Dingilizwe Ntuli, Sports Editor
ALTHOUGH journalism is a male-dominated field, some female journalists in Zimbabwe have leaped from the confines and traditional roles restricted by their status to break the patterns by writing their own narrative.
Names that quickly come to mind are Edna Machirori, Nqobile Nyathi and Victoria Ruzvidzo, among many others.
Machirori was the first black woman News Editor and Editor of a mainstream newspaper in Zimbabwe, first as News Editor of the Chronicle and later Editor-in-Chief of the Financial Gazette.
Nyathi served as Editor-in-Chief of the Financial Gazette and Editor of the Daily News, while Ruzvidzo was Business Herald Editor before being appointed Managing Editor of The Herald and elevated to her current job as Editor of the Sunday Mail.
These women helped change the journalism landscape and their efforts opened new paths for younger female scribes to join the fourth estate in Zimbabwe.
And among the many female journalists in the country today, I want to celebrate five of my female colleagues in the sporting field, Merit Munzwembiri, Grace Chingoma, Chipo Sabeta, Yvonne Mangunda and Fatima Bulla-Musakwa. In sport, particularly football, female journalists are exposed to all forms of harassment as they do their job and try to engage with their audience.
They have had to deal with sexual comments that their male counterparts never have to deal with in the country’s stadia over the years.
They’ve also elected to ignore unwanted feedback that sometimes goes beyond mere critiques of their work and, instead, often takes the form of attacks peppered with unwanted sexual invitations online, which undermine their value as professionals.
The vitriolic sexist attacks and inappropriate sexual barbs has seen them engaging less on social media, but they have continued to do their work quietly, reporting sports news using a lens that often times escapes their male colleagues.
Munzwembiri, Chingoma, Sabeta, Mangunda and Bulla-Musakwa represent the strides that female sports journalists in Zimbabwe have made in forging new paths and making a mark on history to ensure young female reporters aren’t excluded from sports writing opportunities.
The versatile Munzwembiri became one of the respected sportscasters in the traditionally male-dominated Zimbabwean sports reporting trenches. In her 12-year career at the ZBC, Munzwembiri transformed the then male-dominated television sports section into a star attraction with every sport fanatic looking forward to the main news bulletins
Her trademark booming voice coupled with the knowledge of Zimbabwean sport opened doors for other female sportscasters that had found the going tough on the broadcasting reporting platform.
Munzwembiri shattered the ceiling to become ZBC TV Sports Editor, overseeing sports news gathering and reporting at the Zimbabwe’s then only television station.
In 2021, she was elected into the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) as a board member and chairperson of the Gender Equity and Diversity Commission.
She is also one of the long-serving print sports journalists. Although she initially found it challenging, Chingoma managed to hold fort and remain in the game. The Herald sports desk has so much male talent and very few female sports reporters could have managed to remain relevant for such a long time.
Regarded as the main opinion leader and shaping the agenda in Zimbabwean sport, The Herald sports desk has since seen more females in its ranks, making Chingoma a rare breed among her counterparts.
With Munzwembiri and Chingoma in the trenches, there has been an emergency of a new breed of female sports reporters, who have not only brought life to the beat, but threatened to take away the stick from their male counterparts.
Chingoma has been at the forefront of supporting and advocating for the Zimbabwe senior national football team, the Mighty Warriors, to get the same recognition as their male counterparts the Warriors, and has been giving them the coverage they deserve.
Despite the challenges associated with female sports reporters, Chingoma weathered the storm and rose through the ranks to become a Senior Sports Reporter at The Herald.
A founding sports reporter with Zimbabwe’s first tabloid newspaper H-Metro, Sabeta revolutionised the beat by punching above her weight to cover local and major continental and international sporting events such as the Africa Cup of Nations, Cosafa Cup and the World Cup finals.
Given that H-Metro is a sister paper to The Herald, the flagship of the Zimpapers stable, very few gave it a chance of making it in sports reporting.
However, Sabeta, headlining a new crop of female sports reporters, managed to make a mark with a robust thrust on breaking sports news, news behind the scenes and giving platforms to unheralded, but talented sports personalities in her weekly column.
Now based the United Kingdom, the sports journalist-cum-administrator, recently completed the Fifa/CIES international programme in Sports Management with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University of South Africa, emerging as the overall winner of the Network Prize.
The prestigious award, handed over to her by legendary coach Arsene Wenger, summed up her arduous, decade-long career coupled with lots of developmental story writing, volunteering in various sports associations and advocating for athletes and sports personalities’ rights and welfare.
Becoming the first Zimbabwean female journalist to scoop the award underlined Sabeta’s resilience in a journey that started as a cadet at Zimpapers in 2008, working for various publications, The Sunday Mail, The Herald, H-Metro and Business Weekly.
As the group expanded, Sabeta embraced convergence and contributed to the Group’s radio stations Star FM and Capitalk FM as well as the Zimbabwe Television Network (ZTN). Her exposure to minority sporting disciplines like golf, bodybuilding, netball and boxing made her an all-round sports reporter.
The award-winning journalist currently sits on the Team Zimbabwe UK board serving as Head of Marketing and Communication. Besides freelancing as a journalist for various publications in the United Kingdom, Sabeta does sports marketing and public relations consultancy.
Opening up of the airwaves in Zimbabwe saw the emergence of new radio stations such as the popular Star FM.
With an array of veteran male sportscasters like Spencer Banda and Steve Vickers, one female presenter stood shoulder to shoulder with them — Yvonne Mangunda.
She helped transform Star FM into an entertaining drive time attraction with her well researched presenting and reporting prowess.
She cut her teeth with the male-dominated cast, breaking important sports news and giving insightful analysis. She also pushed the agenda of females in sport such that the Mighty Warriors started to get attention from authorities because of her work.
It was no surprise when she left the radio station to join Harare football giants Dynamos as Marketing and Communication Manager.
So versatile is Mangunda that she now boasts a huge following on social media, as she continues to rewrite the sport reporting narrative in Zimbabwe.
Mangunda quit Dynamos and joined Zimbabwe Cricket as the Women’s Cricket Brand Officer.
A former cricketer herself, who played as a wicketkeeper at club level, Mangunda is also an award-winning sports journalist.
She is another pioneer of female sports scribes, who boasts of over a decade on the beat. Making waves as a cub writer for the country’s biggest weekly newspaper The Sunday Mail, Bulla-Musakwa did not only report on football, but she also pushed minority sports making her one of the few all-round female sports reporters.
Bulla-Musakwa was gifted writing in her mother tongue and had a successful stint at the vernacular weekly newspaper Kwayedza.
She is currently the Gender and Community Affairs Editor at The Sunday Mail.