THE launch of the eagerly-awaited NewsDay has been marred by the controversial dismissal of the paper’s editor, Barnabas Thondlana, writes a jocoza correspondent.

NewsDay is yet to be given an operating licence by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) whose commissioners are yet to be named by President Robert Mugabe.

A recent pull-out from the government of national unity by the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has put in doubt the imminent return of private papers and the launch of Newsday and Daily Evening Gazette.

However, Trevor Ncube, the publisher of ZimInd Publishers had recently announced the launch of NewsDay. Ncube also publishes the South African weekly – The Mail&Guardian – apart from the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard.

“I was called in by (chief executive) Raphael Khumalo Friday at the Zimind offices,” said Thondlana. “He told me that since the newspaper project was still to be licenced they were letting me go because it had become a burden to pay me while not producing a paper. Khumalo also told me they would call me once they got the licence.”

“I can’t help but think there is something sinister about the whole thing especially since my deputy is still there and some journalists are expected to start this coming Monday.”

Sources said Ncube was not happy with Thondlana’s choice of journalists at the paper. However, Thondhlana denied he struggled to build an editorial team for NewsDay. ““We had over 600 applications but most of them were below par so we ended up handpicking people. It wasn’t my fault. I know they were not happy about that but what could I do.”

Ncube confirmed on Tuesday that his company had parted ways with Thondlana. “We are now in the process of looking for someone to run the NewsDay both internally and externally,” Ncube said.

Thondhlana, 47, is former editor of the currently banned Daily News On Sunday and had been hired in May to spearhead the launch of the paper.

The current impasse between the MDC and Zanu PF, however, has thrown some doubts on whether the NewsDay will hit the streets anytime soon.

Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have quarreled over outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) resulting in the MDC “disengaging Zanu PF from the government of national unity”.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai had ‘agreed’ on the final list of the 9 commissioners to sit on the ZMC board.

In the meantime, the ZMC board has not been named, thereby putting a damper on the prospects of seeing new entrants on the media market.

The Daily News, Daily News On Sunday and the Daily Evening Gazette were set to be given licences before the latest bickering between the two principals in the unity government.