HARARE – The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has been thrown into a quandary, as its general manager Rockie Mutenha faces a lengthy medical layoff — barely two months after taking control of the strategic parastatal.
While board chairman Charles Chikaura has briefly confirmed the ex-Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA) boss’ rush to India for medical attention, questions abound regarding the institution’s decision to hire a 60-year-old executive and the implementation of several key programmes such as the maize import-substitution initiative are not in jeopardy without leadership direction or supervision.
“He will be back from his medical leave soon,” he told businessdaily by telephone on Tuesday, adding further that the GMB had put in place sufficient measures to ensure it takes care of the 250 000 metric tonnes of maize expected this current season and other logistics under strategic grain reserve requirements or mandate.
“We conducted interviews and Mutenha came out the best candidate. It’s not a crime to appoint someone who is 60 . . . when he is qualified.
He proved himself when he was chief executive of AMA,” Chikaura said.
While the former Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe senior staffer has vehemently denied knowledge of the GMB boss’ alleged relations to Agriculture minister Joseph Made, the ex-central banker was not readily available for further comment or clarifications that 30 percent of key positions were being manned by people on an acting capacity or basis.
“I am not aware that he is related to minister Made. The appointment was made at board level after we had interviewed all the candidates and we only made recommendations to the minister,” Chikaura said.
Established in 1931 as the Maize Control Board, Mutenha’s organisation is expected to benefit a lot from President Robert Mugabe’s command agriculture scheme as total produce will go to it.
With over two million tonnes of grain expected to be delivered to 80-plus depots countrywide, the GMB is also expected to raise $8 million for refurbishing silos to store that bumper crop — but analysts say the current leadership challenges present uncertainty too.
Apart from that, the grains parastatals is also expected to play a key role under the command wheat and wheat project, which officials argue is supposed to save the cash-strapped Harare administration millions of dollars in grain imports.
In addition to managing grain harvests, GMB also value adds and trades commodities such as maize-meal, rice, cereals and oil seeds.
Its main objective, however, is to ensure national food security through production, procurement and the management of the strategic grain reserve – and just as it seeks to be a commercially viable entity.