Stephen Tsoroti is an award winning journalist of global repute from Zimbabwe.
He worked as a journalist and contributing editor covering a number of beats that including health, environment, arts and culture, and developmental issues.
Stephen has been awarded a Friedrich Naumann Foundation Media Rural Reporting fellowship, British Council Reporting on Arts and Environment Fellowships, World Bank institute Fellowship, National Press Foundation, Journalists to Journalist Fellowship, Reuters Foundation COVID-19 Reporting HUB fellowship, and won several journalism awards in his country.
His work has been published in his home country and abroad.
In an exclusive interview with Heaven Mail, Stephen Tsoroti .
A bit about your early days?
I was born in the late 60s. The fourth child from a Kore Kore parentage from Mt Darwin, Zimbabwe. My father who was a chef at the only Indian cuisine restaurant ” Bombay Ducky ” in Harare-Zimbabwe, was an inspirational man who enrolled us at boarding schools from his meagre restaurant salary. After graduating from high school I joined the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA) for a journalism diploma course. I then worked as a marketer at a chain food company before I settled for a career in journalism.
Which organization you started your journey from?
I started my journalism career with a news magazine called MOTO Magazine which was based in the midlands area of the country in the early 90s, 1993 to be precise. This publication was notable in producing some of the finest journalism work during Zimbabwe’s blacks struggle against colonialism from the white minority in Rhodesia. It also produced journalist of note, who went on to become influential in shaping the political and media landscape of Zimbabwe. I then moved to the Zimbabwe News Papers flagship, Manica Post, The Herald and Sunday News were I was an arts correspondent. In subsequent years, I was to work for a number local as well international media organizations.
What are organizations you currently work with?
I am currently working with a number of media organization as a Freelance correspondent. The media organizations include the Mail and Guardian(SA), Newsday(Zimbabwe), Towards Freedom(USA) and Afrasid (SA) where I am a research fellow.
What is your memorable story?
I have several, but my most memorable one is “Inside Zim ‘s illicit gold mine trade”, It was a story I coauthored with Ankita Anand after an investigation I helped coordinate, which involved three countries, India, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe. The story was to investigate how an estimate of 50% of artisanal and small-scale mined gold in Zimbabwe was lost to smuggling, causing bloody turf wars that have claimed hundreds of lives. The report carried the critical voices of the affected individuals and communities. Discussed problems, and also looked at the solutions. There was a closeness of journalism and the characters in the story. New insights and information sprung up as we did the researches and inquiries. At some point we felt a sense of being consummate and adapted to the issues as we were researching and writing them
The story was also memorable in many aspects- it was my first time to undertake such a huge investigation. It was also my first time to be in India and exciting to conducting investigation and interviews with very interesting personalities there. The experience also tested my resolves and temperament of collaborative work, and till today- the lessons learnt from that collaborative jaunt were very endearing. I think working in collaboration widens the scope of a journalist’s work, broadens his or skill base as one has time to exchange hypotheses, and makes one appreciate and come up with new impressions. It gives one a sense of belonging in the worldwide journalism family. It was also challenging to work under the pressure of a major epidemic COVID-19 and be able to produce incisive reports that received wide readership. The collaborative story had immediate impact-we had an interview with a Germany based collaborative journalism membership group Host Writers, received special mentions by scholars, and republications by different newspapers. The story was voted a top achiever of story grants given in 2019. In September 2020 environment groups in Zimbabwe made presentations to the Zimbabwean Cabinet, also using the report from the above investigation. As a result, the Cabinet has ordered banning of riverbed and alluvial mining, and directed holders of mining titles to obtain environmental clearance.
What topics you like to write or report on?
I specialize in long-form reporting with a focus on gender, Health, labor, climate, environment, land, corruption, human rights and indigenous communities.
My aspirations are; to expand the scope of investigative journalism in Zimbabwe at the same time, integrating new media forms and tools to enhance, transform and safeguard the journalism space in Zimbabwe through adherence to the ethical principles on which journalism rely on, seeking the truth and report it, treating sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect, free from of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know and be accountable to readers, listeners, viewers and each other. I am of the view that proper journalism is devoid of prejudices, maintains a balance in the governance and national developments of countries. I will thrive to produce the best investigative stories in this evolving world of news, collaborate more, and impart my knowledge of what I have gained so far to up and coming crop of journalists.
How difficult it is to be journalist in Zimbabwe?
In so many aspects, working as a journalist in Zimbabwe is difficult. On a personal level- remunerations are poor, support systems such as personal enhancement programs, grants and trainings are limited. Data charges and accessing public information is expensive. Freedom of the media is still truncated due to government interferences. There are huge polarizations of the media in Zimbabwe and that makes the work of journalist hazardous and perilous. Independent Journalism is viewed as opposition and criminal practice by the government and arbitrary arrests on trumped up charges, harassment and victimizations of journalists is prevalent.