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Fergal Keane
Undercover in Matabeleland

Fergal Keane defied the ban on BBC journalists and travelled around southern Zimbabwe. Here, he describes some of his experiences.

It is possibly the most beautiful place in all of Africa. But even a little knowledge of Matabeleland's terrible history is enough to make any tourist feel unsettled.

In my new guise as a tourist, I wore a South African rugby jersey, a pair of bush shorts, a baseball cap and carried my wildlife books in a rucksack.

The officials at passport control were fooled, and though they burst out laughing at my explanation of my assumed profession of fisheries expert - "It means I try to stop foreigners stealing my country's fish" - they stamped my passport and bid me on my way.

To continue the lie, I had to go through the motions of being a tourist.

One of our daily tourist trips was to view some rhino in a game park.

We headed out in the warm, early sun, the glorious silence of the bush punctuated by the endless chatter of two elderly Italian ladies seated in front.

I have a feeling they were the only genuine tourists in Zimbabwe.

I was quite happy to observe the rhino from the Landrover, but was shamed into going closer into the bush by the Italians.

The problem was that the ladies would not stop chattering, despite entreaties from our guide.

At the same time the rhino caught our scent on the wind. There was a fierce snorting from the other side of the bush, a loud rumble and then the sound of huge animals galloping - away from us.

I pictured the headline: "BBC Undercover Man gored By Rhino" - and then the thought of leaving hospital only to enter the tender care of Mr Mugabe's security police.

Speaking out against Mugabe

I had come to Matabeleland to investigate the worst crimes of the Robert Mugabe era.

In Bulawayo - the main town of Matabeleland - the memories of the atrocities are undimmed.

There is also fear about what Mugabe's men may do next.

There, I met one of the bravest men in Africa, Archbishop Pius Ncube. He has been campaigning on behalf of Mugabe's victims for years, and is hated by him.

I asked if he was worried about doing an interview. "My secretary was worried that I might endanger myself, but I have to speak out. How can you not speak out?" he replied.

I have returned safely from Zimbabwe. But Bishop Ncube is still there, still speaking out, still being threatened.


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