On the 16th of April 2023, the journalism fraternity was plunged into mourning following the death of Idah Mhetu (35), whom I describe as a symbol of determination, hard work and professionalism.
Mhetu died at a tender age but did a lot of work as a photo journalist which her peers shall forever remember her for, as she was both a good human and a committed professional.
While many will remember her for her sterling work at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC), it is important to note that she worked for a number of the country’s mainstream media companies, where she left an indelible mark.
I will look at the three key lessons that she impacted on her colleagues given the fact that she was a female journalist in an industry that is highly patriarchal.
Firstly, Mhetu was a dedicated journalist. She worked very hard for what she believed.
She taught us that females can do anything against all odds. Regardless of the fact that she studied Film and Theatre, she quickly switched roles in a short period of time, becoming an all-rounder, from writing stories to photography.
Having known her as a fellow student at the Midlands State University (MSU), I was surprised to meet her at Trust Towers, where the Daily News used to be housed around 2013.
As a rookie then, I asked her how she had managed to get a job in a newsroom, of which she replied. ‘ Shamwari, tirimu Harare, toita yese yese. Chii chandingatadza munewsroom” (my friend this is Harare, we do everything. What can I fail to do in the newsroom), she said putting on her infectious smile.
To be honest this motivated me so much, I asked myself, if my peer can make it into such a big newsroom, what can make me fail? She became a source of inspiration at a very tender age.
I learned that female journalists can break barriers and even do better than their male counterparts.
Secondly, she was highly professional. Professionalism is a very rare feat in the modern day where journalists have become politically embedded.
From her history, we observe that journalists are professionals, who can shift from one newsroom to another, media personnel are professionals just like lawyers, doctors or teachers.
She worked for the privately-owned Financial Gazette, Daily News and Newzimbabwe
At the time of her sad demise she was at the ZBC, taking photography by storm as her pictures became a familiar feature after state events.
Mhetu was a team player. She taught us that journalists can work together regardless of their employers (Idah helped me a lot in accessing state functions. Where I failed to attend, she shared audios, statements, pictures and even videos-without making me pay; a very rare phenomenon in our polarised media sector).
Journalism is in mourning. We have lost not only a colleague but a friend whose life was cut short at a time she could have provided more.
As the old adage goes, the world has lost but heaven has gained. She will live in our hearts forever.
Go well simbi ye basa go well Magumbo.