Hopewell Chin'ono vs. Peter Pasipamire and the Truth

Hopewell Chin’ono vs. Peter Pasipamire and the Truth

Last week, New Zimbabwe published an article – Film-maker sued over HIV documentary about Hopewell Chin’ono being sued by Peter Pasipamire for alleged non-payment for participation in the moving HIV/AIDS documentary Pain in my Heart. There were inaccuracies in the article which Hopewell has tried to clear up and also share with people in a mass email. You can read the emails (below) for yourself and form your own conclusions now that you have a bit more information than what was originally reported.

This just goes to show that sometimes the media can get it wrong or be completely biased for one reason or another and you should always take such things with a pinch of salt.

Dear all,

I am sure most of you have read the article that was published on Newzimbabwe.com reporting that I am being sued for not sharing the film prize money with one of the characters in the HIV and Aids film that I made in 2007.

I am sure you are all aware that I donated all the money that I won in prizes from CNN and Kaiser Family Foundation. This money was used to set up a trust to help the kids of Angeline Chiyanike to go to school.

I went to look for these kids and asked a long distance relative of their mum to look after them on condition that I give her a monthly stipend and pay their fees until they are 18 years old.

It is standard practice that we do not pay for interviews that are used in documentaries, it is bad journalism to do so. Jeff Kainonge lost his job for doing so and once its discovered that you pay for interviews your reputation as a journalist will be soiled beyond repair.

I had offered the man who is now suing me to help him with making sure that he gets good access to medical facilities but he demands money arguing that I am giving money to the kids. I am sure you remember that I sent an email to you letting you know that his relatives had turned down that help.

The reason why I am giving money to these kids is because their mum died whilst I was filming her and what stuck in my mind was when she said her kids will be street kids when she dies.

The guy who is suing me is being looked after by the River of Life Church in Harare and that was the story-line to ask why a single mum of 2 was not getting help.

If broadcasters were supposed to pay for interviews would we be able to cover events like Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami if the victims of these tragedies turned around and claimed US$3000 for the interviews?

I sent an email to the editor of the website. I have posted the emails I exchanged with him below.

My problems have escalated after posting a trailer for my new film see www.youtube.com/tvnews2000 or

This film called a Violent Response exposes the people who were behind last year’s post-election violence and captures the violence itself in action. I have received vile emails from people trying to intimidate me from putting it out.

These are some of the downs of my job but someone has to do it

Best regards,



I acknowledge receipt of your email. Even if you get tons of articles, the cardinal rule in journalism is that you do not publish before you check your facts.

That is the job of a good editor. The comments in your article from a Chambati are not in court documents but they are meant to tarnish my image as a journalist for unknown reasons.

I did not make the film as Television International but as a student. Don’t you question statements that you are given when you seek comment? If someone said to me “Mduduzi is a thief” would I be justified to publish that on the basis that someone has said it or I am supposed to check the facts even if its in court documents.

Would you publish government documents without checking whether they are factual or not?

The professional thing for you to do is to remove that article since I have given you all the contact details of the people concerned and check your facts first. You know that as a journalist there is nothing important as one’s reputation.

I do not understand why you think it is important for you to publish a story simply because it has been send by your correspondent even if it carries untrue information.

I again attach a website with the information that further confirms to you that the film was made as a Masters project not as a Television International production:

I expect you at the least to accord me the fairness that we as journalists are supposed to give to all people by not publishing information even when it has been brought to our attention that it is not true.

I have no intention of engaging in phantom battles with people who resent my success as a journalist and filmmaker and who want to use your platform to tarnish my reputation. I also hope that you have no intention of being party to the now typical syndrome of undignified journalism where people print and refuse to verify simply because information has been put in the public domain.

Who will guard the guards?

Best regards,

– Hide quoted text –
On Tue, Oct 13, 2009 at 9:23 PM, Mduduzi Mathuthu <–@newzimbabwe.com> wrote:

We get dozens of stories everyday and if I tried to follow up every name in those stories to find out if they were properly quoted, contacted or treated fairly I would go mad. As a journalist, you know your editor believes what you write which spares them the trouble of staying on the phone all day checking all stories.

So it happens that the said story came from one of our correspondents in Zimbabwe, quoting from legal papers before the Zimbabwe High Court and stating you were unavailable to comment.

We have noted your comment you entered under the story and moved quickly to instate your reaction on the story, and I hope everyone gets an idea of what the two sides think about the matter.

Accept my personal apologies if you were never asked to give your reaction, and rest assured there was no malice.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: article
From: “Hopewell Chin’ono” <–@googlemail.com>
Date: Wed, October 14, 2009 2:07 am
To: Michael Wayne <–@brunel.ac.uk>, PreChaka <–@kantorimmerman.co.zw>, Dr Chiratidzo E Ndhlovu <–@mweb.co.zw>, ruebonde@zol.co.zw, –@newzimbabwe.com, Dr Hilda Angela Mujuru <–@mweb.co.zw>, Irene Petras <–@zlhr.org.zw>, “Mabasa, Ignatius (Zimbabwe)” <–@britishcouncil.org.zw>, –@britishcouncil.org, Bernard Kwame Ampaw <–@btconnect.com>, –@yahoo.com, Bright Ncube <–@yahoo.com>, alex magaisa <–@yahoo.co.uk>

Dear Mathuthu,

I am disappointed that you could run an article on your website accusing me indirectly of being a fraudster and not seeking comment from me.
Ref –

I made the film Pain in my Heart as part of my Masters project at Brunel University in 2007. I made contact with Mr Peter Pasipamire (the man accusing me of not paying him for appearing in the film) through Dr Rutendo Bonde who was running the HIV program at the River of Life Church. I asked for patients who were willing to take part in the film project and Mr Pasipamire agreed to do so.

Anyone who has watched the film will confirm the fact that I asked Mr Pasipamire in the film why he agreed to appear in the film and he states clearly on camera that he wants people to learn about HIV and Aids.

At no time did I promise to pay Mr Pasipamire any monetary gain as doing so would be unprofessional and unethical on my part.

It is true that I am giving financial support to the kids who lost their mother whilst I was filming her story. It should be no crime that I chose to help these orphans. Mr Pasipamire has called in police before and he was asked to produce the contract that he signed. He could not produce this document because I never said I would pay him and there is NO contract that exists.

I have not benefited financially from making this film since I waived my producer’s fee when e.tv ran the film after it won the CNN African Journalist of the year award.

All the monies that have been donated by Zimbabweans for the kids in the film have been deposited in an account held by the law firm Kantor and Immerman. I have never touched those funds and you can check with Precious Chaka an attorney with the law firm whom I have copied in this email communication.

I have used my personal funds to help the kids in the film who lost their mum and I have arranged for a long distant relative of their mother to look after them.

I find it disrespectful that people can decide to make reckless statements about issues they are not privy to instead of getting in touch with the people concerned first. My email address is attached to the youtube version of the film that you have put on your website. You could have easily send me an email to get my side of the story.

I hope that you will do the decent thing of attaching my comment and speaking to my University Professor who supervised this project, Dr Michael Wayne(–@brunel.ac.uk)-I have copied him too.

I made this film when I was on a British Council Scholarship and you can get in touch with Ignatius Mabasa- –@britishcouncil.org.zw whom I have copied.

He will confirm to you that I was never paid a penny by the British Council to make that film. I used my resources as a student to make this film.

The person who was responsible for my financial issues when I was a British Council Scholar is Denise Rodgers and she will also be able to confirm to you that I never got paid by the British council to make the film. Denise Rodgers can be contacted on- –@britishcouncil.org

The doctor treating Mr Pasipamire will also confirm to you that I never made an agreement to pay Mr Pasipamire. Her name is Dr Bonde – –@zol.co.zw and I have copied her in this email.

You have mentioned in your article that the film was screened on BEN(–@bentelevision.com,OBE(–@btconnect.com) and Passion Television(–@passiontv.co.uk stations. I was never paid by these TV Stations for the screening of the film as it was an academic piece of work.
I allowed them to screen the film as a way of getting the message out.

The least I expect from you is to put my side of the story and to get in touch with all the people concerned if you wish to get your facts right. What happened to good old journalism?

Lastly, I find it unprofessional and shocking that Albert Chambati of an organisation you quoted as Justice Aids Trust would say the following statement without seeking to find out what happened first.

“This case will serve to highlight the abuse of people living with HIV and AIDS, and it might help others in similar situations to come out and challenge those who are abusing them.”

How can someone have the nerve to go to newspapers and spread malicious rumours without checking their facts first?

Best regards,


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