Trevor Ncube’s media empire is crumbling

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ALPHA Media Holdings (AMH) has said it does not have the money to pay 70 of its retrenched workers as the company is experiencing viability problems.

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The company is owned by media magnate Trevor Ncube and publishes one daily NewsDay, and two weeklies, The Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard.

Ncube also owns the Mail and Guardian in South Africa which publishes weekly.

Appearing before the Retrenchment Board Thursday afternoon, AMH managing director Vincent Kahiya said since January 2014, the company has been struggling and unable to generate any meaningful revenue from sales and advertising.

“AMH makes this application for exemption from paying packages to 18 retrenched workers because the business is financially incapable, and consequently unable, to pay retrenchment packages timeously,” said Kahiya.

“Unfortunately for AMH, operating expenses have remained the same in particular as they relate to fixed employee costs of salaries and state obligations, and overheads such as electricity and rentals.

“We have failed to meet expenses and the company is in a perpetual loss making position and which has affected its ability to pay employees full monthly salaries timeously since January 2014.”

Representing for the retrenched workers, Cephas Mavhondo told the board that AMH management was lying saying that they retrenched only 18 workers when in fact they sent home 70 employees.

“The employer alleges that 18 employees had their contracts terminated on notice (yet) it is on record that the employer terminated contracts of nearly 70 employees,” said Mavhondo.

“AMH must furnish the board with the total number of employees whose contracts of employment were terminated, the package each employee is supposed to be paid, the current wage bill and the (company’s) bank statements.

“Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) injected $250,000 to fund the retrenchment exercise in which AMH chairperson Trevor Ncube’s relatives benefited.”

In its ruling the Retrenchment Board of Zimbabwe gave AMH an order to show its audited financial statements, total wage bill and a breakdown list of the managers who were dismissed at the next hearing.

Following the Chidyausiku court ruling in July which allowed companies to send home employees on 3 months’ notice, AHM is reported to have dismissed 70 employees.

However, the Labour Act was amended in August and now provides for compensation for workers whose contracts or employment were terminated on or before July 17th 2015.

However, companies can apply for exemption within a reasonable time.

Disgruntled staffers claim mogul Trevor Ncube continues to live a lavish lifestyle while his media empire is crumbling.

Allegations by staffers at the Mail & Guardian include that salaries are paid late and that his Zimbabwe newspapers employees only received part of their August salaries last week.

The reports come hot on the heels of claims he recently purchased a R10m house in Hyde Park and a Mercedes-Benz last year.

This week the paper announced the appointment of a new editor, Verashni Pillay, following the resignations of editors Angela Quintal and Moshoeshoe Monare in quick succession recently.

Strenuous efforts were made this week to obtain the comments of Ncube and CEO Hoosain Karjieker but to no avail.

Already, the Mail & Guardian has shrunk its editorial staff from 60 to 41 while Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) in Zimbabwe has ditched more than 30 staffers in the past three months.

Some senior journalists, including the science editor, online news editor, three sub-editors and multimedia editor opted for voluntary packages at the Mail & Guardian as the company hit hard times.

However, they are yet to receive their severance packages.

“More than 20 people have accepted voluntary retrenchment packages but by the end of September most of them were frantically calling, demanding to be paid their package, which amounts to dismissal by subterfuge.

“Some have threatened legal and other action if not paid. Some were ultimately paid half and less of their packages with the promise that the rest would be paid soon,” a source said.

Claims are that when crisis hits hard, the company taps into donor money aimed for the health desk and AmaBhungani. AmaBhungani has reportedly cut ties with the M&G due to non-payment and the publication abusing its donor funding.

Ncube did not respond to written questions sent to him on Monday and several telephone calls and messages sent to him while the Mail & Guardian CEO, Hoosain Karjieker, promised to respond but never did.

Ncube’s Zimbabwe company Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) has also been hit by hard times.

AMH runs The Independent, The Standard and Newsday newspapers and is allegedly struggling to pay its workers with staff claiming they only got half their salaries for August last week.

In the past three months, AMH has reportedly retrenched nearly half of its staff.The group also used to cover 75% of the workers’ medical aid but reduced that to 50% while allowances such as transport, housing and education are now considered a luxury and have been scrapped.

“They also cut salaries for managers. For instance, they are no longer paying fees for their children, they stopped paying their DStv subscriptions and they no longer get fuel,” the source said.

The Bulawayo publication, Southern Eye, was closed.

“They pay half salaries all the time. Just last week they were paying half of the August salaries. There were voluntary retrenchments in 2013 and a lot of people took packages,” the source said.
Sources claim Media mogul Trevor Ncube has purchased a R10m house while employees at his media houses are not paid on time
» Ncube travels every week in business class and stays in five-star hotels

» He insists on attending the World Economic Forum and other world events while his reporters cannot travel outside the province to do stories

» He is paid more than R200000 a month and the company is reportedly paying some of his household expenses

» He has a personal coach and uses overseas consultants who are paid first before anyone else

» The commercial team is threatening to embark on a go-slow unless their commissions are paid. They were also asked to take salary cuts

» Freelancers and everyday contributors send emails to the finance department about non-payment. Some columnists have stopped and refused to work for M&G

» Meanwhile, reports are that Ncube is considering selling M&G. A few months ago, he closed down his Bulawayo publication Southern Eye. Some of his reporters in Zimbabwe claim they earn as little as $500 (R6800) a month.TheZimbabwemail

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