Mugabe tantrums threaten Sky scoop

Mugabe: angered by interviewer

Sky News’ interview with the Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, which took months of negotiations, was nearly scrapped three times when the African leader lost his temper during the filming.

When Sky News’ Africa correspondent Stewart Ramsay, put it to Mugabe, that “A regular allegation from the outside world is that Mr President, you are corrupt,” the premier was all but ready to end the interview.

He also got up to leave in a fit of anger on two other occasions.

“When I refused to listen to him any longer going on about land reform and how it was all Britain’s fault and, when I used a quote from Desmond Tutu saying he was ‘a caricature of an archetypal dictator,’ I think the glass of water went over at that point as he jumped out of his chair,” Ramsey said.

He told Press Gazette that the interview had been the most difficult in his career to pull off.

According to Sky News’ Africa producer Ben de Pear, the interview was finally secured after 18 months of lobbying by a go-between after it was set in motion by Sky head of foreign news, Adrian Wells Later, the news team including Ramsey and cameramen Martin Smith and Garwen McLuckie found themselves the subject of a Kafkaesque cat and mouse game, which culminated in false reports by the Zimbabwean media three weeks ago that they had been thrown out of the country.

“It was reported in the news – on TV and in the government-controlled Herald the next morning – that we had illegally entered the country and that ‘the full apparatus of the state’ had been used to deport us,” de Pear said. “Basically we got caught between two factions of the party. Those who thought it best to re-engage with the West, who wanted us there, and those that didn’t.”

Sky News was finally granted permission to film on 5 May. Both Ramsay and de Pear insisted that they were not censored, and despite ‘minders’ we able to film the alleged training camp for young Zanu-PF thugs, a failing farm and torture victims.

“It was agreed that we could do what we wanted once we were in there, but of course at the same time they were quite keen to control us. We were constantly arguing with them. It was quite awkward and painstaking but they did accept that those were the conditions,” said de Pear.

By Wale Azeez

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