By Robert Tapfumaneyi
ENERGY Minister Fortune Chasi has directed the ZESA board to institute investigations into corruption allegations levelled against its executive chairperson, Sydney Gata.
Chasi wants the investigation to be done and completed within five working days arguing the charges were grave.
“The allegations appearing in the press are of a serious nature, which does not only put ZESA Holdings in bad light but the entire government and the ministry in particular,” he wrote Monday to the board.
“In particular the ministry requires information on the lawsuits between Dr. Gata and ZESA Holdings and whether or not they were declared to the board, as the ministry is not aware of any such declaration.
“The allocation of five company vehicles for Dr. Gata’s personal use, the alleged interference in a disciplinary hearing involving Mrs. Norah Tsomondo, the alleged transactions involving Tuli and a trust, whose registration and ownership is unknown to the ministry.”
In his letter, Chasi added: “The issue concerning the four consultants for whom Cabinet authority was sought to travel to South Africa study tour at Eskom. There is need to establish whether or not these individuals are on ZESA’s payroll and if not, the basis upon which they were engaged and any other conduct that the board finds appropriate to investigate.
“You are, therefore, instructed to give this matter all the urgency it deserves to ensure that it is resolved within the shortest time possible to allow the board to concentrate on its key mandate, that is enduring availability of power.”
Gata was first appointed as chief executive of ZESA in 2000, before assuming more power in 2003 as executive chair.
He also once served as a general manager at the power utility.
During his tenure, trustees of the ZESA pension fund opened an investigation into allegations by the Zimbabwe Electricity Energy Workers’ Union (ZEEWU) that Gata allowed some senior managers to dip into the pension fund.
In 2004, when the entire ZESA board was dissolved, Gata remained.
Under Gata, ZESA recorded net losses of the equivalent of US$270 million in 2003, US$428 million in 2004 and US$418 million in 2005.
In a 2005 report, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said an analysis of ZESA’s losses and debts pointed to imprudent commitments and a costly management structure, which was eating 65% of ZESA’s total revenue through salaries and wages.
In 2018, Gata took ZESA to court demanding an additional US$10 million as his severance package. He argued his original exit package had been eroded by ZESA’s lack of salary records, hyperinflation and exchange rate movements. A judge dismissed the claim.
As for severance, Gata got payments of Z$18 313 477 606 in 2007, Z$59 615 494 451 934 in 2008, US$292 723 between 2015 and 2016, plus two Mercedes Benz vehicles, one SUV and a home in Umwinsidale, a wealthy suburb north of Harare.
He bounced back end 2019 as the all-powerful ZESA Holdings executive chair following his appointment by Chasi.