the column was about exploring ideas,’ it more frequently seemed to be one angry man exorcising the demons that possessed him by having uncontrolled license to engage in character assassination and hurl abuse at any he considered to not agree with and admire his boss.
A key part of ‘exploring ideas’ is to then welcome and allow rebuttal and engage in debate. I do not remember a single time that the Herald ever featured a contrary response to the Charamba/Manheru column. Which also makes a joke out of the editor’s pretense to ‘take note’ of a reader’s concern, something the paper never seemed worried to do with holders of opinion different from Manheru’s. It was as if the writer and the paper were quite happy to throw scurrilous charges against all manner of ‘enemies’ from a very thin cover of anonymity, but were then simply too unconfident and cowardly to entertain rebuttals and different views.
Even taking into account the politically-prostituted, low standards of the publication of recent years, the featuring of the Manheru column was astonishingly cowardly and unprofessional of the Herald.