Six journalists suspended by the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Holdings (ZBH) last month, have filed papers at the Labour Court
challenging their employer, writes our correspondent.

The suspended journalists are Patrice Makova (news editor) , Sibonginkosi Mlilo, Brian Paradza, Robert Tapfumaneyi, Garikai Chaunza and Monica Gavela.

However, General Manager for Television, Robson Mhandu, a staunch supporter of President Robert Mugabe, has not taken his fight to the same court.

Mhandu, with the ZBH for more than 20 years, was suspended together with the six other journalists for allegedly running "a botched" election campaign which resulted in Zanu PF party losing to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
In papers recently filed at the Labour Court, the suspended ZBH staffers want the court to force the broadcaster to allow them to return to work on full salaries and benefits.

They allege they were forced to go on "paid vacation leave" shortly after the appointment of war veteran Happison Muchechetere as acting chief executive officer.

Muchechetere was appointed following the dismissal of veteran journalist – Henry Muradzikwa – who was sacked after complaints by the government that the sole broadcaster failed to campaign for Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe for the 29 March elections in which Mugabe lost to the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Since Muchechetere’s appointment, the ZBH has stopped all reporting of the MDC and refused to take advertising from the party.
Muchechetere also banned the suspended journalists from entering the premises of the ZBH at Pockets Hill for six weeks until end of July.

In the papers lodged with the court, the journalists said their suspension was illegal.

"It is unheard of in terms of our law a concept of forced leave, which envisages a suspension," read their urgent chamber application. "Clearly if the vacation leave is a legitimate one, it should be by consent."

As interim relief, they want an order compelling ZBH to recall them and reinstate them in their jobs as a matter of urgency and also want the broadcaster to stop tampering with their leave days.

Meanwhile, Kwekwe journalist Blessed Mhlanga has been acquitted on charges of contravening a section of media law AIPPA which prohibits the publication of falsehoods, but his colleagues Wycliff Nyarota and James Muonwa were put to their defence.
In a brief ruling, Kwekwe Magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso, ruled that none of the state witnesses implicated Mhlanga in the commission of the alleged offence of abuse of journalistic privileges.

Mhlanga was facing charges of abusing journalistic privilege when a newspaper he writes for published a story of an intimate relationship between a named couple.