World-renowned journalist shot dead by cops in Florida

Godknows Nare. (Photo: Twitter)

The man the Metro Police shot dead under dubious circumstances in Florida on 17 April, was confirmed to be Godknows Nare, 40, an internationally renowned and award-winning journalist who hailed from Zimbabwe.

Conflicting reports have surfaced. According to Metro Police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar the following took place. “Metro Police received the tracking signal of an allegedly hijacked vehicle standing on the corner of Hull and 4th Streets. They went to the location and monitored the vehicle for a while. Another vehicle then stopped and the driver got into the alleged hijacked vehicle. When the Metro Police approached the vehicle the occupants started shooting at them and the Metro Police returned fire. The driver of the vehicle then tried to speed off but the driver lost control and crashed into a building,” Minnaar told the Record.

“One of the occupants (Nare) was declared dead on the scene and a second was arrested,” he concluded.

Metro Police allegedly fired 10 shots, four hitting Nare.

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But the incident is now the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) after conflicting reports surfaced that Nare got out of the vehicle with his hands in the air. Ipid’s national spokesperson Moses Dlamini told the Record, “Preliminary findings could not prove that any shots were fired from the vehicle in which Nare was”.

Another internationally renowned South African journalist and author of the book Killing for Profit, Julian Rademeyer, who worked with Nare, gave the Record permission to quote the eulogy he posted on his Facebook page.

“I first worked with Godknows while at Media24 Investigations. He also worked with me as a ‘fixer’ during research for a chapter of my book and helped me gain access to a gang of cigarette smugglers operating in Musina. Over the years he worked for countless local and international media organisations including the BBC, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, SABC Special Assignment, eNCA and Deutsche Welle.

“He came to South Africa from Zimbabwe in the mid-1990s. He was poor, unemployed and desperate for work. In a moment of madness, he decided to hold up a bank. If I remember correctly he said he used a toy pistol and the teller realised it was fake and hit the alarm. The getaway driver fled and Godknows was arrested. He refused to give up his accomplices and spent the next decade in prison where he dabbled in journalism. ‘Jail,’ he told me, ‘was a college where I studied to be a better person’. In another interview, Godknows – a devout member of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) – said, ‘I believe God has a purpose for my life. I am not ashamed of my past,'” Rademeyer continued.

“His release from prison coincided with Zimbabwe’s economic collapse in the mid-2000s. International television networks were clamouring for stories about the country and Godknows had the contacts and the street-smarts to get them. Somewhat to his surprise, Godknows found that his rather unique skills and his ability to infiltrate dangerous and difficult environments and gain access to criminals, con men, politicians and businessmen made him an invaluable asset for news organisations. Soon he had a thriving business. His work on both sides of the Zimbabwean border earned him the nickname the Mayor of Musina,” wrote Rademeyer.

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“He interviewed and followed ‘border-jumpers’ fleeing Mugabe’s regime and exposed activities of the notorious guma-guma thugs who lurked in the no-man’s land between the two countries, waiting to rob, rape and kill refugees. Fixers like Godknows take grave risks, often with little support. Their work is rarely acknowledged. The remain in the shadows while the journalists and correspondents who use them reap the awards and take the credit.

“Godknows was finally acknowledged in 2009 when he won the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize and the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association-Amnesty International Award for his work exposing the shocking conditions in Zimbabwe’s prisons. In recent years, as international broadcasters lost interest in Zimbabwe, work dried up. Undaunted, Godknows turned his focus to other issues, producing investigative films for local television stations and working on projects about rhino poaching. The Traffickers, an eight-part British-American series about smugglers and underworld economies, used his services. He also made a comedy called Tshisa Magogo (The Working Type). It was rather memorably described in a Zimbabwean newspaper as a film about ‘a stupid man, Mpondo, who is embroiled in a love triangle between his abusive wife, Thandi, and an old woman who is his neighbour’. The film is ‘full of action including karate, dancing and a few beatings’.

“I didn’t know Godknows well, but I liked him. He was a small, wiry man; shy, soft-spoken with a gentle sense of humour that could lighten even the darkest of situations. He was fearless and professional. I don’t know what happened to him in Roodepoort. But questions must be asked,” said Rademeyer.

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Riaan van Zyl

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