By Anna Chibamu
ZIMBABWE Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) chairman Sydney Gata says some top company engineers who were fired after following ministerial directives on the utility’s several power projects are now suffering with their kids not attending school anymore due to lack of money.
The Zesa boss was giving oral evidence before parliament’s Public Accounts Parliamentary Committee which hosted the Zesa board and management this past week.
He said efforts to have the engineers reinstated have stalled because their cases have been referred to the labour courts.
Gata said his board could not intervene either after a disciplinary committee had dealt with the dismissal matter.
The auditor general’s report revealed that there were anomalies in the tendering processes in the Dema Diesel Power project, telecommunications Powertel Company project, Gwanda Solar Power project, Kariba Hydro-Power Company (Chinese-Sino-Hydro of China), among other projects.
Zesa has denied any direct involvement in the deals saying it was powerless to object to the directives which often came directly from then Energy ministers Elton Mangoma and the now jailed Samuel Undenge.
Asked by NewZimbabwe.com on Thursday why the board had not sought the approval of current minister Soda Zhemu to have the managers reinstated, Gata said this would be tantamount to pre-empting the labour court’s pending decision.
“The situation has been difficult for the managers who were sacked,” he said.
“We cannot do anything except to wait for the courts’ decision regarding their dismissals.
“The sad part is that they were doing their job and could not object to directives from above.
“They are suffering. Children are not going to school and cannot afford to pay for their legal representation to speed up the court hearings. We cannot intervene now as a board,” Gata said.
The Zesa board chairman who was not yet the boss then, also condemned government’s direct involvement in processes of awarding tenders often through verbal directives which in some cases resulted in financial losses to the struggling entity.
During the committee hearing, Gata said, “None of us could help. Our own labour laws do not allow us to intervene. A number of actions followed.
“We appointed independent law firms to act as disciplinary authority in one case and in another case, to act as a prosecutor so that the implementation of the recommendations as they pertain to our managers was done independently.
“I felt satisfied that the committee exercised its responsibility quite well and the only difficulty was that none of us could help.
“Once our committees have heard disciplinary processes; our labour laws do not allow you to be the accuser and the appeal authority at the same time.
“Unfortunately, the only lawful recourse for those people that went home or were dismissed or demoted was the labour court and they are out there in the labour court.
“I do not know whether the laws of Zimbabwe can offer reprieve to certain situations where our observations on senior managers were concerned.
“I wish there was a way to rescue some of these youngsters.”
He added, “It is the duty of the board on opposing any instruction from anyone. We have to own up to the situation on the ground.
“This trait will sustain. There is a current need to belong as a board member as appointed by the minister. Boards have been feeble in opposing ministerial directives. In some cases, they can even worsen the situation.”
Committee members questioned why the board had the powers to fire management yet it did not have the powers to reinstate the fired workers.