CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: Monstrous Mugabe and a very foolish YouTube ‘investigator’

Munya Chawawa: How To Survive A Dictator

Rating: *

The Rescue: 54 Hours Under The Ground

Rating: **** 

Comedian Munya Chawawa may have survived under a brutal dictator’s rule. But I have no idea how he’ll survive the embarrassment of the film he made about it.

The stupidity of sending YouTube personalities to do investigative journalism was brutally exposed, as his ignorance was outweighed only by his immaturity.

To explain the history of Zimbabwe, where the monstrous Robert Mugabe slaughtered tens of thousands of political opponents, Munya tried making rap videos, dressing up in historical costumes and flaunting his bodybuilder biceps on How To Survive A Dictator (C4).

Then, as he wasn’t allowed to film in Zimbabwe, the country he fled with his parents in 2005 when he was 12, he flew to neighbouring South Africa. Attempts to interview former associates of Mugabe were a cringeing humiliation. The despot’s nephews, Leo and Patrick, ran rings round him, and laughed as they did it.

Comedian Munya Chawawa may have survived under a brutal dictator’s rule. But I have no idea how he’ll survive the embarrassment of the film he made about it

Munya had no real questions, no way to challenge their smiling assurances that Uncle Robert was a lovely guy. But this puerile capitulation was a triumph, compared to his encounter with a former Mugabe henchman.

Saviour Kasukuwere was a minister in Mugabe’s Zanu-PF government, widely rumoured to have commanded gangs that committed murder and torture.

His nickname was Paraquat, because of allegations that he ordered weedkiller to be rubbed into the wounds of his victims to stop them from healing.

An enormous and intimidating presence, with tiny feet in shiny blue shoes, Kasukuwere flatly denied any wrongdoing and met Munya’s smirking attempts at ingratiation with contempt.

Then he turned on the film crew’s director, Paul Taylor. ‘You are white,’ he said. ‘We have more issues to deal with you. Do you apologise for what you white people did to Africans?’

‘Absolutely,’ squeaked Paul.

The idea that anyone should have to apologise to an unrepentant thug such as Kasukuwere for anything is obscene. No doubt the director did so, fearing for the safety of his crew and presenter.

But to leave that segment in the finished film, without any other explanation, as though Paul Taylor’s very skin colour made him more a criminal than the man they called Paraquat, was reprehensible — an insult to all those killed and tortured.

Munya’s trite reference to survival was put to shame by the real survival story that unfolded in The Rescue: 54 Hours Under The Ground (BBC2).

For anyone who feels uncomfortable in tight spaces, this account and reconstruction of a life-or-death pot-holing emergency was terrifying.

From the opening moments, as we watched a caver in a hard hat wriggling through a ragged crevice like a broken drainpipe, the filmwork made the heart race. George Linnane, a 38-year-old railway engineer, was exploring caves in the Brecon Beacons last November when a rock floor gave way. As he lay, bleeding heavily from multiple injuries to his leg, chest and jaw, one of his companions dashed for help.

The rescue involved nearly 300 cavers from all over the country. Their bravery was extraordinary, and the tales they related with a casual matter-of-factness brought me out in a cold sweat.

Rescuers used their bodies as a human bridge, lying down in icy streams to keep George’s stretcher out of the water on its journey to the surface, which took more than two days.

George shrugged off the ordeal. ‘I’m a stubborn git,’ he said, ‘who just won’t die.’ 

Countdown of the night: Drums crashed, violins swelled, but nothing could hide the feebleness of the final test on Unbreakable (BBC1). Two couples had to measure exactly five minutes by counting in their heads. Mississippi one, Mississippi two…is this the worst gameshow ever? 

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