ZBC Labels Journalists Terrorists

A ruling delivered in Harare last month by Arbitrator Mwadziwa Chimhuka found the state broadcaster at fault for dismissing the journalists who were accused of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) main faction led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The arbitration found that ZBC did not follow the provision of the Labour Act and the dismissal of the journalists was null and void.

Disobeying the tribunal order ZBC said it was no longer willing to reinstate the fired journalists because they were a security threat.

“As a National Broadcaster the respondent has national interests to protect. When there are threats to these interests, the respondent is expected to protect them. The sending of the affected claimants on forced leave was part of the endeavors to protect national interests.

“The respondent communicated to the claimants through their legal practitioners of record that the share holder (ZBC) was no longer interested in their services. Instead of negotiating on a package proposal, the claimants have chosen to be unco-operative, hence the
stalemate. It is our humble application that the arbitration tribunal should intervene and act as a third part to resolve this case,” said ZBC.

The Journalists’ legal represantative Urther Marara of Matsikidze and Mucheche legal practitioners said he was going to claim several thousands as damages  for his victimised clients because ZBC had defied the law.

“The conduct of ZBC is quite saddening because despite the case that there is a clear and uneqivocal award ZBC has chosen to blatantly ignore the court ruling. In the premise our clients have instructed us to apply for quantification of damages.It is a clear application because  the Labour Act clearly states that if reinstatment is no longer possible, the employer shoud pay punitive damages.ZBC has indicated that they are no longer interested in having the journalists as their employees.

“The background of the case is victimisation on political grounds and the labour case is against descrimination on political grounds,”said Marara.

In 2008, the ZBC dismissed news editor, Patrice Makova, reporters Garikai Chaunza and Robert Tapfumaneyi ,executive producers, Monica Gavela and Sibongikosi Mlilo, whom the court ruled must be reinstated to their former positions without loss of salary and benefits.

The journalists were deemed to have reported positively on the MDC in the run up to the March 29 presidential elections and the June 2008 run-off in which Tsvangirai pulled out after attacks on MDC supporters.

Tsvangirai won the elections but did not garner the majority votes necessary to win the presidential post.