Economic Meltdown,Supreme Court Ruling Claim Scalps Of Zim Journos

Harare, July 23, 2015 – Zimbabwe’s media practitioners have been left trembling after one of the country’s privately-run newspaper Daily News sacked some of its journalists as the country’s deepening economic crisis worsens.

Informed sources told Radio VOP that the retrenchment exercise had claimed the scalps of five journalists among them Political Editor Thelma Chikwanha, reporter Lloyd Mbiba and Sandra Mtetwa, a sub-editor, who were served with dismissal letters on Thursday morning.

The sources said Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the Daily News justified the termination of the workers’ contracts as a “rightsizing exercise” which had been necessitated by the “economic hardships” obtaining in the troubled southern African country.

Ironically, on Thursday, the Daily News dedicated its editorial on condemning the recent Supreme Court ruling which gave employers the right to terminate employment contracts on notice in terms of the Labour Act saying it left workers exposed to the whims and caprices of entrepreneurs.

“What this effectively means is that employers- who traditionally had an upper hand in the employment relationship-have been given more arsenal to do as they please with workers knowing that they are fully shielded by the law. In reality, employers are now at liberty to embark on wholesale termination of their employees’ contracts of employment without paying any retrenchment packages. And given events of the past few days, it is very clear that employers are quickly outdoing each other to lay off workers before the window of opportunity opened by the Supreme Court closes. The ruling is likely to exacerbate the already high levels of unemployment in the country- estimated to be above 80 percent,” reads part of the Daily News editorial. 

When reached for comment, ANZ’s human resources director Wongai Makombe who signed the letters could not be drawn into confirming the dismissal of the workers telling Radio VOP; “I am not the public relations officer. I can’t talk to you.”

The dismissal of the Daily News journalists come hardly a week after the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ruled that the common law placing employer and employee on an equal footing was still in place and hence either the employee or employer can terminate an employment contract by giving notice.

The Supreme Court ruling has triggered carnage within the labour sector with over 600 employees estimated to have had their contracts terminated hardly a week after the ruling was delivered.

Chikwanha and Mbiba become the latest journalists to be dismissed from Daily News after ANZ purged Sports Editor Enock Muchinjo and Parliamentary Editor Chengatai Zvauya in March for allegedly moonlighting for foreign news agencies without clearance from their media house.

Already, The Zimbabwe Mail owned by ZANU PF politburo member and Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Obert Mpofu closed down resulting in several journalists losing jobs while The Flame, a new newspaper is struggling to publish on a weekly basis.