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An open letter to Alex Crawford

03 Jan, 2020 - 00:01 0 Views

The Herald

We publish here a letter written by Peter Jones, a Victoria Falls businessman, challenging a recent report by British journalist Alex Crawford suggesting that the Victoria Falls were drying up

Hi Alex Crawford

For those of us living at the Victoria Falls both in Zambia and Zimbabwe, we are picking up the pieces after your whirlwind of a visit to incorrectly inform the world that the mighty Victoria Falls was in danger of drying up.

I have heard some tall stories before, but this one really takes the biscuit.

We have all lost bookings and business in some way as a result of your misinformation and some people’s lives have taken a very definite turn for the worse. Not that you would care much for them now that you are back in your comfortable home in Johannesburg.

For someone who was brought up for some of the time in Zambia and Zimbabwe as a child, you surely do not have any sympathy for those people whose well-being you have now adversely affected.

I have been round to speak to the people you “interviewed” to create your story and not one of them is particularly pleased with your “investigative” work. Indeed, a couple insisted that you told them what to say, which means that you created the news that you purported to be reporting on.

Others have said that you twisted what they said, loading the questions you asked them and in some cases left out large parts of their interviews with you which would have brought the whole report into a more understandable perspective.

You totally ignored others who tried to reason with you over what you were saying.

You now stand here among the locals as a sham, the creator of falsified news and the manipulator of facts.

I personally got hold of you at the airport before you flew out to offer you some points you had neglected to mention because I was already hearing reports from people that you were trying to give a twisted picture of what was really happening here. You indicated that you would get in touch with me to clarify things and get the story straight.

To date you have done absolutely nothing. How insincere you have turned out to be. We are all worried about the effects of climate change. The climate has been changing constantly over many generations, but between 1914 and 1924, we had five of the lowest years of the river on record, and yet no comment has been made about the climate creating the problem back then.

It is quite normal to have a very high water level every 10 years or so (2018, 2009, 1997, 1969, 1958) as much it is normal to have very low year, one too each decade (2015, 2005, 1995), none which you made a mention of during your various reports.

You clearly came here with a set agenda, and you had every aim of sticking to this despite people telling you that perhaps your story was out of kilter with reality.

One wonders where you got your story from and whose agenda you were propping up. We are resilient people living on either side of this mighty river, and we all know that you were in fact stirring up an incorrect story.

There are climatic issues here for sure. Rainfall patterns are changing. The cutting down of the forests to produce charcoal have a devastating effect for sure.

The low water at Kariba is exacerbating this issue. The water being taken off above the falls to produce hydro-electric power is also contributing to the reduction of water going off the falls, but did you mention this? No, and yet you were standing within 500m of the canal itself.

How could you have missed this startling piece of evidence? If they just stopped taking water off during the day we would have water going over the Eastern Cataract every day of the year. Imagine that! But why didn’t you point this out? Because it didn’t fit your narrative.

We live far closer with nature than most people, and surely have a greater understanding than many of the local situation. If your story was closer to the truth, we would not feel so upset nor so absolutely let down by both you and Stephen Sackur.

Remember that it is the likes of us that looked after you when you were reporting from inside Zimbabwe when you needed us most and now you come back and stab us neatly in the back.

You got your story out back then because of the noble acts of the local people here.

Far from being a fair reporter, you are a manipulator of the truth to a point where it is not recognisable to those who know the true facts. Tourism is a very fragile industry and takes time to build up. It takes a single moment of violence to turn it upside down like in Kenya with the bombings. Or the Ebola outbreak which was closer to London than here, but affected us more that the UK.

And now your badly thought out, scantily researched idea that the Victoria Falls was somehow going to dry up will do the same. You were staying at the hotel right on the edge of the Zambezi River. Did it not occur to you that even at low water, this fourth biggest river in Africa, the biggest volume river emptying into the Indian Ocean could supply the water for London more than five times at one go?

Do you seriously think that it is going to dry up? Are you out of your mind? As you sipped your gin and tonic at that hotel, did you do just some very basic arithmetic to try and understand what you had just rather insanely said to the outside world?

The children at the local school in Grade Two would seem to have better knowledge of the shear enormity of this river.

The rafting guides who work on the river below the falls where the river is often over 300 feet deep know better than you. 300 feet! That is twice the height of Niagara Falls for crying out loud. That is when it is at its lowest! It is the 33rd biggest river in the world.

Not the little dribble of a river called the Vaal near you. We are having a drought for sure, and before you go all alarmist on us, we will probably have another one next year too.

Life is going to be hard for all of us. Trying to run businesses and keeping our great workers in employment is going to be a struggle, but we will do it somehow because we care for our people and our tourists. You, it would seem, just love to stir things up even when there is no story.

You cleverly came at the time of the year when the river is at its lowest like it is EVERY YEAR. A week after your departure, the water was rising as it always does each year, and two weeks later, the falls are almost completely different from when you were here spreading such alarm and despondency.

Believe me, we have lost bookings on account of your unprofessional and unethical reporting.

I stood with people at the Victoria Falls in Zambia yesterday, and they could not believe what they were seeing.

“But Alex Crawford said they were drying up”! I told them “Alex Crawford does not really come from here, despite what is said on her CV, and that little time she spent here in her entire life certainly does not make her a specialist on the region. She had no facts to prop up her story. Just a camera without wide angle to give the complete picture.”

Yes, your cameraman played a part in this farce. And the sad thing is that other news stations around the world have now followed up with their own stories about the Victoria Falls drying up, because it is the want of some journalists to copy a story and churn out the deception; all based on your ill thought out, careless, inaccurate, hopelessly wide off the mark reporting.

For us this, has undone to an extent the marvellous work you have done over the years, and we now have to ask ourselves how much of it you created and how much of it was true. I was a firm believer that one should only trust half of what one sees on TV.

You are the living proof that even 50 percent was just a little too generous. You should be ashamed of yourself. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

You had your premeditated script to stick to, and heavens knows what was the financing behind it because let’s face it, money makes the world go round.

You gained your 30 pieces of silver with your recent trip to our area. Enjoy spending it on what frivolous items you think more important than the people whose lives you have messed up.

But let us all at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia tell you something, Alex Crawford of Sky News, the Victoria Falls has as much chance of drying up as there is of Hell freezing over, pigs flying, ravens leaving the Tower of London or even spaghetti growing on trees.

Research your work next time properly and thoroughly like a professional should do and get the story right. Getting an apology out of you and a full retraction would of course be as likely as say . . . The Victoria Falls themselves completely drying up as you told us might actually happen.

Let us see if you have the moral courage to eat humble pie.

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