Jonathan Moyo, the ZBC's new information and publicity minister has sparked hope in employees that the station can be turned around.
The appointment of Jonathan Moyo as information and publicity minister a fortnight ago has been received warmly by workers at the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) who have dubbed Moyo a biblical Moses in the hope that he will rescue them from the long-drawn-out crisis that has gripped the broadcaster.
ZBC employees have gone without salaries since June amid accusations that senior management is awarding itself hefty salaries and perks.
With a workforce of more than 1 000, the lowest-paid worker at ZBC earns $350 a month.
"Many people here have dubbed Moyo Moses as they believe that he is going to liberate them from the tyrannical and stingy management. Every minister brings with him a new crop of management, so people hope the light will shine soon," Ben Tshuma* told the Mail & Guardian this week.
In the past, Moyo has not shied away from tackling the ZBC's problems. During his previous stint as information minister from 2000 to 2005, he instituted a wide-scale restructuring at the ZBC, which led to the state broadcaster being unbundled into nine companies all under the parent company, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings.
The nine companies are Power FM, Spot FM, On Air Systems, Zimbabwe Television, Radio Zimbabwe, National FM, Newsnet, Sportnet and Transmedia.
Some of Moyo's changes were reversed in 2006 by former Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya, who said that the ZBC restructuring was unsustainable as the state had no funds to finance the exercise.
Ahead of a media workshop held earlier this month following his re-appointment to the ministry, Moyo advised ZBC workers with grievances to follow "established procedures and processes" in seeking a resolution to the salary impasse.
"They would be their own worst enemies by proceeding in a manner that suggests they have axes to grind and hidden agendas," Moyo said.
Tshuma, who has been employed by the broadcaster for four years, said each day was a struggle and what made it worse was a lack of communication by the broadcaster.
"There has been no official comment or communication. At first, the reason given was that money was being channelled to buy equipment and then they justified the situation by saying that every company was undergoing hard times so we must be patient. Sometimes when questioned in public, the management denies that it owes us salaries," he said.
With no reliable source of income at his disposal, Tshuma said he and many of his colleagues did odd jobs, mostly in the informal sector, to make ends meet.
"Many workers are relying on handouts from relatives and friends within and beyond our borders, while some are now in the business of buying and selling and have opened vegetable markets in their neighbourhoods. So, early in the morning, they go to the Mbare Msika market for orders and to sell during their off-time, others bring sweets, clothes, cakes and drinks to work to sell."
Others, Tshuma said, were using the corporation's equipment to sustain their small businesses in film, editing and photography for corporates and individuals.
ZBC public relations officer Sivukile Simango did not respond to calls and was said to be out of office.
But a senior official at the ZBC who is not authorised to speak to the media, but spoke to the M&G on condition of anonymity, said that there was a flurry of activity behind the scenes as Moyo was playing his cards close to his chest and it was not known what his next course of action would be in dealing with the run-down broadcaster.
"Heads are likely to roll and tension and unease prevails. With Moyo back at the helm, there is an unspoken consensus that the decline has persisted for too long and things must change."
Meanwhile, Supa Mandiwan–zira, the new deputy information minister, has indicated that a 75% local-content policy will be enforced for broadcasters.
The new threshold is a slight reduction from the 100% local content that has been in place for the past decade.
In terms of ratio, Mandiwanzira said 5% would be allocated to international content and 20% to regional content.
"The policy of 75% local content is going to be enhanced, not just in music, but in film and video production," he said.
"The United States does not play content from Britain or Canada. It adheres to local content and there is evidence that Zimbabweans want to hear and see themselves on local radio and television." Mandiwanzira owns the new radio station, ZiFM, and resigned as its chief executive to take up his government post.
Mandiwanzira also defended the country's media law, which he said compared well with other countries.
"There is nothing draconian about our law. It is comparable to other media law the world over. In fact, if you compare it to media law in West Africa, our laws are very flexible", he said.
*Not his real name