By Felex Share
Zesa Holdings chief executive Engineer Josh Chifamba has — with immediate effect — directed the power utility’s subsidiaries to stop any further payments for public relations consultancy to Fruitful Communications, a company owned by Highfield West legislator Psychology Maziwisa and newscaster Oscar Pambuka.
This comes amid reports that over $32 000 of public funds from Zimbabwe Power Company was on its way to the firm’s bank account last week.
Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Samuel Undenge directed ZPC and the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company to hand-pick Fruitful Communications to do public relations consultancy for the firms.
The directive came despite Zesa Holdings and its subsidiaries having fully- equipped public relations departments drawing full salaries and benefits.
The development saw the subsidiaries losing tens of thousands of dollars monthly.
Eng Chifamba last Friday said the honeymoon was over for Maziwisa and his partner, former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Services anchor-man Oscar Pambuka.
“That has been stopped on the spot,” he said.
“These are public funds and we have directed the subsidiaries to stop any further payments. We have taken action on that.”
Dr Undenge concurred: “They have told us that the company has no unique skills and I have also told them to stop engaging them if they are not adding value to their activities. You only pay for value addition and something which you do not have.”
Sources yesterday said Fruitful Communications, which was engaged in January, was about to be paid some money last week for “work done”.
The media campaign included organising conferences and Press briefings, a development that left the Fullard Gwasira-led public relations department out of work.
Said a source: “Invoices of $32 000 from the Zimbabwe Power Company were already at the Zesa headquarters waiting for approval by the chief executive officer. My understanding is that the invoices were rejected and (Eng) Chifamba told the subsidiaries not to release any cent to the gang of two. This is a good move by management who have now decided to be brave and stop this mess created by senior Ministry officials.”
The media campaign was supposed to run until 2018.
The Herald last week exposed Dr Undenge’s shenanigans although he tried to downplay the issue saying the firm should have been engaged free of charge.
However, the letter he wrote on January 14 giving the directive to Zesa management revealed that Dr Undenge was hiding behind a finger.
Reads part of the letter: “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.
“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.
In response, Dr Undenge said: “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. It’s just like you, you write a lot of things but we do not pay you.”
Alerted 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.”
Maziwisa confirmed he was doing consultancy work for Zesa while Pambuka was evasive.
The development came at a time 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.
This drew the ire of consumers who felt their funds were being abused arguing further that Maziwisa’s firm had to be terminated or the Zesa PR department had to be dissolved.