ZUJ Sinks Into Deeper Trouble

Sources have revealed the union has been forced to reduce the number
of its offices along Central Avenue in Harare to cut costs.

“The legal bill has forced the union to close three of its eight
offices,” said the source.

“As I am speaking Mathew Takaona (president) and Foster Dongozi
(secretary general) are now sharing Takaona’s office.”

ZUJ was last December taken to court by four Harare journalists who
claimed they were unfairly prevented from standing for election into
its new executive.

Harare lawyer Rogers Matsikidze of Matsikidze, Mucheche and Associates
is representing the union against the suit.

Dongozi confirmed the union was in financial dire straits but
attributed this to inherent problems which affect most organizations
during the beginning of the year.

“It is true that we are having our own challenges which are of course
not out of this world,” he said.

“Like any other organisation, financial challenges will always be
experienced since it is the beginning of the year. The biggest drain
though on our operations has been the requirement for us to rerun our
elections. Ordinarily this should not have been the case.”

The union is further supposed to raise at least US$5000 to run fresh
elections in Bulawayo month-end in compliance with the draft court
order which it did not challenge.

The last ZUJ congress chewed over US$5000.

Reports say the union’s relations with its donors have soured in a
barrage of negative publicity which it went through after its
congress.

Dongozi said relations remained cordial although the union was asked
to explain the sincerity of the media reports.

“We are still waiting for further disbursements from our donors. They
only wanted clarification on why there was negative publicity yet it
was apparent the main source of the conflict was interference from
employers and politicians who were trying to control the union.”

Meanwhile, the union is headed for more squabbles after it emerged
that the current executive is preparing for a rerun of the elections
and not another congress.

On the other hand, the four journalists who filed a court challenge
are considering blocking the holding of the February 27 elections
saying they want a reform of the union’s constitution prior to any
election.

The journalists are adamant the current constitution is flawed and
disenfranchises the majority of the membership, especially the
ballooning freelance constituency which has no representation at all.

Currently only branch chairpersons and their secretaries are permitted to vote.

This means that news organizations such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Cooperation (ZBC), which has over 100 ZUJ members has the same voting
quarter with an organizations with 15 journalists in their newsrooms.

“We are organising for new elections because that is what the draft
order demands,” said Dongozi.

“The order asked for a rerun and not a congress. The order sought to
invalidate elections and have the previous executive to come back and
supervise new elections.”

The country’s largest journalists’ trade union saw its problems
escalate in December last year when some members of the embattled
union who were vying for posts in the new executive challenged the
outcome of the elections claiming they were not given the opportunity
to contest for the posts.

The four – Godwin Mangudya, Conrad Mwanawashe, Frank Chikowore and
Guthrie Munyuki – claimed the venue of the elective congress and the
identity of the delegates had deliberately been kept secret to them
and other journalists.

This they said made it difficult to campaign for elections in which
Dumisani Sibanda, news editor with Bulawayo’s Sunday News weekly was
elected President.

Sibanda led a group of state media journalists who formed part of the
now disbanded executive.

Dongozi felt the union has unfairly been demonised by people fighting
wars with the Takaona executive through a “deliberate disinformation
exercise”.

“The last elections were not held at How Mine (some 30km from
Bulawayo) as has been reported in the press,” he said.

“They were in fact held outside a lodge in Hillside, 13 km from the
city centre where there was a sign post pointing towards the direction
of How Mine.”

Journalists were up in arms over the choice of How Mine, claiming it
was an underhand plan by the ZUJ executive to make the venue
inaccessible to most journalists with no financial capacity to track
the congress to a remote location.