Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Premier Service Medical Aid Society former chief executive officer Dr Cuthbert Dube has given The Herald a one-day ultimatum to stop publishing exposes on his alleged abuse of public funds at the medical aid society, failing which he will approach the courts for an interdict.
The move, a clear attempt to gag the media from publishing allegations of abuse of funds at the medical aid society that was losing millions of dollars as salaries and allowances to its executive managers at a time it was failing to pay off its debts, comes at a time the nation is calling for greater accountability in all sectors of the economy.
Dr Dube was earning outrageous salaries and allowances which amounted to US$6,4 million per year.
In a statement yesterday, Dr Dube’s lawyers, Venturas and Samkange, threatened to take legal action over the publication of the articles.
“Our client’s unequivocal instructions are that unless you desist from continuously publishing falsehoods, he will be left with no option but to approach the High Court for an urgent interdict,” said the lawyers.
“Should we not hear from you by the end of day today undertaking to stop publishing these falsehoods, an urgent chamber application will be instituted without any further warning and you shall be liable for the costs on attorney and client scale.”
Dr Dube’s lawyers alleged that reports of abuse of funds at PSMAS were misleading.
“Your reports deliberately and consistently misled the public that our client has been receiving and earning huge sums of money from PSMAS,” they said. “Our client is assessing the amount of damages he has suffered as a result of these defamatory statements.
“Our client has instructed us to act on numerous newspaper articles carried and published in your newspaper. These articles are defamatory, slanderous and false. They have been written recklessly without paying attention to the truth and accuracy of information available to you.
“In one article you refer to Dr Dube’s status as former chief executive officer when in truth and in fact, he has not been dismissed or suspended from employment. In the result, to refer to our client as a former chief executive is misleading, blatantly untrue and defamatory.”
But a statement by the PSMAS board secretary Mr Cosmos Mukwesha on January 27 following the unearthing of Dr Dube’s earnings said he had been removed from his position.
Said Mr Mukwesha then: “At its sitting of the 27th day of January 2014, the Premier Service Medical Aid Society board of directors resolved to relieve the current board chairperson, Mrs M. M. Namasasu, of her duties as chairperson, forthwith.
“In line with the society’s constitution, the board appointed the vice chairperson Mr N. Mhlanga as acting chairperson until the appointment of a substantive chairperson.
“Further, the board resolved that in view of the fact that the group chief executive, Dr C. E. Dube has reached retirement age, he be retired. Details on the retirement are being worked out.”
In another statement on the appointment of Mr Luxon Zembe as the new board chairperson, the organisation confirmed that Dr Dube was leaving the organisation with Dr Farai Muchena being the acting CEO until the appointment of a substantive head.
“The board fully recognises and appreciates the contributions made by Dr Dube to the society during his 29 years of service with the organisation. Having attained his retirement age on 31 December 2013, Dr Dube is now on normal pre-retirement leave in accordance with the society’s retirement policy and rules.
“His retirement benefits will be worked out as per Society’s pension rules by the Pension Administrator. In the meantime Dr Farai Fredrick Muchena is holding fort in an acting capacity pending the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer of PSMAS.”
An official at PSMAS told The Herald yesterday that Dr Dube has since stopped reporting for duty with Dr Muchena being the acting CEO.
Asked to shed light on the matter yesterday, Mr Zembe confirmed that there was an acting CEO in place of Dr Dube, but refused to shed light on Dr Dube’s employment status.
Mr Zembe said he would only comment after seeing the correspondence from Dr Dube’s lawyers to The Herald.