For example during the government of national unity, MDC was allocated the labour ministry and the late MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s long time lawyer, Innocent Chagonda was appointed as chairman through to 2013. When ZANU PF regained full control of government and Prisca Mupfumira was appointed minister, she brought in a seasoned investment banker Robin Vela, who unconfirmed reports suggest was her relative.
Patrick Zhuwawo, who briefly took over the ministry in former president Robert Mugabe’s ill-fated last Cabinet, did not last longer in that portfolio to execute changes.
In comes Kagonye and Vela is history, with more shake-ups expected. There is usually no basis for sacking other than that the sheriff at the parent ministry is new and therefore wants allies who can drive her own agenda.
To my mind, Vela was experienced and competent in driving NSSA’s investments agenda. The team he recruited was likewise capable of delivering and of integrity.
The only blemish was his unchecked powers that stretched to investee companies and his day to day involvement in operations at NSSA. He was a de facto executive chairman, ruthless on investee companies and the pension fund’s employees. They dreaded him and often employees lived in fear of losing jobs. He successfully influenced the sacking of then CBZ board chair Elliot Mugamu and led the purge of Nicholas Vingirai from ZB Financial Holdings, leading to a divorce with Vingirai’s Transnational Holdings Limited (THL).
It was easy to criticise his management style and the unguarded approach to his job.
But this was a man who drove NSSA’s investment performance to a new high, driving the overall contributions and payouts up by respectable margins. He realigned the operations to become more nimble and efficient, even taking the wage bill significantly lower.
Despite the fact that he created a lot of enemies in the corporate world, he delivered on his mandate at NSSA and the only factual basis for this argument is NSSA’s financial statements which are readily available in the public domain.
Accusations of abuse of office have to date not been proven meaning his sacking may have been a political one and not the proffered excuse that he was not ordinarily resident in Zimbabwe. (The previous minister must have surely conducted a background check on him before his appointment!) But it did send a bold and clear message to the remaining executives that they have to fall in line or else face a similar fate regardless of competency.
Into the mix comes Mutsvangwa.
NSSA’s exposure to Ariston may not be that huge given the Authority’s portfolio size, but the rationale for investing is always to get a good return. A key tenet in achieving this goal is the appointment of a capable management even at strategic level. Ariston has been an underperformer for a very long time and since dollarisation it has reported successive losses, implying the company needs close management attention.
As one of the key investors in Ariston, NSSA should take it upon itself to appoint a seasoned industrialist with relevant expertise in the field of agriculture management. Someone who can contribute positively to the turnaround in Ariston’s fortunes and this cannot be someone seeking to instead, learn.
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