media has suffered much from repression, exile, and worse, and on December 18
it lost one of its most beloved and compassionate voices. Caroline Gombakomba, a reporter and radio host since 2003 for the Voice of
America's Studio 7 broadcasts to the Southern African country, died in Silver Spring, Maryland. Gombakomba, 40,
had been fighting breast cancer for years and in this second round met death
with her customary serenity and courage.
Carole worked for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation as a newscaster on its
Newsbeat and Newsreel programs on Radio 1 and Radio 3 in the early 1990s. Amid
the increasing politicization of state media under then-Information Minister Jonathan
Moyo, she eventually emigrated to Toronto,
where she was recruited by VOA soon after the January 2003 launch of Studio 7. The
program offers a nightly news report in Shona (Carole's mother tongue) and
Ndebele as well English. From there, she moved to the United States. Ndimyake
Mwakalyele, a colleague at VOA, said that Carole had left Zimbabwe
fearing for her life, saying that she had been followed and felt threatened.
Carole's meticulous and thoughtful reporting, her calm,
authoritative on-air presence, and her determined coverage of health issues--including
devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic--made her an editorial mainstay of Studio 7 and a
beloved figure among listeners.
One of her finest hours as a journalist came in 2005 when
she took the lead for Studio 7 in reporting on Operation Murambatsvina ("Drive
Out Rubbish") in which the government of President Robert Mugabe evicted
hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans from their shacks and then demolished the
dwellings. Carole reached through the cell network to record the gripping
testimonies of victims, contacting humanitarian workers who then handed their
cell phones to people to recount their stories. The International Association
of Broadcasters awarded Carole a high commendation in 2006 for "Operation
Murambatsvina: Voices of Zimbabwe's Dispossessed."
Carole pursued her work at Studio 7 until shortly before her
death. Following several days of mourning in the traditional Shona way of
friends and families praying, singing, and giving testimonials, she was laid to
rest on December 22 in Washington.
Brendan Murphy is the coordinator of the VOA Zimbabwe
Project, which produces the Studio 7
broadcasts to Zimbabwe.