The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) has appointed Alson Mfiri as acting head of news and current affairs, taking over from Gilbert Nyambabvu.
Nyambabvu, who held the high-pressure job for 18 months, is set to become the ZBC’s new director of digital platforms and innovation.
The ZBC did not say what prompted the change, but sources say Nyambabvu recently ran into trouble after he was summoned and given a rollicking by first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa for suspending a cameraman.
Cameraman Stan Marodza was suspended after causing the broadcasting of a video clip showing President Emmerson Mnangagwa receiving a donation of Covid-19 masks and PPEs from Delish Nguwaya, the country representative of a controversial company – Drax International – which was irregularly awarded tenders worth over US$60 million for medical supplies.
ZBC’s senior editorial team had decided that the clip would not be used, believing they were shielding Mnangagwa from an already raging controversy over how Drax was given tenders. Nguwaya is a business associate of Mnangagwa’s twin sons, Shaun and Collins.
Three days later, however, Marodza allegedly saw an opportunity when most senior editorial gatekeepers were absent and caused the clip to run on the main news.
On June 20, Nick Mangwana, the government spokesman, said on Twitter: “The scam is actually much more intricate than I even imagined. I am informed that after the reporter shelved the story, the scammers got to the cameraman Stan Marodza who managed to get the clip played three days later and then gave the original to Nguwaya for leveraging officials.”
ZBC chiefs were shocked however, on June 23, when Nyambabvu was summoned by the president’s wife who was critical of the original decision not to run the clip, and the subsequent decision to suspend the cameraman.
Marodza appeared before a ZBC internal disciplinary committee last week and was cleared of wrong-doing.
The ZBC head of news job is one of the hardest jobs in journalism. Tightly controlled by the security establishment, ZBC editorial staff have to juggle the competing interests of Zanu PF and government officials – each claiming a stake in the public broadcaster.
“Everyone wants to be on the main 8PM news because they believe the president is watching, they must be seen to be doing something,” a senior ZBC journalist told ZimLive. “Phones ring off the hook during News Hour – well, it had to be extended to an hour and 30 minutes because everyone wants to be on it.”
Mfiri returns to the ZBC from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe where he was recruited by former governor Gideon Gono as his spokesman.
John Mangudya, who succeeded Gono, did not take a shine to Mfiri and sidelined him. He returned to the ZBC earlier this year as director of special projects.
Nyambabvu is also expected to take charge of the ZBC’s long-delayed 24-hour news channel in his new role.