Bob and I go back a long way. And for both of us this has been a historic time.
It began in 1980 when as a newly minted reporter, working on The Friend newspaper in Bloemfontein, I took leave and flew to Salisbury (Harare) in the days leading up to Zimbabwe’s independent elections.
This was rather cheeky for a new reporter, fresh out of cadet school, but I had a huge interest in seeing history unfold at first hand.
The Argus Group had drafted in a contingent of experienced Africa hands from its Africa News Service, and their jaws dropped when I arrived at their offices to announce I was on their patch. But I stayed out of their way.
At Rhodes University I had done honours in Political Studies (African) and had a good friend who lived in Salisbury with his parents. They offered me a place to stay.
I registered as a reporter with the international monitoring team, attended the daily press briefings and was fortunate enough to be flown to Vic Falls and Kariba to look at election preparations.
After the election results were announced, I walked through the streets photographing Zanu-PF supporters celebrating Mugabe’s victory.
The party’s election symbol was a rooster, and people were holding live roosters above their heads and chanting “jongwe”, the Shona word for rooster.
Rhodesian Air Force helicopters clattered overhead, circling above the celebrating crowds.
I remember thinking South Africa’s turn was coming.
That evening, with my hosts, I watched Mugabe’s first TV interview as premier-elect and the interviewer struggling with using the unfamiliar form of address of “comrade”.
My hosts sat there stunned, having put their faith in Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s United African National Council, which got three seats to Mugabe’s 57.
My holiday over, I returned to my journalism career, which eventually included stints on The Star, Rapport, the Sunday Tribune, the Daily News and more recently The Independent on Saturday, as editor.
On several occasions I was in the right place at the right time to report on international coups.
In October 1983 while on holiday in the US, I visited a colleague who reported on the UN.
While being shown around the UN by my friend, I was drafted by a news agency to attend a press conference with medical students rescued by the US military. This was after they had been held hostage on the Caribbean island of Grenada by a hardline military junta that had overthrown and then executed the prime minister.
In January 1986, while working for the Sunday Tribune, I had an international scoop by being the first reporter with the news that Lesotho’s founding prime minister, Chief Leabua Jonathan, had been ousted by General Justin Lekhanya.
Which brings me back to the events of the past few days, when the “soft” coup in Zimbabwe ended with Mugabe resigning as president.
This time, on television, I was one of millions who watched on Tuesday as cheering crowds clogged streets and celebrated the end of 37 years of tyranny.
So, in a sense, Bob and I are going out together. This week is also the end of an era for me, as this is my final edition. I retire next week. It has been fun and thank you, readers, for your support over the years.
The Independent on Saturday