|ONE of President Robert Mugabe’s richest ministers, Obert Mpofu, has left more than 20 journalists high and dry after shutting down his Zimbabwe Mail newspaper.
The reporters and support staff have been told there is no money for retrenchment packages and that the publication has no assets.
Mpofu, through one of the paper’s board members Dumisani Mtombeni, told staffers Friday that he “is tired of pouring money into a project with no return”.
In a highly charged meeting, Mtombeni told stunned workers that the company owned nothing more than the computers they used in their day-to-day activities.
“The company owns nothing really maybe only these computers that you were using but even if they are to be sold nothing much can be gained. So the route of liquidation will not benefit you,” said Mtombeni.
“We therefore have decided that we will be able to pay you part of what you are owed if our debtors pay up. The company is owed about $116,000 by advertisers and if and when that is paid then we will be able to settle what we owed you.”
Mtombeni was reportedly heckled by angry staff as he failed to provide satisfactory answers to their questions.
“Mtombeni was very evasive,” said one journalist.
“He seemed out of his wits and could not provide answers to some of the workers grievances.
“It was shocking that, as a lawyer, he wanted workers to believe his word of mouth that we were going to be paid only part of what we are owed in eight weeks’ time.”
While officials at The Zimbabwe Mail were not available for comment, workers claim Mpofu has not even cared to address them adding it was highly likely they would not get a cent from him.
“He has not said anything even to show concern about the welfare of the journalists affected by the closure of his company,” said one staffer.
“At one time he claimed he wanted the paper to run like the Patriot with no advertisements saying he would pay the editorial team but now he has failed us.
“We last got paid full salaries in August last year and since then the company has only been able to pay half that but failed to pay completely in February and March.
“He (Mpofu) owes each of the journalists no less than nine months’ salary if we factor in severance packages.”
Lawyers have advised the workers that they have a very slim chance of getting anything from the company even if they are to sue the paper.
They were also told that would be almost impossible to take legal action against the Transport Minister.