HARARE – Days after Public Service minister Prisca Mupfumira’s stunning dismissal of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa from the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) board for allegedly leaking confidential information, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has demanded his immediate reinstatement.
In a May 17 letter to President Robert Mugabe, ITUC general secretary Kwasi Adu-Amankwah said Mupfumira’s move had compromised the ZCTU position and role within Nssa, a State pension fund.
ITUC represents 181 million workers in 163 countries.
The Nssa board passed a no-confidence in Mutasa at a stakeholder briefing held in March on allegations of leaking confidential deliberations and reports — prompting the Public Service minister to give him the boot.
His dismissal, which has also caused a furore in Parliament after opposition legislators slammed the sacking, was the endgame of fierce run-ins between Mutasa and the Nssa board over the authority’s “dubious” investment decisions, particularly the acquisition of mobile operator Telecel Zimbabwe.
Mutasa was said to have vehemently opposed government’s acquisition of Global Telecom Holdings’ (GTH) entire shareholding in Telecel International for $40 million.
The deal, which has rumbled on since 2014 when Vimpelcom, the parent company of GTH announced its intentions to exit Zimbabwe, saw Nssa — through its wholly-owned Internet service provider ZARNnet — take effective control of the country’s 3rd largest mobile operator Telecel Zimbabwe in which Telecel International had a 60 percent shareholding. Nssa will relinquish its controlling stake in Telecel Zimbabwe (TZ) to Zarnet after three years, following a recent agreement inked to this effect
The remaining 40 percent is held by Empowerment Corporation, a group of local investors.
The Nssa management board reportedly rebuffed Mutasa’s remonstrations, insisting that the deal was fantastic given that government was investing $40 million and stood to get $43 million, a $3 million return.
ITUC said while the Zimbabwe Constitution section 69 (1) and (2) stipulates the right to a fair hearing, Mutasa was not allowed to exercise his constitutional rights, and was not directly informed about the allegations and removal’s decision.
“We deplore …Mutasa’s removal because of his trade union activities, which we consider a retaliatory measure aimed at weakening the ZCTU position and role within the Nssa,” the ITUC’s damning letter to Mugabe said.
“Again we strongly condemn this arbitrary dismissal that constitutes a stark violation of freedom association as enshrined in the ILO conventions ratified by Zimbabwe.
“We join our voice to that of the ZCTU calling for the immediate withdrawal of the dismissal decision, and urge in the strongest terms that the ZCTU requests be fully met as they are formulated in the letter to the . . . minister on 10 May 2017.”
In the National Assembly two weeks ago, opposition legislators Dorcas Sibanda and Nelson Chamisa blasted Mupfumira over the expulsion of Mutasa saying the decision violated International Labour Organisation (ILO) statutes.
But Mupfumira argued that she reserved the right to appoint or fire board members.
“It is government policy that boards are appointed and removed by a minister. It is also in the Nssa Act that the board is tripartite; workers, employers and government. It is also a normal board requirement that confidentiality is kept within a board,” she said.
“In terms of the Act, if a member carries acts of misconduct, the minister can remove the member. It is not our policy to discriminate against any trade union. If we remove any member, we will request that particular organisation to give us new names, which is the normal procedure and that is what we will do.”
Relations between government and ZCTU were strained after the union, together with 40 other civil society groups, spearheaded the formation of MDC in 1999.
The opposition party’s top leadership came from the labour movement.
This comes as Nssa — which has 70 percent of its investments in the equities market and also has interests in 53 of the 60 companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, holding at least 10 percent shareholding in 12 counters — has been dammed in a 2015 audit report by Deloitte Advisory Services.
The audit report revealed that the pension fund’s executives awarded themselves salaries of up to $30 000 per month, housing loans of up to $2 million, and also incurred $10,3 million in tax interest and penalties on payroll-related items.
There are also concerns over Nssa’s questionable investment policies, which has seen it reporting a 68 percent decline in full-year profit for 2015 after a $93 million asset write-down relating to its Celestial office park in Harare and a doomed Beitbridge hotel project.
Nssa also blew $2,5 million on the now defunct CFX Bank, losing $45million in the now shuttered Interfin Bank and splurging $12 million on overpriced starafrica corporation shares and another $1,5 million on Africom Continental.