Mark Chavunduka
BornMark Gova Chavunduka
DiedNovember 28, 1965(1965-11-28) (aged -37)
  • Journalist
Parent(s)Dexter Chavunduka (late) (father), Jane Chiza (mother)
RelativesAlyce Chavunduka (sister), Schona Chavunduka, Fiona Chavunduka, Moira Chavunduka

Mark Gova Chavunduka was a Zimbabwean journalist and the founding editor of Zimbabwe's independent Sunday newspaper, the Standard. Chavunduka was detained at Cranborne barracks near Harare for more than 10 days with fellow journalist Ray Choto in January 1999 for publishing an article about a foiled military coup to overthrow President Robert Mugabe’s government. Chavunduka died in 2002. Though his cause of death was not announced it was believed to be unrelated to the effects of his week-long detention and torture in 1999.


Mark Chavunduka was born on born November 28 1965.[1] He was the son of Zimbabwe's first black veterinarian surgeon, Dexter Chavunduka who died on July 2012.[2] He was related to academic Gordon Chavunduka who was his uncle.


Mark did his education at St George's High School before graduating from Harare Polytechnic with a diploma in mass communication and journalism.[1]


He began his career as a business reporter, and later news editor, with the Financial Gazette. In 1991, at the age of 24, Chavunduka became the youngest editor of a national publication when he took over the monthly magazine, Parade, whose readership he increased to more than 2 million. He became editor of the Standard in April 1997, and, under him, the circulation rose from 12,000 to 37,000. In 2000 Chavunduka won a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, but returned to Zimbabwe in 2001. He resigned as editor of the Standard in April 2002 after he had acquired the majority shareholding in the local Thomson Publications (Pvt) the chief publishers of the Parade magazine.


Chavunduka was selected by Harvard University’s Nieman Fellows to receive the 2003 Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. The award carried a $1,000 honorarium. Of this amount $500 was to be shared by Chavunduka’s children and the remaining $500 to the Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) for its outstanding work in campaigning for press freedom in Zimbabwe.[3]

  • British James Cameron Award for outstanding contributions to journalism in 1999. The award was awarded by the London-based City University together. Chavunduka won the award together with Ray Choto and Ann Leslie. Chavunduka and Choto were the first Africans to win the award since it's inception in 1986.[4]

Arrest and Torture

In 1999 Chavunduka and Ray Choto were arrested by the military after publishing of an article that reported on widespread Zimbabwean army unrest over the deployment of up to 14,000 troops in the civil war then raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Choto claimed that 23 disgruntled soldiers had been detained for inciting mutiny against Mugabe. Chavunduka and Choto were arrested and charged with publishing false news likely to cause alarm. They were detained for almost a week. They were allegedly tortured before being released on bail.[5]

According to their lawyer, Simon Bull, both men were subjected to electric shocks on their genitals, hands and feet by military interrogators, and had their heads submerged in drums of water. They were also blindfolded, stripped naked, made to do push-ups in the rain, and to roll in wet grass to clean the blood from their bodies after beating. Independent medical sources confirmed the torture allegations. The incident, was condemned by many and labelled as the most outrageous attack on press freedom in Zimbabwe since independence.[6]

President Mugabe, however, refused to condemn the torture. Mugabe challenged four supreme judges to resign after they asked him to comment on the illegal detention and alleged torture of two journalists.[7]

Life After Arrest and Torture

In 2001 the Supreme Court ruled that Section 50 of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act under which they were charged was unconstitutional. Chavunduka and Choto also tried to sue the army for wrongful arrest and torture and to bring contempt of court charges against then Defence secretary Job Whabira for ignoring a High Court order to release the two journalists. In March 2000, the Supreme Court ordered police commissioner Augustine Chihuri to investigate reports that the two were tortured by the military.[5]

After Chavunduka and Choto were released, authorities refused to prosecute torturers Chavunduka identified. Both men later received lengthy treatment for post traumatic stress in Britain and the United States. Chavunduka often complained of recurring nightmares of the beatings and electric shocks he received during his detention by the military.[8][9]

Three years after the Supreme Court ordered full investigations into the torture of Choto and Chavunduka of the Standard, police visited the newspaper’s offices saying they wanted to interview the two. Two police officers from Braeside police station shocked journalists when they appeared at the Standard offices looking for both Chavunduka and Choto. Chavunduka had already passed on at the time and Choto had relocated to the United States.[5]


Chavunduka died in Harare on 11 November 2011 at West End Hospital. The cause of death was made public but it was thought not to have been caused by the torture.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Shola Adenekan, Mark Chavunduka, The Guardian UK, published: December 3, 2002, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  2. , Chavunduka death deals Zim a blow, Herald, published: August 3, 2012, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  3. , Nieman Fellows Honor Late Zimbabwe Journalist With 2003 Louis Lyons Award, Nieman News, published: June 3, 2003, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  4. Zimbabwe: Standard newsmen scoop prestigious award, AllAfrica, published: September 26, 1999, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mthulisi Mathuthu, Police search for Chavunduka/Choto, The Zimbabwe Independent, published: March 3, 2005, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  6. Peter Tatchell, Arrest Mugabe for torture, The Guardian UK, published: March 1, 2002, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  7. Mugabe challenges Supreme Court, British Broadcasting Corporation, published: February 8, 1999, retrieved: June 23, 2016
  8. Mark Chavunduka dies in Zimbabwe, Mail and Guardian, published: January 1, 2002,retrieved: June 23, 2016
  9. Tortured Zimbabwe journalist dies, British Broadcasting Corporation, published: November 13, 2002, retrieved: June 23, 2016