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How high-level corruption at ZESA plunged Zimbabwe into darkness!

09 Dec 2022 at 09:39hrs | Views
The reason Zimbabwe is suffering by daily 20-hour electricity cuts is not necessarily due to antiquated equipment, neither can it ever be a so-called 'growing economy' - but, had everything to do with rampant corruption that has crippled the state-owned power utility ZESA, effectively running it into to the ground.

Yes, because of aging equipment, which frequently breaks down - power goes out regularly.

Indeed, the economy may be growing, to some extent - such that, current power generation is insufficient.

We can even talk about low water levels in Lake Kariba - inadequate for hydroelectric power generation.

But, the question is WHY!

WHY have we not acquired new machinery and constructed new power stations since attaining independence 42 years ago - especially factoring in the effects of climatic change, which the whole world has known about for decades?

Was President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa not even in Egypt a month ago, attending a UN climatic change conference (COP27)?

So, why are we still crying over old machinery, lack of capacity in meeting demand for a growing economy, and low water levels - in this day and age?

This is simply because both the power utility (ZESA), and its major shareholder (the Government of Zimbabwe) are riddled with stinking corruption - which has resulted in senior officials focusing more on looting resources meant for development, instead of performing the roles for which they were placed into those offices.

Let's take a closer look at ZESA itself.

In my candid interactions with a former Board member of the power utility, it is undeniable that the rot is well entrenched in the highest offices of the company - which sinks to such sickening depths.

Based on our conversation, morale is at its all-time low - with both senior and junior managers fed up to such as an extent of praying for the immediate departure of their Executive Chairman, Sydney Zukuso Gata - as they hopelessly and helplessly watch in horror the steady decline and destruction of their beloved company.

The first shock was how, someone who had been fired twice before, from heading the power utility - on various graft-related charges - would be reappointed in the same position in 2019.

Why would a person who was fingered by the Justice Smith Report, as being corrupt and not fit to hold the office of CEO (Chief Executive Officer), bounce back as the Executive Chairperson?

And, indeed, why would a then 73 year old man - way past retirement age - be appointed to head such a complex organization like ZESA Holdings?

What new ideas would he bring to the table, which he failed to implement in his other two previous stints at the helm?

These were the concerns and queries raised by the then Board member - which were, not to be unexpected, shot down or ignored.

Needless to say, in less than seven months after his appointment, Gata was already embroiled in scandal - leading to his suspension, and subsequent investigation by ZACC (Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission).

In spite of apparently being cleared of four out of the six cases or allegations against him, the other two were supposed to have been finalized by 30 November 2020.

Yet, shockingly, Gata was reinstated as Executive Chairperson - a position whose legality under the Public Enterprises Corporate Governance Act is questionable, since the law only provides for Board members and executive management - in spite of ZACC confessing that they were still to complete their investigations on the two outstanding cases.

Furthermore, according to documents in my possession, this was also despite an existing court order by Justice Chitapi (whose copy of verdict I have with me) that he remains on suspension pending the finalization of these investigations.

So, what are these two outstanding allegations?

Gata is accused of the unlawful reinstatement of one Norah Tsomondo, after allegedly unlawfully stopping disciplinary proceedings against her, without following due process - which resulted in her being unprocedurally paid, thereby prejudicing ZESA, thousands of dollars in back pay, benefits, and fuel coupons.

A copy of the letter (dated 14 January2020) instructing the secretary of the disciplinary hearing (GM Churu) to supposedly unlawfully terminate these proceedings against Tsomondo is also in my possession.

The second case pertains to when Gata obtained Cabinet authority, allegedly in a fraudulent manner, for three of his supposed 'side kicks' to travel out of the country, by misrepresenting themselves as ZESA employees - when, in fact, they were not.

What, indeed, boggles the mind is why ZACC has not reached any conclusion on these allegations, and purportedly still in the process of investigating.

In addition, there were accusations that Gata deliberately and corruptly flouted clear provisions of the ZESA motor vehicle policy - which limits the allocation of personal issue of vehicles to employees - graded from D4 and above, under the Patterson Job Grading Matrix.

Section 1(a) of the ZESA Holdings (Pvt) Ltd motor vehicle policy - which came into effect on 1 November 2017 - clearly states that "the employee must be in Patterson Grade D4 and above and possess a valid driver's license" in order to be eligible for the allocation of a personal issue vehicle (PIV).

Sometime in January 2022, Gata was accused of appointing five consultants - to undertake various consultancy work

Yet, at the time of their appointment there was a lot of anger and disgruntlement within ZESA, as it was felt that - save probably for one engineer - none of the other four consultants had the requisite experience or resume to qualify them for such appointments, with some having already been fired from the company before, on the basis of incompetence and even 'toxic behavior'.

Furthermore, there were accusations that some were appointed solely due to close relationships and friendships with the Executive Chairman.

How then did such individuals come to be considered 'experts'?

However, ZESA proceeded to allocate the five so-called consultants brand new state of the art Toyota Prado VX vehicles - which had been originally earmarked for ZPC (Zimbabwe Power Company) Executive Directors - with each car's entry price, inclusive of duty, ranging between US$110,000 to US$125,000, depending on the features.

Additionally, these consultants' salaries reportedly hover in the US$18,000 range per month.

Which also means that, Executive Directors at ZPC will still require their own similar Toyota Prado vehicles - in order to replace the five given to the consultants.

There is, then, the case of blowing $10 million on a company Christmas party in Hwange and Kariba, and Gata paying his own private company and domestic employees using public funds.
With allegations that he diverted six company vehicles to his own private use - being a Mercedes Benz, two Toyota Fortuners, and three Mazda BT50s.

On top of this, Gata was accused of setting up a private trust - the ZESIT (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Investment Trust) - to engage in questionable dealings, including mining operations, and taking over ZESA projects, won under the misrepresentation that the company was a subsidiary of the state-owned power utility.

Surely, despite being found without a case to answer by ZACC on the four out of six cases - with the other two still unresolved two years down the line - but, for the head of such an institution to have this many charges brought before him, leaves him in an awkward position and irreparably tainted.

With all these accusations hanging over his head, does this not question Gata's fitness and suitability to head a company that is in charge of lighting up and powering the nation - which, under poor management, has led to the dire power outages, going for 20 hours a day, we currently are experiencing?

Let the nation also be reminded that - even though, Zimbabwe still had the same obsolete equipment - yet, between 2015 and 2018, during the tenure of Engineer Joshua Chifamba, there was hardly any load shedding to talk about.

Does this not show that, with proper effective administration, even with ageing machinery, a company can still perform relatively well?

However, the million dollar question is: why, in his previous two tenures - being the longest serving CEO, and has been with ZESA for an accumulative 30 years - did Gata not ensure the building of new power stations or replacement of old equipment?

Furthermore, the political elite can never be exonerated from blame, as it can never be denied that Gata has been receiving protection from the highest offices in the land - regardless of his chequered past and recent allegations of scandals.

We may even go as far as questioning the real reason for firing arguably one of the most hard-working and competent ministers Zimbabwe has ever had, Fortune Chasi, from the energy portfolio.

Was it not to protect Gata - since, it was under Chasi's watch that the Executive Chairperson was suspended and investigations instituted - but, the minister was sacked soon after, paving the way for his (Gata's) return?

In all his years at the helm of the power utility - what has Gata actually achieved - besides, hogging media headlines for all the wrong reasons, with one scandal after another, and endless battles with employees, whom he is said regards as enemies?

As we speak, the nation has no clue as to the current load-shedding schedule - with businesses, institutions of higher learning, and households being severely disrupted, with the economy potentially losing billions of dollars - since, it is impossible to plan, when no one knows when power will be switched off and back on.

It is no longer debatable that the crippling power challenges faced in the country have more to do with shady and shoddy management than any issue with low water levels in Lake Kariba, or obsolete ageing equipment, let alone some empty talk of a 'growing economy'.

If the economy is indeed growing - then, this man-made electricity crisis will definitely shrink it in no time at all!

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call him on: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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