HARARE – As Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown continues to escalate, the cash-strapped Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) on Wednesday closed its loss-making second television station and fired hundreds of its employees using the recent Supreme Court ruling that confirmed that employers could terminate the contracts of employees on three months’ notice.
Only last week, the State broadcaster fired four of its top officials — suspended chief executive officer Happison Muchechetere; former General Manager of finance, Elliot Kasu; ex-General Manager of Radio Services, Allan Chiweshe; and the Head (Finance) Ralph Nyambudzi. Now it has moved to wield the axe on journalists and supporting staff, in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
Although the Daily News could not establish the exact number of people affected, as ZBC’s spokesperson Gladman Bhandama was not picking up his phone, sources said at least 300 employees were left in tears yesterday when they were given the letters terminating their contracts.
Apart from firing its workers, the corporation also closed its second television channel, while its Gweru-based Voice of Zimbabwe operations were said to be hanging in the balance.
A letter that was written to the dismissed workers by the company cited the recent Supreme Court judgement as the basis for the dismissals.
“We write to advice that the employer has decided to exercise its right in terms of the Common Law, and Section 12 (4) of the Labour Act (Chapter 28:01) (Hereinafter referred to as the “Labour Act”) to terminate your contract of employment on notice with immediate effect.
“In this regard, you are hereby given three (3) months notice in terms of the provision of Section 12 (4) of the Labour Act.
“The employer absolves you from any of your contractual duties during the notice period. Accordingly you shall receive your notice pay whilst you are at home, subject to any existing commitments by way of debts or obligations.
“You shall also be entitled to cash in lieu of leave as per relevant provision,” it reads.
Some of the more prominent personalities who were affected include news anchors Evermore Sandati and Marian Shaba.
“It was a surprise to us. We were given our letters in the morning and told to pack our belongings. The situation was very sad,” an affected employee who asked not to be identified said.
Last week the state-controlled Zimpapers, publishers of The Herald, the Sunday Mail and the Chronicle newspapers, also fired hundreds of its workers.
Virtually all the country’s media organisations have now trimmed their workforce as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis continues to bite.
For Zimpapers and Alpha Media Holdings — the publishers of Newsday, the Standard and the Zimbabwe Independent — this is the second time in two years that they have embarked on retrenchments.
Thousands of formal sector workers have lost their jobs over the past few weeks following the recent confirmation by the Supreme Court that employers, just like employees, can terminate employment contracts on three months’ notice.
Other entities which have recently cut staff numbers include parastatals such as the National Railways of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, the Grain Marketing Board, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National Road Administration, as well as private sector companies like Croco Motors, Econet Wireless, Moonlight Funeral Services, Sino Zimbabwe, Steward Bank, Unilever Zimbabwe, Choppies, TN Holdings and Medtech.