Wednesday, January 7, 2009



BY Expression Today
Nairobi, Kenya
Even though there have been many external and internal wrangles involving media houses in east Africa, internal wars are now becoming surprisingly too common, with Tanzania faithfully taking cue from its neighbours. Cat fights that pitted four employees of New Habari Media Group against their Chief Executive Officer, Rosemary Mwakitwange, a war many thought was over, has just resurfaced.

The Employees - ex-editor of RAI, Muhingo Rweyemamu, ex-editor of Mtanzania, Deus Balile, Finance Director, Shylen Shangankaa, also known as Bobby, and ex-news editor of Mtanzania, Manyerere Jackton - are divided into factions, each pledging loyalty to its own set of bosses. The struggle started when Mwakitwange was appointed CEO of the giant media house.

Close to hostile communication between the editors and the CEO gave the impression of a frustrated, resentful and disrespectful staff, something that caused the four to be shown the door. In her term as CEO, Mwakitwange has been credited with turning the company around financially, boosting staff morale and improving facilities in the lead up to the recent re-launch. It has however also been during her tenure that relationship with senior journalists has deteriorated to a point of the four writers being thrown out, and this with the backing of the owners of the company.

New Habari Media Group, formerly Habari Corporation Limited, re-launched its products at a colourful ceremony in Dar es Salaam graced by Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Amolo Odinga. It was after the re-launch that fresh intrigues begun to unfold, leaving many stupefied.

Mwakitwange had the first laugh when she pushed the four journalists out. Bobby was shoved aside after police pounced on him over issues connected to his accounts. And, rather than face the sack, Muhingo opted for a 24-hour notice of resignation while Manyerere had to be shown the door because he could no longer see eye - to - eye with the CEO. Balile, editor of the company's flagship, Rai, was suspended on grounds of poor performance.

But even before the ink on Rosemary's pen could dry, the four regrouped and aimed for her jugular, this time with the full backing of the owner, Rostam Aziz, leaving Mwakitwange in an awkward position. Sources indicate that Rostam is uncomfortable with the way CEO is running the business - too profit oriented and politically insensitive. The investor has suddenly brought Muhingo, who had sworn to return to New Habari with a bang, and his three colleagues back just when Mwakitwange had taken leave. Much more is happening at the company, in a way blurring her financial recovery plan, and thus creating anxiety and uncertainty for employees. Recommendations by consultant Jerry Okungu, a consultant from Nairobi, to fold some titles and merge others have been reversed. For instance, Dimba, which had given way to Bingwa, is back on the newsstands.

This comes amid speculation that Rosemary is no longer the CEO of the company. "We are told she has a much higher post now. She is now the Group Managing Director and that someone else will take her position, but this new appointee will be reporting to he, which means there will be no CEO at New Habari," an editor told ET in early November.

But speculation is rife as to the real value of her new position. Interestingly, though, one of the directors and a close associate of Rosemary, Ben Mhina, has been appointed acting CEO. But the new team also includes Rosemary's foes. Muhingo is now the Managing Editor, also doubling up as editor of Rai. There is also ex-Mwananchi On Sunday News editor, Boniphace Makene, who is now the News Editor of Rai. Deus Balile, who temporarily managed Rai, is the Business Editor of Mtanzania, while Manyerere comes back as news editor of Mtanzania on Sunday.

In an interview, however, Rosemary defended her iron - fisted management, arguing it is for the good of the company. "My brief tenure has seen robust changes not only in the image of New Habari Media Group but to the employees too," she said. On the reinstatement of the people she had fired, she said: "The decision to reinstate the people I parted ways with is suspect and cannot be for the good of the business. Why was it taken when I was on leave? But, generally, I have to respect the interests of the owner."

She said when took up the job, she was given clear terms and responsibilities for her position and she chooses to interpret the proprietor's decision only from this perspective," she said. Naturally, she said she would have to make a tough decision on whether to accept to work the people she had fired. "So far I am on leave and have information that I have been assigned some other duties but I am still thinking of what to do next. By the time my leave ends, I shall have made a decision," she said.

But Muhingo insists the relationship he has with Mwakitwangwe is cordial, and moved to quickly deny allegations against him. He said she had approved his resignation and gave him 24 - hours to vacate. "Who said I was sacked? I'm a seasoned journalist who joined Habari Corporation in 1995 till 1997 then left briefly to complete a book I was writing," he said, adding he returned in 2006 and it was the same Mwakitwangwe, who received him.

He insists he has no problem working with Mwakitwangwe because, as he prefers to argue, there are no differences between them. "We work comfortably and amicable. Where we differ, we discuss and come up with a solution." Muhingo and colleagues have however been asked to lie low and concentrate on serving the interests of the proprietor.