FOUR journalists from the private media have filed an application in the High Court seeking the nullification of the results of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) elections, that were held by the former executive led by Matthew Takaona, writes Violet Gonda for SW Radio Africa.

The disputed congress which was held at the remote Entabeni Lodge, How Mine – some 30 km outside Bulawayo on December 4th – saw journalists from the state controlled media scooping most of the executive positions.

The disgruntled journalists, Frank Chikowore, Guthrie Munyuki, Godwin Mangudya and Conrad Mwanawashe say they were barred from contesting positions in the ZUJ executive. They now want the High Court to declare the election results null and void.

Chikowere told SW Radio Africa the congress was marred by serious irregularities starting with a misleading advertisement that was placed prior to the congress, stating that the event would be held in Bulawayo but not saying exactly where. This left many delegates, especially from the independent media, failing to locate the venue.

The delegates to the congress were also advised that the voting date would be 5th December, but the polls were held on the 4th. Journalist Godwin Mangudya is quoted by the media watchdog MISA Zimbabwe, saying: “Voting was in fact not held on the 5th. It follows therefore that the voting indicated in the notice has not yet taken place…there are members who are still waiting to vote on the 5th of December.”

Chikowore said he was the only person among the opposing candidates who managed to find the venue of the congress, but he was told on arrival that he would not be allowed to contest. “I was told I was not an invited guest so I could not nominate myself or be nominated by any delegate of the so-called congress. So I was eventually chucked out of the congress room when voting began.” He said observers were also ‘chucked out’ when elections for the new ZUJ executive started.

The journalists say they are not worried about who was elected but are more concerned about the process. They say the decision to hold the congress was not made by their national council (their supreme decision making body) as prescribed by the ZUJ constitution, but was made by the national executive instead. The outgoing Takaona executive is accused of handpicking delegates to vote for their preferred candidates from the state media.

Dumisani Sibanda, news editor of the government-controlled Sunday News, was elected as new president of the union, taking over from long-time president Takaona. Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings’ Mercy Pote was elected first vice-president and Michael Padera from the Herald the second vice-president. However, independent journalist Foster Dongozi retained unopposed the post of secretary-general.

Click here to read the full report, posted on SW Radio Africa's website.