Shamu and Dube were aware of ZBC rot, says ex-minister

The former minister of media, information and broadcasting services, Webster Shamu, and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation board chair, Cuthbert Dube were fully aware of the rot that sank the corporation, investigations by The Zimbabwean have revealed.

The former minister of media, information and broadcasting services, Webster Shamu.
The former minister of media, information and broadcasting services, Webster Shamu.

It emerged that ZBC staff previously petitioned for the minister to intervene. However, Shamu’s deputy at the time, Murisi Zvizvai, claimed the minister was already well aware of the crisis at ZBC.

He added that several of his attempts to intervene at the Pockets Hill saga hit a brick wall, as both Shamu and Charamba pretended all was well.

“The ministry was aware of the challenges faced by ZBC workers and the perks their management were taking. We (Zvizvai himself, Shamu and Charamba) were aware of the serious salary discrepancies between the management and staff. We received petitions from the workers. Our party (MDC-T) made a lot of noise about this,” said Zvizvai.

“Shamu was very aware of the issue, but it’s unfortunate that he chose to do nothing about it. I tried to intervene but failed. Shamu and Charamba pretended that everything was above board. The board at ZBC was not receptive either. Zanu (PF) wanted to shroud this whole scandal in secrecy and the broadcaster was, in itself, Zanu-ised,” he said.

The investigations further unearthed that ZIFA president Dube kept the contract of ZBC boss Happison Muchechetere a secret from the other board members, making him an accessory in the state broadcaster’s underhand dealings.

No strategy

The developments emerged following the suspension of Muchechetere, who has been under immense media scrutiny following revelations that he earned more than $40,000 in salary and allowances a month, while the companies’ 600 workers went for six months without pay.

The rot at ZBC was exposed in mid-November following the appointment of the new information minister, Jonathan Moyo, and his inaugural tour of the corporation. Moyo gave the board, chaired by Dube, 14 days to submit a turnaround strategy document on how they were planning to transform the financially struggling broadcaster into a viable entity. They failed to provide this. Moyo then wielded the axe by dissolving the entire ZBC board and sent Muchechetere and finance manager Eliot Kasu on paid leave.

Allan Chiweshe then took up Muchechetere’s post in an acting capacity, a position that had been held by the latter since May 2009.

Moyo went on to order a comprehensive forensic audit of the corporation, conducted by the comptroller and auditor-general. The deputy information minister Supa Mandiwanzira further revealed that he had learned that Muchechetere earned $27,000 more and thousands of dollars in allowances for housing and entertainment.

Thousands in perks

Mandiwanzira said the corporation had to pay off Muchechetere’s mortgage and build a durawall and an entertainment section at his premises. He also revealed that the ZBC boss was entitled to unlimited fuel, a substantial amount for his domestic workers, unlimited air tickets to fly in the country with his immediate family, and other perks.

All in, the total of salaries and allowances came to a staggering $2.28m.

The situation became even more incongruous when reports emerged that the struggling broadcaster was technically insolvent – bringing in just $275,000 a month against a budget of $2.3m, of which $1.6m was meant for workers’ salaries.

The information ministry permanent secretary, George Charamba, also made shocking revelations when he told a parliament portfolio committee that the corporation had a debt of more than $44m. Charamba went on to disclose that the country would not meet the SADC deadline for the digitalisation process. Feeling the heat, the ZBC management resolved to cut its salaries. It slashed executive salaries by 40 per cent, head of department wages by 30 per cent and pay for managers by 20 per cent.

However, when all these revelations were made, Moyo, his deputy and Charamba seemed reluctant to disclose the root cause of the ZBC problems or explain how these continued without the knowledge and intervention of his predecessor.

Kept secret

Shamu is now the minister of information communication technology, postal and courier services. An authoritative source in the information ministry went on to reveal that Muchechetere’s contract was negotiated between him and the board chair.

“When we met with the management at ZBC, they complained that they were not aware about the chief executive officer’s contract. They said it was a secret between the CEO and the board chair (Dube).

“They said they were not told of most critical decisions the corporation was undertaking,” said the source.

Dube is also the subject of a government probe following allegations that he earns $250,000 in perks and salary a month at Premier Services Medical Aid Society.

Zvizvai clarified that while the board ran ZBC, the ministry played a supervisory role and was authorised to intervene when necessary.

He said Zanu (PF) had a hand in the ZBC saga, as they desperately wanted the matter kept under wraps for fear of jeopardising their election campaign.

Post published in: News
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