The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) has filed an urgent High Court
application challenging the state-owned Zimbabwe Newspapers Group's
(Zimpapers) decision to withhold the membership fees of about 60 Harare
journalists, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.

Zimpapers, which publishes its flagship daily, Herald, as well as the Sunday Mail and other titles in Harare, says journalists instructed them to stop remitting their fees to ZUJ because they no longer want to be members of the union.

The subscription fees from the publisher’s Harare branch are already three months in arrears.

The ZUJ’s lawyer, Rodgers Matsikidze, says Zimpapers has filed a notice to oppose the union's action, arguing the matter was not urgent.
"The company's argument is that the workers have refused to be members of ZUJ, although there is no evidence to that effect. It is my belief that the company is putting pressure on the ZUJ branch to claim that all members do not want anything to do with ZUJ. I personally think its part of a bigger plan to weaken ZUJ. We will meet in court because there is more to it than meets the eye," said Matsikidze.

ZUJ fears the publishing group is taking instructions from George Charamba, President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson who also doubles as Secretary for the Information Ministry.

Charamba is hostile towards journalist unions and independent media organization who he accuses of being part of Britain and America’s plot to remove President Mugabe from power.

Reports say Charamba has also ordered other state-controlled media houses such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings to pressure their members to cancel ZUJ membership.

In a related move, Zimpapers introduced separate awards for its journalists so they do not participate in the industry-wide National Journalistic and Media Awards run by the union.

State media journalists constitute about 75% of the 300-strong ZUJ membership.

Meanwhile, a wide-ranging reshuffle of editors is being implanted at Zimpapers.

Makuwerere Bwititi, editor of the Bulawayo daily, The Chronicle is set to return to his previous position as editor of the Mutare-based Manica Post. The current editor of the Sunday News, Brezhnev Malaba will be promoted to editor of The Chronicle.

Malaba will be replaced at the Sunday News by the current Manica Post editor, Paul Mlambo. Malaba will become The Chronicle’s first ever editor from the Matabeleland region, where the daily is printed and widely circulated.

A source from the Information Ministry says the new appointments will be effective on the 1st of June.

The shake up at Zimpapers will be Information Minister, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu’s first set of changes since his appointment early this year.

The publishing concern has been rocked by a wave of resignations over poor salaries and working conditions. It lost senior reporters to the privately owned press and some to neighbouring countries such as Botswana and South Africa