Felex Share Senior Reporter
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge directed Zesa Holdings subsidiaries to hand-pick a private firm to do public relations consultancy in an arrangement that is bleeding the power utility of tens of thousands of dollars monthly.
Zesa Holdings and its subsidiaries have fully-fledged public relations departments, which are drawing full salaries and benefits.
This comes as the financially hamstrung power utility is proposing to hike energy charges by an average 14 percent from 9.87 cents to 11.2 cents per kilowatt hour, further burdening industry and residents.
The hired firm, Fruitful Communications, was engaged in January and is doing “a media campaign” for the power utility’s subsidiaries until 2018.
This leaves the internal PR departments redundant.
The company — whose profile only has Highfield West legislator Cde Psychology Maziwisa (principal director) and former ZBC news anchor Oscar Pambuka (media strategy executive) — has duties that include organising conferences and Press briefings.
Dr Undenge gave the directive to the Zesa management in a letter he wrote in January this year.
Reads the letter in part: “They (Fruitful Communications) have done publicity work for the Ministry of Energy and Power Development by putting me, as the principal voice at the forefront of explaining our vision as well as the different interventions that are currently being undertaken by the ministry.
“I have found them to be incredibly useful in this regard and hereby direct that you work as closely as possible with them at intervals of six months per engagement until 2018.”
Another correspondence written by Zimbabwe Power Company managing director, Mr Noah Gwariro on December 14, 2015 to Zesa chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba, also confirms that the directive to engage Fruitful Communications had come from Dr Undenge.
ZPC is Zesa’s power generating unit.
“The MP (Maziwisa) has proposed a media campaign for Zimbabwe Power Company for ZPC and has highlighted that this is an initiative from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development,” wrote Mr Gwariro.
Despite the letters, Dr Undenge yesterday said he had not directed anyone and claimed Fruitful Communications was doing the services for free.
“They are people in public relations and there is no formal contract with anyone and if anyone wants to help for free, we allow them to do that,” he said.
“They felt they wanted to explain something to the public. Its just like you, you write a lot of things but we do not pay you.”
Told that The Herald was in possession of documents showing some of the transfers made into the Fruitfull Communications Stanbic account number 0240598176501, Dr Undenge said: “Well, pamwe vanenge vafunga panoda kuti paitwe something I dont have that detail. Maybe they think that if they utilise them then things will move accordingly. It will now be a prerogative of the organisation nothing to do with the Minister.”
Cde Maziwisa yesterday confirmed the marriage between his company and Zesa.
“We are doing consultancy for them,” he said.
Asked about his company’s terms of reference, he retorted: “Hindava (Why do you ask). Kasi mukuita story?.”
Pressed further to clarify since public funds were involved, Cde Maziwisa said: “Ndivanani ivavo? Izvo munotobvunza vakapa basa kwete vakapiwa basa.”
Pambuka was evasive when contacted for comment.
“I think you are talking to the wrong person because I don’t work with Zesa,” he said.
“Infact, I don’t even know what you are talking about mukoma. That is not the name of my company,” he said, unware this reporter was in possession of the company’s profile which also has his picture.
Fruitful Communications is also reportedly offering similar consultancy to other parastatals under contracts yet to be gleaned.
Sources yesterday said Dr Undenge’s directive was against the cost cutting measures Zesa was implementing.
“Surely which firm can do work for free in this era as Dr Undenge us suggesting,” said a source.
“Cde Maziwisa and Pambuka have taken over the public relations and if they are to continue it means Zesa has to dissolve the public relations departments existing. Zesa management and the Minister cannot even justify what skills these guys are bringing, which cannot be offered by the current team. You cannot outsource for something which you have and what makes it worse is that the company was just hand-picked. There was no room for management to choose but it was dictated to them.”
“The team is paid tens of thousands every month and at the same time Fullard Gwasira (public relations manager) and his team are getting salaries and benefits for the same job. If this is not stopped then it means the burden on the consumers will continue.”
Mr Gwasira asked for written questions and had not responded by the time of going to print.