HomeFEATURED ARTICLEThe bold cartoon that got GADO fired by Nation Media

The bold cartoon that got GADO fired by Nation Media

Celebrated cartoonist GADO won’t be featuring in the Nation newspapers’ editorial pages, after all. The Nation Media Group sacked him in November last year, after eight months in the cold in what was termed as a “sabbatical”.

Godfrey Mwapembwa, better known for his cartooning name GADO, was pushed out incongruously even after working for the company for 23 years and sketching some of the best cartoons that came to define the Nation newspaper brand.

“It wasn’t that it happened – rather, how it all happened that I am disappointed in,” GADO said recently in an interview with John-Allan Namu, the former KTN investigative journalist.

GADO says he was called up for a meeting in November last year by NMG Editor-in-Chief Tom Mshindi to review his case. He had been out of Nation since mid-March 2015, when his cartoons quietly vanished from Nation’s editorial pages, for what was made to look like a one-year study break and was due to ‘return’ in February 2016. His exit confounded Nation readers and colleagues and his explanation of a sabbatical to study film in the United States was taken with a pinch of salt.

“We knew he was gone never to come back,” said a fellow cartoonist. “In Nation when you are asked to take time off, that’s it. Your fate is sealed.”

So when Mwapembwa turned up for the meeting at Nation on that November day, he was a hopeful GADO and refining his mind to start doing what he loves: poking the low and mighty with the tip of his pencil.

Nothing had prepared him for the message he received, however. Mshindi told him the company had terminated his contract. He said to me that “they” had reached a decision,” GADO recalls. Then the confirmation came in form of a letter after some time. “We refer to discussions with the undersigned the issue of your contract with the company. As discussed, the company has opted not to extend your contract after your sabbatical leave expires in February 28th, 2016,” said the letter quoted by John-Allan Namu.

It was signed by Group Human Resources Director, David Kiambi, and the Group Financial Controller, Japhet Mucheke. The sabbatical, it seems, set in motion events that would eventually lead to his exit.

This carton, published in the regional East African newspaper, sealed GADO's fate. Photo / GADO
This carton, published in the regional East African newspaper, sealed GADO’s fate. Photo / GADO

Mshindi has defended the move, arguing that a contract between employer and employee offers either part leeway to terminate it. His trouble is tied to two things. First is the Jubilee top leadership (President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto), who became uncomfortable with GADO’s oft-times gritty humour. And, No, those dangling balls (representing ICC case) on each of the duo’s feet were not welcome satire.

But the back breaker was the cartoon on President Kikwete in The East African that led to the closure of the newspaper in Tanzania on January 21st, 2015. GADO caricatured the then President half nude, eating grapes from the hand of one of seven well-endowed ladies. Each of these women represented seven weaknesses in Jakaya Kikwete’s government.

‘There was no pressure’

After the shutdown of the East African, then Nation CEO proposed to GADO to take some time off. GADO says he requested at least one year to enable him apply and attend New York Film School. The newspaper resumed circulating in Tanzania mid-January 2016, one year later.  That cost revenues, running into hundreds of millions, an unforgivable sin at NMG.

Mr Gitahi, who left Nation in June last year, says there was no pressure to push out GADO from the Kikwete Cartoon. “…if you look at the cartoons that GADO has done in his life, and there are many, there are many which were far more controversial. I was there for nine years and I cannot remember ever telling GADO not to draw a cartoon.”

As recent sackings of senior editors Nation have shown, it is business first and media freedom second for the region’s biggest media house. Denis Galava, who was special projects editor, was fired recently for writing a strong editorial that the management said had put its commercial interests at risk.

The newspaper received flak for which it’s currently running a campaign to clean its image of the perception that it is was muzzling itself to appease the lords of advertising. GADO’s exit adds credence to this trend and it will take Nation hard and long work to shake it off.

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  1. The Nation will never shake this image that it is a Kikuyu tycoons propaganda mouth piece. Everybody knows it now.

  2. Nobody drawing cartoons for nation media can fit in the shoes of Gado! They are different, and Gado was in the skies. Nowadays I skip cartoon editorials because it’s never daring anymore.

  3. I am not in the mood of insults like one previous comment eludes but I appreciate the role played by the Cartoons in shaping the discussions. However, at some point the cartoons were skewed to politics politics politics……… Newspapers are full of politics from the front page to the back page, false gossip, accident stories, stories about a group of people who were conned, graft cases, misappropriation of funds and full page adverts from universities, counties, parastatal pullouts and betting companies adverts. One really struggles to find an inspiring thing to read. As a result, I decided to forget about newspapers and live a happy life. We have to change what we promote as acceptable content for the society.

  4. Gado is an icon. He knows what he is doing.The Nation doesn’t. I mean he’s worked there for 23 years and they simply fire him? He’ll probably move on to something bigger.

  5. Good people will always be upset on Earth because there Kingdom is in Heaven. Study any good person since time immemorial and you will get results but i defend NMG because any sane man could have done the same. African Governments are crude thus nation lost millions because of a pencil on paper and were not prepared to lose more. But Gado is always humorous his place is not Africa though

  6. I will miss Gado.he reminds me when I was young I used to read the daily nation in wajir library sponsored by AIC…..

  7. If you’re gonna do something knowing there’s gonna be consequences then handle the outcome and get a grip on yourself and move on.

  8. Gado is in a class of his own….he is one of the very best we have in the African continent. Its a pity NMG is muzzling itself to please some interest groups. Gado is already established and will pick up from here. As Nigerians would say “nothing de happen”

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