17 June 2019

Zimbabwe: President Rescues Zesa Whistleblowers

President Mnangagwa has intervened in Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) employees' case by ordering their reinstatement after they were dismissed for being whistleblowers on corruption that was threatening to ground the power utility.

He made the call at the recent launch of the Tripartite Negotiating Forum Act to pave way for the establishment of a platform of social partners -- the Government, labour and business -- to discuss pertinent issues affecting the economy.

The eight ZESA workers were victimised for exposing a corruption saga during the time of former Zesa chief executive officer Engineer Joshua Chifamba.

The whistleblowers were victimised by management for fighting corruption linking the management and former Minister of Energy and Power Development Samuel Undenge to a public relations project involving Oscar Pambuka and Phycology Maziwisa.

Some of the issues raised by the workers included the awarding of the Gwanda solar project to Wicknell Chivayo without following laid- down procurement procedures and payment of the US$5 million to him without bank guarantees.

The newly appointed Minister of Energy and Power Development, Advocate Fortune Chasi, has called on Zesa management to do everything to ensure that the $5 million advanced to Chivayo's Intratek Zimbabwe for the Gwanda Solar Project is recovered.

Among a litany of grievances by the workers was the refusal by management to honour a 2012 salary increment of two percent.

The suspended workers are Florence Taruvinga, Gibson Mushunje, Admire Mudzonga, Ackim Mzilikazi, Given Dingwiza, Tariro Shumba, Stephen Moyoweshumba and Joanes Chingoriwo.

Energy Sector Workers' Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Mr Gibson Mushunje hailed President Mnangagwa's clarion call for reinstatement of the eight employees, but is seems there is some resistance from Zesa management.

"The President's call is a good move for us and even for the country and our families," he said. "But it seems the management is undermining the President's proclamation to reinstate the workers. There are some cartels within the power utility who are allegedly blocking the President's call.

"We have not yet received the letters confirming our employment status. Instead we have been served with provisional court orders barring us as a union from representing the interests of workers."

The president of the Energy Sector Workers' Union of Zimbabwe, Mr

Admire Mudzonga, said they were waiting for a confirmation letter from Zesa.

"We were victimised for exposing corruption activities at the power utility," he said. "Currently, the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Dr Sekai Nzenza is in Geneva. We are waiting for her to address our issue."

Efforts to conduct ZESA chief executive officer Engineer Patrick Chivaura were fruitless as he was not answering his phone.

The employees were suspended on March 7 2018 without pay after being charged with unlawful job action, breaching of the Official Secrets Act and insubordination.

The first hearing was conducted on April 4 2018 and concluded in June.

Eng Chifamba's contract was terminated by the board while on suspension pending investigation into allegations of criminal abuse of office and suspected irregularities around procurement of key electrical equipment imported by two Zesa subsidiaries from India.

He was arrested in October last year in connection with alleged criminal abuse of office in the awarding of a contract involving ZESA subsidiaries ZETDC and ZENT, and Indian firm PME for the supply of transformers and other equipment worth $35 million.

Youth Against Corruption (Yac) last year petitioned President Mnangagwa over the plight of the nine fired workers.

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