Perm Sec recalled over growing rift with minister

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Taurai Mangudhla

The minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Sekai Nzenza, has surrendered back her permanent secretary, Judith Kateera, after the two clashed over the running of the crucial government ministry and its parastatals, Business Times has learnt.

Nzenza confirmed yesterday that Kateera’s short stint with the ministry had come to an abrupt end, but she insisted that relations between them were not strained. Instead, Nzenza said, her permanent secretary had a lot on her plate. Kateera joined the ministry as permanent secretary in mid-September last year.

Well-placed sources at the ministry have told Business Times that the two failed to agree on the setting up of boards of directors under the ministry, the handling of the state-owned National Building Society, and the biggest of them all – the cash-rich National Social Security Authority (NSSA).

NSSA, which remains the single largest investor in companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, with investments worth over $1 billion, has been at the centre of a controversy in the ministry with previous NSSA general managers and or board chairs clashing with ministers over the control of NSSA’s huge budgets.

The sources said the Nzenza-Kateera fallout has sucked in other top government officials and the outcome is of interest to high-ranking officials in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).

Clashing personalities and egos are said to have added fuel to the fire.

Kateera has worked in government for over 30 years and holds a PhD in economics. Within government, she has held many senior positions in the OPC and was in the economic planning department of the Ministry of Finance while serving as a board member of the Abidjan-headquartered Africa Development Bank.

When contacted yesterday, Minister Nzenza said Kateera, who is currently on holiday and on a private visit to China, was struggling to balance the demanding roles at the ministry and outside engagements, hence the decision to leave. She said Kateera was expected to be redeployed.

“She managed a huge team of professionals [in addition to] meeting the ministry’s objectives,” Nzenza said. “At the same time, she balanced a very demanding role at the African Development Bank and was required to attend important board meetings representing the child social protection ministry at the UN in New York,” Nzenza told Business Times.

“Due to such a huge role,” Nzenza said, “Kateera’s workload was increasingly demanding, especially regarding work at the Africa Development Bank where she plans to play a very significant role.

“In view of the pressure of work that required Kateera’s expertise, especially in economic planning and finance, she will be leaving my ministry, but will continue working on the various government-related and African Development Bank assignments,” the minister added.

But well-placed sources at the ministry told Business Times that Nzenza pushed for Kateera to be recalled back to the Public Service Commission  because the two failed to agree on the handling of the NSSA and National Building Society boards of directors, and other matters.