The proprietor of the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa, Trevor Ncube, has come under fire over token payments to Zimbabwean journalists in his employ.
The media magnate and publisher of several newspapers such as News Day, and two weeklies, The Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard in Harare, had been challenged to meet his company Alpha Media Holdings’ (AMH) workers to explain what is happening.
Ncube had reportedly paid his journalists in grocery vouchers worth R1500 in lieu of three months salaries owed to them.
Ncube reportedly failed to pay the media workers’ salaries for October, November and December. Last week, journalists were given the supermarket vouchers ahead of Christmas and about R750.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (Zuj) secretary general, Foster Dongozi said the union was worried about what was happening at Ncube’s company.
“We urge Ncube and his management to respect the workers and pay them their salaries. It is unacceptable to pay them in grocery vouchers and a miserable $50 (R770),” Dongozi said.
“We operate in a messed up economic environment, they therefore need to explain the situation to workers as a group and not individually,” he said.
Nyasha Nyakunu, senior programmes manager of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, urged “ZUJ to investigate this alleged abuse of journalists.”
Secretary general of the Zimbabwe editors Forum Barnabas Thodhlana said giving grocery vouchers to journalists was degrading.
Namibia-based journalist and media commentator Wonder Guchu, who once worked for one of Ncube’s Zimbabwean publications, slammed his former boss for travelling around the world while he continued to publish his newspapers but claimed there was no money for salaries.
“Workers were given shopping vouchers. They are owed October and November salaries,” Guchu said.
Will they pay rent with an OK voucher? Will they pay fees with an OK voucher? Will they pay taxi fares with an OK voucher?” he said.
Ncube’s company also claimed that it did not have the money owed to 70 other Zimbabwean journalists who were retrenched earlier this year.
“Ncube is heartless, he retrenched us and now doesn’t want to give us our exit packages when he is probably flying around the world,” a ditched employee said.
AMH managing director Vincent Kahiya said since January 2014, the company hand been struggling and was unable to generate any meaningful revenue from sales and advertising.
“AMH makes this application for exemption from paying packages to 18 retrenched workers because the business is financially incapable and consequently unable, to pay retrenchment packages timeously,” Kahiya said.
Attempts to get comment from Ncube were unsuccessful as his phone went unanswered.
Mthokozisi Dube | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org