Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Masvingo Bureau Chief for Zimpapers (1980) Limited, George Maponga, was last night elected president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, taking over from Michael Chideme who has been at the helm for the past nine years.
Maponga beat four other candidates in an election that was conducted by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network in Harare.
He was one of the three Zimpapers journalists who were elected to ZUJ positions last night, including Manica Post senior reporter Ray Bande and Mashonaland Central bureau chief Fungai Lupande.
Bande was elected first vice president while Sly Media journalist, Perfect Hlongwane, was elected secretary general, taking over from long-serving journalist Foster Dongozi who died two years ago.
Lupande was elected as one of those to serve in the gender mainstream committee.
In his solidarity message, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Kindness Paradza urged the new leadership to focus on bread and butter issues and desist from politics.
“ZUJ should carry out an organising role to protect and safeguard the professional interest of journalists. Your focus should be on the bread and butter issues. Leave politics to the politicians. Stay in your lane,” he said.
Deputy Minister Paradza called for the establishment of a National Employment Council for the media industry to ensure issues of remuneration and working conditions were addressed in a structured and systematic way. At present some media organisations, but not all, belong to the NEC for the Newspaper, Printing and Packaging Industry with all employees represented by the print workers union.
If journalists were adequately paid and empowered, said Deputy Minister Paradza, that would be a major step in addressing cheque book and brown envelope journalism.
“An empowered journalist is tough to bribe. There is a lot of professional empowerment opportunities going on in your industry through various mid-career training programmes. But nothing is happening in terms of your personal life skills empowerment,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
He implored ZUJ to establish a research desk to guide the industry in the wake of the emergence of social media which has threatened traditional journalism.
Deputy Minister Paradza felt that the ZUJ of late had been diminished and quiet, operating like a private entity which was no longer visible.
“Where is the ZUJ that used to shake the media houses? Rekindle the golden era of ZUJ led by Charles Chikerema, William Bango, Vincent Chikwari, Kindness Paradza, Matthew Takaona and others,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
“Where is the ZUJ that once paid US$4 000 to Njama winners. I challenge you to take ZUJ back to its original platform in the industry. Do not come in pretending to know everything, be prepared to learn. Consult those who were before you, those with institutional memory.”
A lot has happened since the ZUJ congress of 2013, said Deputy Minister Paradza, which includes a new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa, media reforms that include repealing the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, setting up of a new-look Zimbabwe Media Commission and a new Minister (of Information) with an open mind.
On the forthcoming harmonised 2023 harmonised elections he implored the media to guard against misinformation and avoid emotions but focus on issues.
Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police had taken note of concerns raised during the meeting on arrests of journalists.
He said there was need for the media and the police to constantly engage to narrow possible differences
Zimbabwe Media Commission chairperson Professor Ruby Magosvonge said they had adopted the concept of co-regulation and was ready to delegate some of its powers to organised institutions such as ZUJ.