Mpofu’s newspaper finally shuts down

TRANSPORT Minister Obert Mpofu’s short flirtation with the country’s media industry has come to an abrupt end.

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Insiders late Tuesday confirmed that Wednesday’s edition of the Zimbabwe Mail would be the last for the paper which hit the streets as a daily in late 2013 before transforming into a weekly in its last four editions beginning last month.

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“We have been officially informed by the editor Constantine Chimakure that the paper will publish for the last time tomorrow (Wednesday).

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“There has not been any communication as regards terminal benefits. We wait to be addressed on these issues,” a staffer told NewZimbabwe.com late Tuesday.

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Members of staff were put on half salaries in September even as the minister was reportedly donating $70,000 to Zanu PF party’s congress in December.

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The Mail, whose wage bill was said to be $30,000, failed to pay the half salaries for February although Mpofu still managed to donate $40,000 to President Robert Mugabe’s birthday party.

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Mpofu has reportedly complained that he was not getting any return on his investment in the publication, a problem he presumably does not suffer with his financial “investments” in Zanu PF and its leader.

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The paper will be remembered for breaking the Salary-gate scandal weeks after its appearance.

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But its establishment was linked to the bitter factional fights in the ruling Zanu PF as Mpofu, reportedly an Indian-trained journalist in his own right, targeted a senior party position ahead of the December congress.

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However, the publication’s association with Mpofu, a controversial figure who is the subject of corruption allegations over his “unexplained” wealth, would prove to be its main undoing.

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Advertisers kept well away, with support only coming from parastatals associated with Mpofu’s ministry which never paid for the advertisements anyway.

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A reporter with the paper said; “At one charged meeting with reporters last year the minister was told in no uncertain terms that his name had not made things easy for the paper in the market.

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“He was told that his name is soiled but he defended himself and claimed he is a brand adding this has helped his tourism business grow in Victoria Falls”.

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Mpofu has been linked to a host shady deals, and is accused of looting the country’s contentious Marange diamonds although he has denied the charges.

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Last week staffers also alleged a rift in Mpofu’s family pitting the minister against his wife and children with the latter group pressing for the newspaper’s closure saying it was a massive drain on family finances.