Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi has defended the appointment of Dr Sydney Zukuzo Gata as executive chairman of Zesa Holdings (Pvt) Ltd board, saying his decision was informed by a need to bring somebody with a clearer and thorough understanding of goings on at the power utility.
Dr Gata has previously served as both chief executive and executive chairman of the power utility.
Many have seen his reappointment, at a time Zesa is faced with a myriad of challenges that have resulted in crippling power outages, as a step backwards.
But in an interview on the sidelines of his inaugural meeting with the 10-member board, Minister Chasi lept to Dr Gata’s defence, describing him as the best man for the job given the existing challenges at the power company.
“What has informed my decision is that I need somebody who has a very clear and thorough understanding of the workings of ZESA and I found that in Dr Gata,” said Minister Chasi.
“I also needed somebody who will break the barriers, who is not bureaucratic, who understands and is current regarding what Government is looking at with regards to Zesa.
“Somebody who is fast-paced who has the energy to deal with the myriad of issues that are at Zesa. An ordinary chairman would not be able to do this,” he said.
There has also been questions over the role of executive chairman position, which Dr Gata is taking up with some saying it is a slap in the face of good corporate governance. The role, market watchers say, negates the tenets of good corporate governance as it does not provide for the much-needed board to execute management checks and balances.
To this end, Minister Chasi said he accepts the board should be separated from the executive but said Zesa’s dire circumstances require a present chairman who can attend to issues and that in future Government will reconsider if there is need to continue with an executive chairman.
“I accept that in general terms the role of the chairman and the executive must be separated but even the law recognises that there are circumstances where the two roles can be combined.
“I believe that the position of our country at the moment, with regards to power, requires that you have somebody who is in situ on a day to day basis and if you have somebody who has the experience and knowledge of the organisation, why should we double the expenses by having a CEO and a chairman who will be doing basically the same thing except chairing the meeting.
“Having said that, it’s very important to say that as our situation improves, we will of course look at the need or necessity of the continued role of an executive chairman,” said Minister Chasi.
Meanwhile, sweeping interventions aimed at dealing with corporate governance, tender malpractices and corruption at Zesa Holdings are on the cards as the new parastatal board gets down to business.
Early this year, several Zesa Holdings senior managers were sent on forced leave following a damning forensic audit that unearthed serious allegations of corruption and abuse of office while former chief executive officer Joshua Chifamba’s contract was not renewed.
Yesterday, Minister Chasi tasked the new Zesa board with cleaning up the rot at the national power utility.
Minister Chasi said on top of the depressed generation capacity, Zesa was being weighed down by bad governance and high corruption.
“I know it is customary for boards to sit quarterly and so forth but I do not think that is an appropriate model for this business. Why do I say that? We have a myriad of issues bedevilling this organisation. It is a very important organisation which we cannot afford to fail,” he said.
“What Government and the public are looking for and expecting is a complete clean-up at Zesa. We need a new Zesa. People need to be transferred, you cannot have someone working at the same station for 30 years. Familiarity breeds contempt, some people are now boards in their different (work) stations.
“Clean-up the place, Zimbabweans are tired of issues that emanate from Zesa. Zimbabweans are tired of load-shedding regardless of explanations given. We do not want load-shedding, we want to expunge the deficit of power that we have, we want to export power.”
Minister Chasi said the new board should urgently study the Zesa forensic audit report and implement its recommendations.