Govt fires Zesa boss as utility is overhauled

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BERNARD MPOFU

The government has fired the country’s power utility boss, Josh Chifamba, barely a day after the cabinet resolved to overhaul the financially beleaguered Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

According to a letter dated 5 February seen by Business Times, the government approved a board decision not to extend Chifamba’s contract.

“I refer to your correspondence dated December 13 2018, wherein you communicated the board’s decision not to extend Eng. Chifamba’s contract of employment as Group Chief Executive Officer of Zesa Holdings, through effluxion of time,” the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Energy, Gloria Magombo, wrote in a letter addressed to Zesa’s corporate secretary, Saidi Sangula.

“As you are already aware,” the letter continued, “Section 17 of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act (Chapter 10:31) mandates Boards of State Entities to appoint chief executive officers, albeit with the approval of the President. It goes without saying, that the process of termination follows the same route. In that regard, the Office of the President and Cabinet has, upon consultation by minister, concurred with the board’s decision.”

On Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a post-cabinet-meeting press briefing that Zesa Holdings would be overhauled into a “single vertically integrated company” to improve the entity’s operating efficiencies.

Last year, Zesa announced that it was owed over $1billion, and the largest debtors were local authorities mostly through water pumping, treatment, sewer and other essential services.

“Cabinet resolved to amend the Electricity Act (Chapter 13:19) in order to cater for the proposed changes in the structure of ZESA,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.

“It also resolved to engage a reputable human resources consultant to advise [the] government on the best structure for the re-bundled Zesa and as a consequence of this reform, that Powertel be hived-off from Zesa and be merged with Zarnet and Africom.”

The power utility has four units – Powertel Communications, Zimbabwe Electricity and Transmission Distribution Company (ZETDC), Zimbabwe Power Company, and Zesa Enterprises.

Last October, the Special Presidential Prosecution Unit responsible for the prosecution of corruption cases launched a major clampdown on ZESA Holdings, leading to the arrest of Chifamba. This followed the earlier arrest of ZETDC managing director Julian Masanga Chinembiri and finance director Thoko Dhliwayo over a $35m corruption scandal involving an Indian firm, PME Power Solutions