Eleven senior managers are among the total of 111 staff  who have quit
the embattled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) in the last 9
months, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.

The massive staff exodus has seen the state broadcaster losing critical personnel such as experienced journalists, engineers and technicians because of poor working conditions and remuneration.

The employees, who were earning an average of Z$ 4 million (R93) per month, have gone to South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Britain in search of greener pastures. Many of them have ended up working as general labourers, domestic workers or security guards.

A former ZTV news reporter and bureau chief said he failed to find work as a journalist in South Africa, and is now working as a waiter in a Cape Town restaurant and is earning Z $ 60 million (R1400) per month.

Sources at ZBH’s human resources department say the government broadcaster is currently operating with less than 20% of the required skilled personnel.

The sources say despite the resignations, ZBH is still technically overstaffed because resignations are mostly among skilled staff, while unskilled workers stay behind.

A day after he was promoted to head the broadcaster’s Engineering Department, one senior engineer resigned to join the United Nations.

In order to be able to cover next March’s joint presidential and parliamentary elections, ZBH has resorted to hiking TV and radio licence fees so as to raise money for salaries, equipment and cars.

Meanwhile, ZBH’s CEO Henry Muradzikwa says the broadcaster is justified in  airing the controversial video footage showing former Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube allegedly having sex with different women.

Muradzikwa says the video was screened because the broadcaster saw as being of national interest. When ZTV beamed the video it adhered to basic journalism requirements.

He says: "We had to show something as this was a breaking news item, especially involving a man of his stature. So the material was too tempting to ignore. We did not have to hide this but to show parts of the video. We ignored a lot of material, which was too explicit to broadcast"

The ZBH chief was responding to questions from opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP, Murisi Zwizwayi who accused the broadcaster of violating the country’s anti-pornography laws by showing pornographic material on national television.

Muradzikwa also revealed to the portfolio committee on transport and communications that Ncube personally phoned him urging him not to screen the footage. The CEO also said that other Catholic bishops visited him (Muradzikwa) asking him to stop using it.

“The saga took everyone by surprise. It was too tempting to ignore. I had a delegation of bishops who came to see me. Even the archbishop telephoned me and said ‘is that necessary?”

The coverage not only sparked controversy because of its explicit nature, but it has raised accusations that the state media and the SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) allowed themselves to be drawn into an alleged smear campaign against Ncube, a vocal critic of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF.

SABC has reacted by firing its longtime Zimbabwe correspondent, Supa Mandiwanzira.

Mandiwanzira has been accused by the Solidarity Peace Trust of leading the media sting operation, believed to have been orchestrated by the secret police.

The former ZBC reporter argues that he executed his professional duties as a journalist when he covered the story

SABC spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago distanced the broadcaster (SABC) from Mandiwanzira saying the SABC is setting up its own bureau in Harare with its own staff.

Mandiwanzira, who is closely connected to Zanu PF, was a freelance correspondent for SABC.

Ncube stepped down as Archbishop on September 11 following a Z$20 billion (R1 155 000) lawsuit over an affair he is alleged to have conducted with a married parishioner.

Nelson Chamisa, another MDC legislator, also accused ZBH of being used by Zanu-PF for propaganda.

But Muradzikwa refuted the claims saying ZBH was not partisan and would afford everyone coverage during election time.

"Since independence when Zanu-PF came into power this perception has been there and we are trying to improve coverage as a single national broadcaster," says Muradzikwa.