The ZBC has suspended its head of radio services, Robson Mhandu, after he requested intercourse from a female broadcaster in order to grant her transfer application from Bulawayo to Harare.
Mhandu, who has worked at the ZBC on and off for over two decades, told Farai Juliet Magada, also known as Farie Jules, that she needs to “motivate me by work and number two, the obvious… it’s a combination of the two.”
“Tell me if you don’t want to do it and you’ll go back to Bulawayo,” Mhandu told Magada in an audio recording of their meeting in his office at Pockets Hill.
According to ZimLive, there are two audio recordings of 18 minutes and 3 minutes, as well as 14 screenshots of WhatsApp messages, shared by ZBC insiders.
When Magada asked Mhandu if her transfer should depend on sex, he told her that “we don’t seperate the two.”
“I will send you to Bulawayo, I have the power,” he threatened.
Mhandu is also heard telling Magada that his sexual demands are “the practical realities of life.”
And then in a string of WhatsApp messages, each punctuated with a peppering of seemingly meaningless emojis but always featuring a lion – his totem – Mhandu referred to Magada as his wife, declaring: “In our tradition one mustn’t give their woman space. Shumba (lion) is a military management animal, no letting go, never ever.”
Magada asked Mhandu if giving him sexual favours guaranteed her transfer, and he responded: “It’s one million percent guaranteed… Remember you moved from Khulumani FM to Classic 263 on my signature MaMoyo. Your talk of guarantees is purely a sign of disrespect from a typical Zimbabwean woman.”
Mhandu variously called Magada “honey,” “darling” and “sweetheart” as he kept pestering her for sex on WhatsApp.
In their meeting, Mhandu appeared concerned about Magada’s workrate, even declaring that he did not believe she should be at ZBC.
“At ZBC, as a typical top management technocrat, can I say this person really deserves to get paid? You don’t. You’re being paid because I’m there for you, you’re protected for which you’re not appreciating, you’re asking me silly questions like you did this morning,” Mhandu is heard saying.
“I just don’t talk about being a lion, I am a lion and my business is to kill. This is me. It’s loud and clear. Do the right things right. You can’t separate the two.”
When Magada finally tells him, on WhatsApp, that “I am not going to sleep with you for you to sign my papers,” a furious Mhandu responded: “Case closed, no further discussion on this issue. It’s now work and work. SIMPLE.”
Lion’s den … Robson Mhandu speaking to information minister Jenfan Muswere during the latter’s familiarisation tour of the ZBC on September 21, 2023
Sexual harassment in the media industry was on the agenda on Wednesday as information minister Jenfan Muswere attended a workshop in Harare where industry players were crafting a common policy to guide all media workers.
Muswere said: “I heard a presentation made by one female who has encountered sexual harassment in the newsroom, it was heartbreaking.
“It’s in this context that the government views sexual harassment as a violation of human rights, it affects everyone.”
Mhandu, in the years he left the ZBC, worked at tax collector ZIMRA and the Zimbabwe Open University’s public relations departments where similar allegations followed him.
ZBC CEO Adelaide Chikunguru told ZimLive she was “not aware” of Mhandu’s suspension.
“She’s lying,” one ZBC insider said. “She has always thought Mhandu wants her job, she’s careful not to be seen as instigating his downfall.”
Even in the face of damning evidence, ZimLive understands Mhandu is determined to fight the sexual harassment charge at an internal disciplinary hearing next month.
When approached for comment, Mhandu asked to be called back in 15 minutes, after which his phone repeatedly rang unanswered.
ZBC workers who spoke to ZimLive said Mhandu had an extensive history of demanding sex from female subordinates.
“This is just a tip of the iceberg. The ZBC should actually be conducting a wider inquiry, led by an independent panel. What they will find is a sickening sexual bullying culture that has permeated the organisation for many years,” one employee said, asking not to be named.