The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) has embarked on a scheme to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to union members infected with HIV/AIDS, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.


ZUJ says the programme, which will also provide sanitary towels to female members, has been necessitated by the fact that poorly paid journalists in Zimbabwe cannot even afford cheap sanitary wear and cheap generic ARVs. Average monthly salaries for senior journalists are around $30.
Foster Dongozi, ZUJ secretary general, said the union had also realized that the media fraternity is seriously affected by the pandemic. Both schemes will be available to family members of union members, too.

Because of the economic collapse and parlous public health care system, ARVs are not available to the majority of the population.

According to the World Health Organisation's 2005 progress report, only an estimated 15 000 of the 295 000 Zimbabweans who need treatment are receiving it.

Both the ARVs and sanitary products are not manufactured locally but imported from countries such as South Africa, making them unaffordable.

With the government unable to subsidize the ARV treatment plan, the laboratory tests, ARV therapy and other drugs costs an average of R100 per month

The union says it is also working on partnering with a doctor who would dispense the ARV drugs. "We also have to find a mechanism to disseminate information to the members and alert members who would want to benefit from the programme," says Dongozi.

The ARV scheme is set to benefit 75 journalists at its launch.

Meanwhile, the labour court has ordered Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings to reinstate six journalists immediately with full salaries and benefits. The state broadcaster had suspended them in June, pending dismissal.

 In nullifying the suspensions, labour court judges Justice Gladys Mhuri and Justice Eauna Makamure, ruled that the suspensions were "dubious" and "illegal".
The journalists were suspended after they were blamed for not effectively campaigning for President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, thereby contributing to the party’s loss to Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC during the March elections.

On the 4th of July, news editor Patrice Makova and reporters Brian Paradza and Garikai Chaunza resumed work following the labour court judgement.

Two news and current affairs producers Sibonginkosi Mlilo and Monica Gavhera and reporter Robert Tapfumaneyi, are expected to report for duty soon.

Their lawyer, Rogers Matsikidze says the court also ruled that the time the journalists had not been at work were bonus days and should be paid for by ZBH.

"The ZBC had sent my clients on forced leave from 1 June to 31 July but the judge said it was illegal for the management to do that. They can now go back to work," said Matsikidze.

The court challenge was funded by ZUJ.