Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Tough times for print media sector

The Zimbabwean print media industry continues to face acute problems, amid fresh revelations that one national publication will cease operations at the end of March.

Trevor Ncube recently launched the Southern Eye title in Bulawayo
Trevor Ncube launching the Southern Eye title in Bulawayo last year

The government-controlled Zimpapers has started a massive retrenchment exercise.

Alpha Media Holdings’ Southern Eye, launched in 2013 to focus on the southern parts of the country, will stop operating on March 31, according to insiders.

“This is our last month. The paper had the potential to claim a niche market and the market was responding well, but we have been dogged by viability problems owing to a severe liquidity crunch,” said a source who declined to be named.

Some senior managers and shareholders had been opposed to the establishment of Southern Eye, which they viewed as chairman Trevor Ncube’s personal project to serve his home area in Matabeleland at a time the media house was facing severe problems, added the source.

AMH, which also publishes the Independent, The Standard and NewsDay, has been facing financial problems over the years and recently relocated from the city centre to Graniteside to reduce operational costs.

It has already retrenched a sizeable number of its staff, including senior employees, but some of them are yet to receive their full terminal packages.

The High Court placed AMH’s in-house printers, Strand Multiprint, under provisional liquidation due to financial problems worsened by a severe reduction in clientele.

Former AMH chief executive, Raphael Khumalo, who has since left the company, said in his High Court Application:

“Applicant is insolvent in that it is no longer able to generate any cash sufficient to settle its recurrent liabilities, particularly its obligations to employees”.

Zimpapers insiders said more than 100 employees had been retrenched after the company offered a voluntary exit package of a month’s salary for every year served.

“The first batch of more than 80 people has already gone and the second will leave at the end of March after management extended the deadline for voluntary retrenchment. They are also being paid three months’ salary during which they would be on notice to leave employment,” said an inside source.

The Chronicle, Manica Post, Kwayedza and Star FM make perennial losses while the Herald, Sunday Mail and H-Metro score modest monthly profits which, however, were not enough for the publications to break even, he added.

Another Zimpapers insider revealed that its medical aid scheme had collapsed after management failed to account for more than $1 million. “Employees have been advised to subscribe to other medical aid schemes and that has already been done,” he said.

Source: The Zimbabwean