THE state-controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) group has stopped the publication of its monthly magazine Trends and the weekly vernacular tabloid Umthunywa due to critical shortages of newsprint.
The shortage has serious affected the group’s operations as their newspapers – The Herald, The Saturday Herald, The Chronicle, The Saturday Chronicle, The Sunday Mail, The Sunday News and Kwayedza – have been reduced to shadows of their former selves.
The Bulawayo Zimpapers general manager, Sithembile Ncube, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the shortage of newsprint was affecting the company and has forced the group to scale down operations.
“The shortage is affecting the whole print industry, including us, and there is nothing much we can do about it,” Ncube said. “We have since scaled down our operations, as you can see our papers are getting thinner and thinner everyday.”
The media house confirmed that Trends and Umthunywa were temporarily out of circulation.
The country’s leading newsprint manufacturer, Mutare Board & Paper Mills (MBPM) said it was failing to produce adequate paper due to shortages of fuel and raw materials in the country. The situation, the company said, was compounded by the erratic electricity supply.
“Every industry is struggling in the country, but we are trying our best to supply our market,” MBPM sales supervisor Josphat Manjeya said. “There is shortage of fuel, raw materials and the power supply is unreliable so we are operating under abnormal conditions.”
He added: “We are importing almost everything, so our prices will obviously be high. Some of our customers didn’t approve our cash prices for newsprint and that is the reason we have resorted to the fuel coupon payment system.”
A tonne of newsprint at MBPM now costs 740 litres of fuel and that is settled through coupons.
Zimind Publishers, which publish the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard, import their newsprint from South Africa because of unreliable supplies from MBPM.
“There is a serious shortage of newsprint in the country so we import some from South Africa to supplement the little we get from MBPM,” Zimind chief executive officer Raphel Khumalo said. “We cannot solely rely on them because they are also facing problems just like everyone in the country.”
The ever-rising cost of newsprint has forced media houses to increase cover prices weekly.
The constant upward review of cover prices has negatively affected newspaper sales since the daily cash withdrawal limit had stagnated at $50 000 daily before this week’s increase to $500 000.
By Henry MharaÂ