Banned from Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is one of the biggest stories for the BBC on the African continent today. It is now public knowledge that we are banned from working inside Zimbabwe.
Just to clarify, for those who may wonder, when exactly did we get banned? In July 2001 the eccentric former minister of information Professor Jonathan Moyo said in a letter addressed to me, that he is “suspending all accreditation of BBC correspondents” who want to work in Zimbabwe.
This was after a report by Rageh Omaar on Robert Mugabe's speech at the opening of a joint session of parliament on 24 July.
In his speech the president of Zimbabwe vowed to continue with his programme of land 'acquisitions'. We reported that he vowed to continue with 'forcible land acquisitions’. Moyo argued that Mugabe was referring to 'legal' acquisitions.
Since then, it's been really hard to openly obtain material from inside Zimbabwe. We've asked individuals to record their stories. This created a challenge for them when their material was broadcast on BBC channels; they were accused by the Zanu-PF led government of spying for the British government and the BBC.
We've also been lucky in that the agencies tend to gather material which we have access to under our existing agreements. They've done a fantastic job under very difficult conditions.
For obvious reasons I will not give you a blow by blow account of how we get the material across the Limpopo River into the edit suites and studios here in Johannesburg. However, the system seems to work sometimes, but not always.
I think the biggest credit ought to be directed to those who gather material undercover, specifically for us, risking their lives to record sounds for radio programmes, stills for the website and VT material for our TV programmes.
These are the heroes who keep our coverage from Zimbabwe distinctive.
I take my hat off to those who continue to gather the relevant material, so we can continue to report the story for our audiences around the world. But we should also salute the people of Zimbabwe who agree to be recorded and filmed, often under very perilous conditions - it's their texts, calls and e-mails that give us an insight into what's going on.
Long may they continue. May their gods be with them!