Newspaper giant BNL fires 8 journalists

A dark cloud has fallen on Malawi’s oldest newspaper’s newsroom, Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL), after management laid off eight journalists , who were given their retrenchment letters last week Tuesday and reports are rife that more heads will roll.

BNL, a subsidiary of Blantyre Print and Publishing (BP & P), publishes four newspapers which are Daily Times (the country’s oldest daily), Malawi News (the country’s oldest weekly), The Sunday Times and Weekend Times. It also has a quarterly magazine called Times Lifestyle.

BP & P, established in 1895, is owned by the family of Malawi’s founding President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda and has employees close to 300 people across the country.

Chikadya: Retrenchment

The eight media practitioners are part of 44 members of staff BP & P has dismissed to allegedly make savings.

Sources say the situation is tense in the four BNL newsrooms as the members of staff are not sure who will go next after BP & P Chief Executive Officer, Leonard Chikadya hinted more heads may roll.

Among the fired journalists include Sunday Times editor James Mphande, one of the top investigative reporters Macdonald Chapalapata, longest serving member Rex Chikoko, Lilongwe based sports reporter Leonard Sharra, Watipaso Mzungu, Wycliff Njiragoma, Howard Mlozi and Lukas Botomani.

A few months ago management demoted Chikoko from the position of Chief Reporter for BNL to a mere reporter for Malawi News. The position was given to Theresa Chapulapula.

“Morale is completely down in the newsroom because we don’t know who will be next to receiving the dismissal letter.

“People are shocked with the development, we don’t know the criteria used to fire these people. Of course, there are some journalists whose ability and performance have been questionable but they have survived instead hard-working individuals are the ones who have been given the boot,” one technical journalist for Daily Times told Nyasa Times on Tuesday.

According to our source, the fired staffers have all been given their one month notice salary while the company is preparing their severance pay.

“They have been told their severance pay will be ready within the month,” said our source.

Among others, the 44 retrenched employees also include the advertising manager and a librarian.

A few days after the retrenchment, Chikadya told an annual conference of Internal Auditors in Mangochi that the world is full of idiots and employers just have to accept working with them.

“Remember at all times that the world is full of idiots. Sometimes you have to accept to work with those idiots because you do not have the authority to fire those idiots. The world and the workplace are full of idiots. The reality of life is that when you get rid of one idiot another will show up to take up the place of the one just fired,” Chikadya told the gathering of auditors in the presence of journalists.

The decision to fire the 44, according to Chikadya’s earlier remarks, was made to save money for the company to adequately procure newsprint and ink from South African suppliers for printing its publications and other paper products.

The CEO said without the retrenchments the company was on the brink of collapsing after getting pressure from Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to pay millions of kwacha for outstanding taxes.

However, a junior manager within the finance department at BP and P has argued that the company cannot save anything as management is claiming by firing junior employees when it has many executive managers who receive hefty pays, drive very expensive vehicles and have many company privileges.

“For instance in the finance section alone we have over five executive managers. They spend millions of company funds in salaries apart from enjoying numerous other company privileges like expensive cars, fuel, airtime, entertainment allowances, school fees for their children, etc. How can one company employ five chartered accountants? This is a joke because you can’t pay such people peanuts. These are the people to get rid of,” said the source.

He added: “If we add salaries, excluding other monetary privileges, for top 10 senior managers at BP and P, they are more than enough to pay salaries and wages for all the 200plus employs of the company.”

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