Saturday, 26 September 2015

Drama at ZBC over $300,000 debt

BUSINESS came to a standstill for nearly three hours at ZBC's Pockets Hill headquarters Friday morning when soldiers manning the gates refused the Messenger of Court access to the premises.

ZBC premises around the country are guarded by the Zimbabwe National Army.

The Deputy Sheriff and his staff wanted to attach the financially crippled State broadcaster’s property, including vehicles over unpaid water bills and other supplementary rates.

Obert Gutu
Obert Gutu
ZBC owes Harare City Council more than $300,000.

The situation was the same at Mbare Studios which house Radio Zimbabwe and National FM where soldiers manning the gate refused to allow any visitors in.

Staff members who reported for work after 8am could be seen loitering outside Pockets Hill as soldiers refused to open the gates, fearing that the Messenger of Court and his staff would sneak in.

Workers told that management had to instruct drivers to "hide" company vehicles behind the studios building to ensure they were not seized.

Reporters who wanted to go for early assignments had to reschedule or cancel as the gates were only opened around midday.

“We only left after 11am when management had negotiated for a payment plan with Harare City Council,” said one reporter.

“As you know we travel as a group because of the shortage of vehicles and some early assignments had to be cancelled or rescheduled.

“Management should deal with these issues rather than paying themselves entertainment allowances; it’s very embarrassing,” added another.

The drama only ended after ZBC management agreed a deal with Harare City Council’s lawyers.

Council legal representative Obert Gutu of Gutu and Chikowere Attorneys said an agreeable payment plan had been agreed.

“An amicable payment arrangement has since been agreed upon by the parties and, for now, execution against the debtor’s property has been stayed,” said Gutu.

Acting ZBC chief executive Patrick Mavhura claimed that the stand-off with the deputy sheriff was caused by a communication breakdown.

“We approached Harare City Council and offered to provide a payment plan,” said Mavhura.

“They gave us two weeks within which to submit the plan and in the meantime we told them that they should inform the Deputy Sheriff of the latest development.

“But the information seemed to have taken long to get to his office resulting in him coming when it was no longer necessary.”

The public broadcaster, accused of churning out pro-Zanu PF propaganda and poor quality programming, is struggling with its finances.

The company recently took advantage of a Supreme Court ruling to fire 400 of its more 1,000 workforce in order to cut its huge wage bill.
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