NEW SERVICE MINISTER DESCENDS ON NSSA, REINSTATE FIRED BOARD MEMBER | Newly appointed Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Patrick Zhuwao, yesterday reinstated sacked National Social Security Authority (NSSA) board member, Peter Mutasa, and indicated he would pursue a broad review of the $1 billion fund’s operations and investments.
Zhuwao’s reinstatement of Mutasa, in one of his first public acts since his appointment to the ministry last week, presages changes at NSSA and a review of some key decisions made over the past few years.
Mutasa, the president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), was dismissed from the NSSA board by former Labour Minister Prisca Mupfumira in May 2017. Mupfumira accused Mutasa, who represents labour on the board, of leaking confidential board discussions and working against the institution’s interests.
Zhuwao announced Mutasa’s reinstatement in his Tuesday meeting with the NSSA board led by investment banker Robin Vela.
Although Zhuwao was not available to comment, Vela confirmed the meeting.
“I was in the NSSA building yesterday with the Minister and travelled overseas on business (afterwards). I am back next week Tuesday,” Vela said.
Yesterday, Zhuwao met the ZCTU executive to introduce himself and “his philosophy” and gave Mutasa his appointment letter.
Mutasa confirmed the development.
“He’s started well in terms of social dialogue,” said Mutasa. The letter said the appointment would be for the duration of the current board.
“It is my hope and prayer that this appointment will result in all litigation that had commenced in this matter being withdrawn forthwith and being recorded as amicably resolved and settled,” Zhuwao said in his appointment letter.
Although some sources had indicated that Zhuwao would push for another audit at NSSA, Mutasa said the matter had not come up in the meeting with the minister.
“He did not make that indication. He said he wants a NSSA board that reflects all stakeholders and that upholds good governance,” Mutasa said.
ZCTU secretary general, Japhet Moyo yesterday said the union hopes Mutasa’s reinstatement opens a new chapter in relations with government.He said the ZCTU had recently written to NSSA general manager, Elizabeth Chitiga, seeking to understand the rationale behind an injection of $60 million into a fragile Zimbabwe bank, which they feared would expose members’ pensions to potential losses.
NSSA has previously sunk funds into struggling banks and failed to recover its investment. “She wrote back that this was an issue for the board. We wrote to Vela but he has not yet responded,” said Moyo, explaining some of the issues the ZCTU would take up with Zhuwao.
Zhuwao replaced Mupfumira in President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet reshuffle last week. In a ZANU-PF politburo meeting held on Wednesday last week, Mugabe is reported to have told Mupfumira that her sacking had nothing to do with factional infighting ravaging the ruling party, but was related to alleged infractions under her watch at NSSA.
NSSA, which has been transformed under Vela’s leadership since his 2015 appointment, is in the process of cleaning up after the old board.
Upon appointment, Vela’s board dismissed former general manager, James Matiza and four other executives for alleged maladministration and corruption. The board also ordered a special audit into NSSA’s investments, which exposed how the fund lost millions of dollars in questionable investment decisions, especially involving real estate.
The board has asserted itself on the various companies NSSA invested in, while moving to consolidate its investments which straddle key sectors of the economy.
NSSA, whose assets grew 15 percent to $1,052 billion in 2016, reported a 230 percent jump in profit to $106 million in the year.
In 2016, NSSA’s investment income increased by three percent from $22,8 million in 2015 to $23,5 million.
Vela’s robust approach to NSSA’s investee companies has won him plaudits and brickbats alike, the latter from entities used to the fund being a passive shareholder.
Over the past two years, the NSSA board has tussled with the CBZ Holdings board, fellow shareholders in the ZB Financial Holdings group and with serial boardroom brawler Nicholas van Hoogstraten over control of agro-industrial firm CFI Holdings and the Rainbow Tourism Group.