Trevor Ncube wins German African Award

Zimbabwean publisher and entrepreneur Trevor Ncube, also the owner of the Mail & Guardian, has won the prestigious German Africa Award 2008.

Ncube—owner and publisher of his home country’s remaining independent newspapers the Standard and the Zimbabwean Independent—was awarded the prize for his fight for freedom, human rights, democracy and independent journalism in Zimbabwe and in broader Africa.

According to the German Africa Foundation, which was established 30 years ago to strengthen relations between Germany and Africa, Ncube is “a strong and courageous African voice of freedom who speaks loud and never capitulates to political pressure, intimidation and violence of the regime in Zimbabwe”.

The German African Award has been awarded by the foundation since 1993 to outstanding personalities for their efforts in human rights, democracy and social development. An independent jury—comprising members of Germany’s Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, NGOs, churches, business communities and leading African experts—chose Ncube as this year’s most outstanding African personality.

Said Dag Zimen, of the German Africa Foundation, about the meaning of the prize: “It’s an important sign to support someone from South Africa and Zimbabwe, given the situation there right now. Press and media freedom is not only important in Zimbabwe, but also in Africa as a whole.”

Ncube started his journalism career in 1989 at the Financial Gazette in Zimbabwe. From 1991 to 1996 he was chief editor at the independent newspaper. In 1994 he was named Zimbabwe editor of the year.

In 1996 he became one of the founders and main shareholders of the Zimbabwe Independent, followed by the Standard in 1997. Because of his critical journalism, Ncube has had several conflicts with the Mugabe regime and spent time in prison in that country.

In 2002, Ncube bought the M&G, now run by M&G Media alongside the M&G Online, the Teacher and other publications.

Ncube told the M&G Online on Thursday that he felt “humbled and honoured” by the prize. “It’s a very prestigious prize. Trevor Manuel and Derek Keys won it before, so I am in good company.”

Manuel is South Africa’s current Finance Minister; Keys had held the post previously. Previous winners from other countries include Mali’s Alpha Kounaré, Somalia’s Waris Dirie and 2007’s Dr Francis Appiah, of Ghana.

Ncube continued: “I feel humbled because I think there are people who have done greater work, who suffered more, like independent journalists and civil right workers who risked their lives.”

He said the prize brings focus to the struggle for a free press in Zimbabwe. Five weeks ago, he visited Zimbabwe. “I am pessimistic about the here and now, but I believe change is around the corner. Eventually the people in Zimbabwe will be free. No matter how many guns or violence, you cannot break the will of people being free.”

That is why he feels it is so important for independent press to remain in Zimbabwe. “The easiest thing to do is to quit and leave [Zimbabwe], but we have a duty to act and to perform.”

The German Africa Award 2008, a sculpture representing the world as a human figure, will be presented to Ncube on October 17 in Germany, by Hans-Gert Pöttering, the president of the European Parliament.

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