By Sandra Kadungure
Since the publication of a story in the NewsDay of 19th March, 2018 that the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Ms Petronella Kagonye, had dumped a corpse at a war veteran’s house, I have been waiting for the outrage that ought to have followed this story.
I also waited with bated breath for action by the President as dumping a corpse is not only a criminal offence, but assumes serious social implications where it was done by a person who was subsequently deemed suitable for a ministerial portfolio which includes Social Welfare.
A minister in charge of such a portfolio ought to have impeccable social skills, including behaving and acting in an exemplary manner. As the corpse dumping was reported to have taken place on the 7th November, 2015, surely the President would have been aware of this, which disqualified her for appointment as a minister, more particularly a minister in charge of Social Welfare.
That a subsequent news article reported the same minister, in the company of Energy Mutodi, a well-known ally of the presiding as having stormed Zanu PF offices in Goromonzi, and in disregard of party procedures, arrogated to themselves the power to vet CVs for aspiring candidates in the upcoming elections, further raised eyebrows on whether the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare is in the correct hands.
If the President was not aware of this particular incident, this can only mean that there were no background checks on the suitability of the minister for a ministerial portfolio. If there were no background checks, then clearly the current President has not broken from the appointment criteria of his predecessor where everything else, except suitability, were considered for political appointment.
Social Welfare in my book includes being responsible and exemplary on how we conduct ourselves in our day to day lives. The families of those who would have been traumatized by the corpse dumping would ordinarily be entitled to counselling by the Department of Social Welfare, which falls under the Minister. Would such victims have confidence in the personnel in Social Welfare if the Minister is in fact the perpetrator?
There are other social implications for such behaviour.
If the Minister behaves like this in her personal/family life, what chances are there that at the office she will be professional? If her approach is generally heavy handed, and she believes she is untouchable, (as indeed she is as she has not been prosecuted for what is an extremely anti-social crime which goes against Zimbabwean culture), will she not ride roughshod over everyone under her portfolio?
As if these concerns were not bad enough, the newspapers were again awash with reports that the ministry was interfering with the Board’s choice in the appointment of the Managing Director for the National Building Society, a wholly owned NSSA subsidiary.
Although the Board had settled for Gift Shoko, following transparent interviews, the Ministry’s permanent secretary who falls under Kagonye directed that one Lameck Danga, who had failed the interviews, be appointed instead.
This was despite the Board, which has the power to appoint the Managing Director, being against such appointment. The excuse given was that since Mr Danga was acting in that position, there was need for continuity. That the excuse is contrived and false is not difficult to see.
Back at NSSA, the Minister is engaged in a murky purge of executives transparently recruited less than two years ago. There have been no allegations of wrongdoing by these Executives except for untested allegations of sexual harassment by a female employee against a Board member, who only found her voice to make the allegations when her responsibility portfolio was being rationalized and reduced.
If continuity is so key, why should it be important for NBS and not important for the parent company, NSSA? If NSSA is to get a new Board and new Executives appointed by Kagonye, will their appointments be proper and transparent? Will they simply be there to follow ministerial directions?
And given the spectre of corruption in virtually all parastatals, will Kagonye contain or facilitate corruption in the parastatals falling under her ministerial portfolio? And how does she expect Danga to perform under the supervision of a Board that has no confidence in him?
Surely, this can only mean that NBS will be run from Compensation House by the Minister and her permanent secretary as Danga will have no respect for his Board whose members can be dismissed at will by the minister. If the parent company, NSSA, is also being run from the Ministry as is clear from the goings on at NSSA, is any purpose served by having Boards who are paid hefty Board fees when at the end of the day they have no oversight?
This is particularly so in public entities such as NSSA whose funds accrue from the sweat of underpaid workers. Given the reach of NSSA, which has investments in many other companies where it is entitled to Board seats, will such Board appointments be for the advancement of NSSA interests? Or will it be cronies appointed to advance the Zanu PF agenda all over again?
The recent appointment of a Mutsvangwa offspring by NSSA at the instance of the Minister to Ariston Holdings, where NSSA has a large shareholding, is a case in point.
What value will the Mutsvangwa offspring bring to that Board? Is he the best qualified man for the job? Should such appointments not be transparent and made following interviews by publicly selected candidates? How can parastatals be expected to perform when the likes of Kagonye are responsible for the appointment of those who run them?
My concern at giving the likes of Kagonye carte blanche to have sway over such important public institutions increased dramatically when I read an article that the very same Kagonye is being sued by CBZ for an amount of over $400,000.00 which she borrowed and which she has simply not paid for over five years.
NSSA has investments in a number of financial institutions – which means that the Minister will hold sway in a number of financial institutions where Board members would have been directly appointed by her, and where NSSA has a sizeable shareholding, where it would have had a say on the appointment of Executives, with NBS being a case in point. How safe would NSSA investments be under the oversight of such a minister who has shown bad judgment all round? What would stop her appointees from giving her loans she is unlikely to repay?
The suitability of the minister to hold the portfolio that she does has come against the backdrop of parliamentary committee hearings where it is alleged ministers interfered in the appointment of suitably qualified candidates, such as the alleged (Joseph) Made appointment of the GMB general manager against the advice of the Board and in clear violation of the law, particularly as the appointee did not score well in the interviews.
What this means is that upon the fall of ED, parliamentary committees will be sitting and ploughing the same ground of why Danga, et al were appointed against Board decisions.
The question that immediately comes to mind is whether ED’s commitment to rooting out corruption is genuine and whether his ministerial appointments are the correct people to fight corruption.
From the appointments of people like Kagonye, Supa Mandiwanzira, Obert Mpofu, there can be no doubt that pronouncements, repeated often, are not matched by action on the ground.
If ED were serious with his often stated fight against corruption, Ms Kagonye would have been relieved of her duties a long time ago. Nehanda Radio