ZESA: No square pegs in round holes

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THE appointment of politicians as board members of Zesa Holdings and its nine subsidiaries has attracted vicious public backlash. The appointments were equated to corruption meant to benefit Zanu PF officials who are not in government.
Others said the appointments border on nepotism, cronyism and political patronage. The attacks go on and on with some beseeching the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee to interrogate the educational and professional backgrounds of the board members.
While politicians are also citizens who are entitled to the privileges of serving in such boards, their appointment must be based on nothing but the requisite skills and experience. In other countries, there are Nominating and Corporate Governance Committees that supervise such appointments.
The accusations that the appointments are based on nepotism and other bad isms are informed by several factors. One such factor is that every new minister appoints a new board to replace an existing board without necessarily looking at its performance. In most cases that minister, calls up the people he has been working with in the previous ministries.
The other factor is that some of the appointees have no track records that justify their appointments. Some have done badly in their previous assignments. In the case of Zesa Holdings, some of the politicians failed to run their constituencies and as a result, they were rejected at the ballot.
When Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire took over the ministry of Energy and Power Development, he dissolved all the boards of the nine parastatals under his ministry. He said he was not happy with their work. It is to be seen how he is going to remove an underperforming board teeming with politicians without courting political consequences. Hopefully the board members will measure up to the task to avoid putting the minister in a difficult situation.
The appointment of new boards conjures up the issue of salary gate where some boards winked at bosses of parastatals awarding themselves obscene salaries despite their non-delivery. These entities have been making losses due to corruption and poor corporate governance. The board members themselves helped in destroying the entities with some board members raking in a staggering US$1million in allowances in just a year.Advertisement

It tainted Zanu PF as most of the board members and chief executive officers were assumed to be party functionaries. It is going to be worse for the party if these declared Zanu PF politicians mess up in these boards. With the expectant nation waiting for the full implementation of Zim Asset, it should not be business as usual for strategic parastatals like Zesa. It’s not time to put a square peg in a round hole. Board members should provide entrepreneurial vision to these parastals.
Board members of Zesa Holdings must be conscious of the fact that electricity is one of the key drivers of the economy. The successful implementation of each of the four strategic clusters of the Zim Asset, depends on the provision of reliable electricity. Thus, the board members of Zesa Holdings have the tallest task in the process of implementing the economic blue print.
As a matter of priority, Zesa must address the challenge of reduction in electricity generation as it has both direct and indirect effects on the economy. The electricity deficit is significantly hurting mostly the manufacturing, agriculture and mining sectors due to unexpected power outages and load shedding. In some cases, companies have resorted to the use of high voltage diesel generators during power outages. In Uganda, tax on diesel used for commercial generators is waived.
Electricity shortage has dented productivity of companies whose production capacity has already declined to slightly above 30%. Strangely, with this low industrial capacity utilisation, Zesa is still failing to cope with electricity demand. It will be a disaster if the capacity utilisation increases.
The reduced electricity generation has resulted in loss of production time, loss of jobs and has even affected the cost of goods. It has also threatened the food security of the nation since Zesa has not been supplying enough power to winter wheat farming, forcing government to import some wheat to cover up gaps.
The board must make sure that Zesa meets the national demand for electricity. The power utility is currently generating around 1200 megawatts against the national peak demand of 2 200MW. The nation imports some electricity from Mozambique and Zambia to cover up the deficit. The board must raise the generation capacity of the existing power stations to their optimum.
The Hebert Murerwa-led board has an obligation to expand existing power stations which of course needs money. Zesa is owed more than US$500million which, if recouped, can go a long way in increasing power generation.
We have not built any new power station since independence. It will be a plus on the board if more private-public investments are encouraged in this sector to enhance electricity generation. We need additional power generation of almost 150MW for the platinum refinery plant project to be soon started. The board must make sure that plans to construct the US$2.5billion Batoka Gorge and the Gaerezi project take off. Completion of the solar based generations in Zvishavane and Plumtree are other achievements the board will be measured against.
Zim Asset clearly set the objectives that Zesa is expected to achieve till 2018. This includes increased usage of alternative forms of energy, increased access to electricity by rural households and institutes among others. It’s time for the board to prove the critics wrong.