Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
Efforts by Zesa Holdings executive chairman Dr Sydney Gata to avoid investigations by the Zesa board into allegations of corruption and mismanagement levelled against him have culminated in him claiming the other board members are suspended.
But Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi has dismissed that move and promised action to restore order at Zesa.
Minister Chasi last week gave the Zesa Holdings board five days to initiate investigations into corruption allegations against Dr Gata, while ensuring his legal rights were preserved, but through what he termed a “Special communiqué to all Zesa staff”, Dr Gata said the other eight board members had been suspended “pending disciplinary action by the appointing authority”.
But Minister Chasi said yesterday in an interview that the purported suspension of the eight board members was a nullity.
“Government is deeply concerned by the allegations made against him and his complete disdain for corporate governance, Governmental authority and more importantly, the importance of Zesa in the economy,” said Minister Chasi.
“His purported firing of the board, which itself is a legal nullity, suggests simply that the wheels have come off. The Government and the board are taking all necessary steps to ensure that the prevailing irrationality is quickly curtailed.
“We are also deeply dismayed at the quasi-political utterances which appear to threaten energy security in the country.”
In his statement, Dr Gata threatened that several corruption-related arrests were looming, including of board members and senior managers.
Zesa has nine board members, implying that Dr Gata now sees himself as the only functioning board member.
A combative Dr Gata claimed some external forces were instigating workers to strike, presumably to force him out of office, following reports of flagrant violation of good corporate governance requirements. Dr Gata has promised to provide a detailed statement tomorrow after “certain procedures and due protocols have been satisfied”.
Government last week directed the Zesa board to start investigating allegations of corruption levelled against Dr Gata, with Minister Chasi ordering the board to update him after every five days on progress.
The investigations started last week, into allegations that Dr Gata may have allocated for his personal use five Zesa vehicles over and above his official Mercedes Benz, scuttled the disciplinary hearing of a top executive, spent $10 million on Christmas parties, sent four consultants to South Africa and set up a trust to mine gold.
Minister Chasi wrote a letter to the Zesa board of directors ordering them to expedite the probe.
The letter was copied to Deputy Minister Magna Mudyiwa, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, Secretary for Energy and Power Development Dr Gloria Magombo and Dr Gata himself.
Minister Chasi said the allegations were serious, and not only put Zesa in bad light, but the entire Government and the ministry in particular. However, Minister Chasi said in all the deliberations and investigations, the board should ensure the executive chairperson was accorded all his legal rights.
Zesa is a private company wholly-owned by Government and is bound to operate in terms of the laws that govern it, namely the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act, Companies and Other Business Entities Act, and the Public Finance Management Act.
Under the Public Entities Act, Government is mandated to exercise strong interest in the affairs of a public entity including financial performance, reporting and accountability arrangements. Where deviations are noted, Government is obliged to take remedial action in terms of the law.
The laws also demand accountability, including the declaration of interest by officials of the company.