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Jonathan Moyo says retrenchments at ZBC will boost morale

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said he was sure that the retrenchment exercise at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, where 60 percent of the 900 employees were to be laid off, would boost morale.

“What the ZBC has announced are not plans to retrench, they have announced an action programme in the on-going restructuring exercise,” he said.

 

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Viewing cable 02HARARE1287, ZIMBABWE BROADCASTING CORPORATION ANNOUNCES

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE1287

2002-05-30 09:32

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 001287

 

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SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE BROADCASTING CORPORATION ANNOUNCES

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SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.

 

1. (U) On May 25 the government-owned Zimbabwe

Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) announced massive

staffing cuts and personnel changes. According to

Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, the de-facto

director of all government-owned media, approximately

60 percent of the ZBC’s 900 employees will be laid

off. Moyo, however, sought to reassure threatened

employees with an Orwellian statement: “What the ZBC

has announced are not plans to retrench (lay workers

off), they have announced an action programme in the

on-going restructuring exercise.” The Minister also

said he was sure that “..the on-going restructuring

exercise — in particular the retrenchment process —

will boost morale.”

 

2.   (U) Among the casualties are several high-profile

appointments made at the ZBC’s November 2001

restructuring. Chief among these is ZBC news editor-

in-chief Shepherd Mutamba, appointed to that key

position 7 months ago in during the ZBC’s previous

pogrom. He was perceived to be a protg of Minister

Moyo, but in early May he conducted a tough television

interview with the controversial Minister. Among

other issues, Mutamba asked about the intent of the

“Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill”

and the perception that Minister Moyo is opposed to

freedom of expression. In the wake of that interview,

an article in the independent weekly “Standard”

predicted major changes at the state-owned media. Two

o

journalists from that newspaper were arrested and

charged with “publishing falsehoods” for reporting

imminent changes at ZBC. We will watch to see if

those charges are dropped now that the story has been

confirmed.

 

3.   (SBU) Comment: ZBC has steadily lost

credibility, audience and income in the last two

years. Radio and television programs featuring live

calls from the public were canceled because of the

broadcaster’s ban on dissenting views and criticism.

Current events and discussion programs sponsored by

advertisers or NGOs were canceled because, in the

words of Minister Moyo, “we do not want to be a

cultural colony of advertisers.” Commercial

advertising diminished and was replaced by ruling

party-produced music videos extolling the virtues of

the “fast-track” land re-distribution program. News

and editorial opinion were merged into a pre-

masticated TV dinner that viewers have, apparently,

found unappetizing and indigestible. Lack of funds

has also forced ZBC TV to dig deeply into their tape

library. American sitcoms from the early 1970s,

largely irrelevant to Zimbabwe or the year 2002, now

form the basis of ZBC’s entertainment programming.

The corporation is currently pursued by a number of

creditors, has had to take out emergency bank loans to

meet April and May payrolls, and has been reduced to

siphoning gasoline from inoperable Outside Broadcast

Vans in order to fuel reporters cars.

 

4.   (SBU) Comment continued: While firing 60 percent

of its staff will eventually reduce the payroll, the

broadcaster will first need to find funds to pay

separation benefits. Minister Moyo has a plan:

“Retrenchments will have to be financed by finding the

money somewhere, one way or the other.” A solution to

the ZBC’s larger problem, restoring credibility,

audience and the ability to generate income, remains

even more vague.

 

SULLIVAN

(13 VIEWS)

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