CHIPINGE – Two Chipinge Times reporters haggled with lawyers and Chipinge Town Council administration on Friday over the journalists’ rights to attend a disciplinary hearing of a senior manager.
The two journalists, Ellen Mlambo and Fungai Munyoro were ultimately barred from attending Chipinge Town secretary Susan Dube’s hearing who is being charged with abuse of office.
The hearing was briefly stopped as the reporters argued to the lawyers and Chipinge Council officials that the hearing was of public interest and hence journalists had a right to be in the boardroom where the case was heard. They also argued that the hearing involved alleged abuse of public funds hence it was a matter of intrinsic public interest.
Acting Admin and Human Resources Manager Manyuke Chiraerayi, the presiding officer, Abraham Kudzanai Maguchu, a lawyer with Dube Manikai and Hwacha, the town secretary’s lawyer Langton Mhungu and council lawyer Tariro Tazvitya insisted that the hearing was internal and private because it involved employment information of an individual.
The reporters demanded a law that barred them from attending the hearing. Maguchu who was chairing the hearing said there was none but added that there was also none that allowed journalists to be present in the hearing.
“You are not allowed to attend the hearing since it’s an internal hearing. The town secretary has a right to privacy. At least we respected you that is why we came and explained this to you. Am sure you will find ways of getting the outcome. You can talk to the HR, he might help you,” said Maguchu.
Mhungu, Tazvitya and Chiraerayi echoed the same sentiments.
“It’s an internal issue and it’s more like a bedroom matter it can’t be disclosed to the public. After we are done, if parties do not agree they may take it to court and then it becomes a public issue,” said Mhungu.