Mail & Guardian owner in journalists’ pay row


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.

Trevor Ncube pic TNA

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: