The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) owes over 1,000 employees more than $9.6 million in unpaid salaries and allowances, Media and Information Permanent Secretary George Charamba revealed in parliament on Thursday.
Charamba said he took responsibility for the rot at the state broadcaster which has failed to pay workers in the past six months.
Charamba told the Parliamentary Media and Information Portfolio Committee that his ministry is concerned by the ZBC’s huge salary bill and unpaid wages.
He said also of concern was the fact that only a handful of the employees at the state broadcaster were involved in the corporation’s main business of broadcasting.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo recently put on forced leave a number of managers at the ZBC and dissolved the board citing their failure to run the state entity.
But President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman blamed politicians in the country for polarizing the media industry resulting in divisions not only among political protagonists but ordinary Zimbabweans.
Charamba, who took responsibility for the rot at the ZBC, told lawmakers that restructuring of the public broadcaster is, as a result, inevitable.
The state broadcaster has become a subject of ridicule in the country with poor picture service and lack of quality programs over the years resulting in many Zimbabweans opting to buy satellite dishes to access quality programs from South Africa and other countries.
Charamba said his ministry overlooked many administrative issues during the inclusive government era resulting in an inept management being allowed to continue despite their shortcomings.
The permanent secretary, who also doubles as President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman, said the government should assume the ZBC’s debt, whose amount he did not reveal, saying this would allow the corporation to start on a clean slate.
He added that capable managers, who will come up good business models, need to be employed by the ZBC as stiff competition will soon become the order of the day. The ZBC’s radio stations are currently suffering with advertisers moving to new stations ZI-FM and Star FM which offer better programming.
Charamba noted that most of the challenges at the ZBC have a lot to do with the way management has been running the corporation, adding unlike Star FM and ZiFM, the ZBC is operating at a loss.
The permanent secretary blamed political leaders in the country for polarizing the media industry.
Portfolio committee chairman William Dhewa said parliament is concerned by the situation at the ZBC, adding the government should quickly move to ensure workers are paid outstanding salaries.