Herald rocked by female abuse scandal
An on-the-spot survey by this paper indicated that most of the staff in non-managerial positions in all the departments partook in the industrial action, characterised by a floor-by-floor demonstration in which some of the protesters waved placards that denounced the harassment of female employees.
Even though Zimpapers employees outside Harare have not yet joined the strike, the workers committee chairman, Samuel Kabasa said they were expected to down tools from today.
The protesters reportedly besieged the office of one of the senior employees, who is an editor of one of the Zimpapers publications.
The editor (name
supplied) is being accused of having attempted to rape a female journalism
student on attachment with the Herald last weekend but one.
he woman however refused and insisted on being taken home but on the way, he allegedly drove to a secluded place where he again attempted in vain to rape her.
The intern has since compiled a complaint, copies of which sources say have been availed to the human resources manager, Dilfern Moyo and the Herald editor, Pikirayi Deketeke.
Moyo however insisted that there was no sit-in at Herald House, refusing to further respond to questions posed to him. The named editor, it has been established, did not report for duty last week immediately after the complaint, over which a decision is yet to be made, was compiled.
He was however at work yesterday but was spotted driving away by the Daily Mirror after his office had been stormed. Already, two managers at Zimpapers have been fired for abusing female staffers, some of them married women.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg. On a daily basis, we hear women here at Herald House complaining that so and so harassed them sexually, by touching them indecently, making suggestive phone calls, attempting to have sex with them and making unsolicited moves.
“What makes the situation even sadder is that a significant number of these victims are married women but the perverts never seem to bother. These women are in a fix because they feel that if they report the sexual harassment, they will be exposed socially, a situation that can easily lead to strained marriages,” said one female journalist.
The industrial action
has been precipitated by a number of factors reflected in communication
the workers, through their representatives and among them a petition
signed by more than 300 employees, sent to management.
Standing high on the list of grievances is an alleged vehicle scheme which, it is being charged, senior management abused. In correspondence dated July 12 2004 and addressed to the Zimpapers board chairman, Herbert Nkala, the workers committee highlighted that management had “embarked on a luxury vehicle scheme solely for their benefit”.
The communication was copied to President Robert Mugabe, the Minister of Information and Publicity, Jonathan Moyo and the group chief executive, Justin Mutasa.
The executives are being accused of replacing state of the art vehicles they were bought less than two years ago with expensive luxury cars of the latest makes and types, among them ML Mercedes Benz, Kompressors and Nissan Wolfs.
This, the workers said, is in spite of the fact that the Zimpapers policy stipulates that executives’ vehicles might be replaced after five years, after which they can be sold at book value.
“What eats into the employees most is that these executives can afford to replace their own vehicles with expensive luxury cars…yet the company’s fleet for (the) day to day running of business is depleted,” the workers stated.
They described as scandalous the alleged practice whereby the book value of the vehicles being sold off to the executives was grossly understated, saying a Nissan Hardbody was being disposed of at a mere $800 000 and a Prado at $2 million, when real values were far higher than that.
In contrast, they said, a “ramshackle” Mazda B1600 (registration number 620-044K) was being sold to employees at $16 million, adding that the allocation for the luxury vehicles had claimed a whopping $2.7 billion “resulting in a bank overdraft of $400 million” which attracted an interest rate of 200 percent per annum.
The purchase of the vehicles, they added, was approved despite the fact that Zimpapers was failing to pay Mutare Board and Paper Mills—who supply them with newsprint—in addition to other creditors, while the company is allegedly failing to buy spares for the printing press.
The employees charge that management is acting in bad faith by imposing a meager salary increment on them. Mutasa recently announced that he would be giving the workers a 25 percent salary increment, saying Zimpapers could not afford more.
us is that in December, we agreed on sensible quarterly reviews, yet
Mutasa went ahead and declared that paltry increase even though month-on-month
inflation stands at 35 percent. And these guys (management) have the
temerity to go on a shopping orgy,” said one workers’ committee
There is widespread nepotism at the largest media house in Zimbabwe, workers said, whereby senior management impose their relatives on the company and award them hefty salaries ahead of their seniors.
They cited the case of one Simon Mutasa, who they said was believed to be the younger brother of the CEO, saying the elder Mutasa unprocedurally made him general manager at Natprint, one of Zimpapers’ subsidiary concerns.
The younger Mutasa has since quit the company, following allegations of the misappropriation of funds.
“Recruitment of key positions is being done in a corrupt manner as relatives and friends of top management mainly occupy these positions. E.g. (sic) the Former General Manager of Natprint (Simon Mutasa) was co –opted to Zimpapers as an Advertising Manager and in less than 6 months he was elevated to General Manager, Natprint,” read the document addressed to Nkala.
On July 14, management wrote to Kabasa, saying he had misplaced himself by writing to the board chairman without first bringing the workers’ grievances to the general manager, the CEO and the Works Council.
What riled the workers further was that Mutasa on July 15 dismissed their grievances as a “figment of your imagination” and described them as the “epitome of malice and wickedness” and instituted a lawsuit against them, saying their document was libelous.
His lawyers denied that he had improperly engaged and promoted the younger Mutasa or corruptly approved the vehicle scheme. They demanded $180 million from the workers who had signed the document.
The matter was then referred to Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare ministry and was supposed to be heard on July 29.
However, the hearing
was aborted because Mutasa failed to show cause, resulting in the workers
resolving to go on strike. The matter will be heard today, after Mutasa’s
lawyers finally managed to file their papers showing cause. Follow-up
comments could not be obtained from Mutasa, Deketeke or Nkala as they
could not be reached on their phones.
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