Besides the repressive media climate, Zimbabwean journalists face another
challenge: extremely poor wages far below the poverty line, writes Gugu

On average, junior journalists from the state media are earning Z$200 thousand (R50), which is further reduced by compulsory medical aid and funeral policy schemes and tax.

The poverty datum line is currently pegged at Z$650 000 (R162) per month.

Junior reporters from the private media are pocketing an average of Z$1 million (R250).

A bureau chief with the state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, said senior journalists like him are earning Z$600 thousand (R150), less than junior reporters from the private press are getting.

The reporter, who declined to be named, said: “The amount of suffering we go through to get the stories on air is not worth the peanuts they give us. I’m planning to cross over the Limpopo or go to London.”

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists’ (ZUJ) second vice president, Jacob Phiri, said: “The journalism profession in Zimbabwe faces a crisis in terms of working conditions and remuneration for workers in this field.”
“Journalists in this country now rank among the worst paid in the world, earning no more than US$5 per month. This slave wage has plunged these professionals into destitution and they have to live with the ever-present malevolence of poverty every day of their lives,” he said.

Their South African counterparts are earning on average R7 000 to R10 000. In Sweden, journalists get paid between R10 000 and R15 000.

Phiri urged Zimbabwean journalists to put aside their differences and unite in the fight for decent salaries and better working conditions.
He said journalists should establish a National Employment Council (NEC) to protect their rights.

n a related development, seven senior government journalists from Bulawayo have resigned over poor remuneration and working conditions.

In Bulawayo, Zimpapers publishes The Sunday News, Trends, The Chronicle and the vernacular Umthunywa.

Two reporters from the Sunday News left after management failed to grant them permission to attend training programmes outside the country.

A senior reporter from the Zimpapers stable said journalists from the government-owned media have been banned from participating in the training programmes because the government sees them as being sponsored by organizations hostile to the government.

He said Zimpapers Chief Executive Justin Mutasa recently instructed management not to allow reporters to attend these training courses.

The Sunday News is left with one junior reporter and several trainee reporters after two journalists defied Mutasa’s order and went on to attend the courses outside Zimbabwe.

Some of the courses are conducted by organizations such as NSJ Southern Africa Media Training Trust, European Union, the Johannesburg based Institute for the Advancement of Journalism and Germany’s  Inwent/International Institute for Journalism.

Journalists were keen to attend these courses for the training, but also for the per diem allowance in hard currency.

In order to survive, some reporters are moonlighting for the foreign media.