Zimbabwe state broadcaster has told its staff to sell radio and TV
licences to make up for the fact that they won’t get salary increases
or year-end bonuses, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.

A senior journalist and union member at Zimbabwe Broadcast Holdings (ZBH) said management had told staff there will be no salary increments so they have to earn commission from being part-time radio and TV licence vendors.

“This is insulting. ZBH underpays us, and now they are lying to us saying we can make more money by selling licences, I’m a journalist not a licence vendor. Why can’t they hire some people to do that and pay us for our work as reporters?” said the furious journalist.

According to the management plan, each licence vendor will get a basic pay of Z$200 thousand (R1) per day. The commission will depend on how many licences are sold.

Individual listeners pay Z$600 thousand (R3) for the radio licence and Z$1 million (R5) for a TV licence. Corporate licences pay Z$10 million (R50)

The cash-strapped ZBH has been hard hit by massive resignation of experienced journalists and key personnel over poor salaries.

On average senior reporters and engineers are taking home Z$30 million (R150).

A return trip on public transport which most workers use costs Z$1.6 million (R8)
“So you see, to sell the licences will be a nightmare for the vendors, besides the fact that the mathematics do not make business sense because they will have to pay for their own transport to go and sell the licences,” said the journalist.

Most people in Zimbabwe are financially hard pressed, with the majority earning salaries below Z$10 million (R50). Some say they will not pay because the programming on ZBH channels is not worth a cent of their hard earned money.

In the past, ZBH licence inspectors have been manhandled by angry members of the public while on duty.

Meanwhile, the Information Minister says Media and Information (MIC) chairman; Tafataona Mahoso will not preside or be part of the new committee that will hear the Daily News and its Sunday title’s application for registration.

Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said government agreed with the court’s judgments which declared Mahoso to be biased, and so the MIC boss will recuse himself from the case.

"He can recuse himself and the other members can deal with the matter. We are totally in agreement with the court judgment. I am a law-abiding citizen and I will not go against decisions made by the courts.

“He will not preside over the case. The MIC has a lot else to do besides The Daily News issue, and he is doing that work tremendously well," said Ndlovu.

This comes after three Supreme Court and the High Court ruled that Mahoso, who is also a columnist in a state-owned weekly, is biased against the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday published by the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe(ANZ).

In her February 2006 Justice Rita Makarau ruled that the MIC board and its chairperson, should not handle the Daily News licence application. She had based her decision on a 2004 Supreme Court ruling that noted that Mahoso had made "certain utterances and remarks about the ANZ that were likely to make any reasonable man conclude that ANZ was not going to have a fair hearing".

Also, in May this year, High Court judge Justice Anne-Marie Gowora said in her judgment: "The commission's chairman, having been found wanting by the Supreme Court, has been effectively disabled from determining any further applications involving the applicant (ANZ)."

The courts then ordered the Ministry of Information to reconstitute the MIC or appoint a special committee to deal with the case.

Meida analysts doubt government’s sincerity because the reconstituted board includes ruling Zanu PF party sympathizers and state owned media presenter and columnist, Chinondidyachii Mararike and Ngugi wa Mirii.

Mahoso and state media journalist Pascal Mukondiwa are the only surviving members from the previous board.

The other members of the new board are Charity Sally Moyo, Edward Dube and media lecturer Tendai Chari.