-Mhlanga accused of building a chiefdom but denies it
A four-page document literally calling for the disbanding of the Agricultural Development Authority (ADA) or the appointment of a commission of inquiry into the parastatal, because the “social cost of maintaining it” is too high and because the organisation is riddled with inefficiency, nepotism, chiefdom and unchecked thefts and fraud, is being circulated around.
The document, which has also been sent to The Insider, is addressed to Sidney Malunga (MP for Makokoba and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee), Alois Mangwende (MP for Murehwa North), Tichaendepi Masaya (Minister of State for Finance, Economic Planning and Development), John Deary (President of the Chamber of Zimbabwe Industries) and Morgan Tsvangirai (Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions).
The document, issued by a Committee Of Ten, lays the bulk of the blame on ADA general manager, Liberty Mhlanga, who it says has establish a “chiefdom” at ADA and is not only employing his relatives but is at times creating positions “unnecessarily” for them.
Mhlanga said the document was probably written by some disgruntled persons either within the parastatal or outside. He said it was based on half truths and at times blatant lies.
We reproduce the document (verbatim) and Mhlanga’s reply thereafter:
“It is disconcerting that there seems to be lip service being paid to efforts to improve economic performance in parastatals. Over the years, you have instituted various enquiries on the state of each parastatal but only for the reports to be shelved or the interpretation on the recommendations twisted as to nullify them.
“The goings on at Air Zimbabwe are the result of ineptitude of decision making at the highest level when nepotism comes to play, or, if it is not so, of the failure at realisation of the importance management can play in the success of the economy.
“It is not a question of putting an incompetent so and so at the top of the organisation because one is related to them and hope that management problems will sort themselves out. Nepotism and the resultant mismanagement have a trickle-down effect in that that person would also appoint people of Kith and Kin to positions below him or her. What results is gangsterism at the expense of professionalism.
“A few years ago a situation similar to the one pertaining at Air Zimbabwe was allowed to happen at the Agricultural Development Authority. How the General Manager at ADA was appointed, no one knows but was certainly not based on his management skills in estate farming or let alone small scale farm management. The taking over of the General Manager was a chance to establish a chiefdom at the workplace. Positions were unnecessarily created to give room to the relatives.
“One of the relatives made Regional Manager was fired when a whole consignment of fertiliser disappeared as grounds for possible theft were established and was detained by police and a docket opened.
“The General Manger decided to have the case dropped and have the Regional Manager get his salary while on suspension. The pay cheque(s) were delivered at home at the Authority’s expense. The Regional Manager was to come back at a new post but without loss of salary and/or benefit.
“All this was never referred to the Board although there was a stipulation that the appointments and terminations be referred to the Board for grades above a certain level. All this was done because the Regional Manger was a cousin of the General Manger, their mothers being sisters.
“Then there was a case of the Administration Controller, who again was a cousin to the General Manager because their fathers are brothers, advertised state land for sale and tenders were received. Can you imagine state land being disposed through public tender when peasants are going hungry for land and the establishing act is specific on how immovable property was to be disposed first by obtaining prior Board and Cabinet approval.
“No Board approval was obtained before the appointment of the General Manager’s cousin and there was manipulation in the appointment. A candidate whom the interviewing panel comprising of the General Manager and his two stooges, the Deputy General Managers, decided was the best candidate was not offered the position as he had applied for two positions. The Financial Controller Mr F. Chihande who was better qualified for the position of Administration Controller/Financial Controller was later to leave the organisation unceremoniously.
“The person who was to be offered the position of Financial Controller was someone within the organisation who was a mere budget clerk and doubled his salary as a result. Besides not having the experience for the job he had been previously reprimanded when he was at Sanyati Estate for a financial misdemeanour.
“When the Authority applied for an allocation to purchase vehicles using funds that had been offered by the Germany Agency for Technical Cooperation and permission was granted one of the vehicles was sold to Mr O Hall who was the Administration Controller before the cousin to the General Manager, using the Authority’s funds. Mr O. Hall at the time was a company owner in partnership with the Deputy General Manger Finance Mr Matanda and company secretary/public officer to another company in which the General Manager, his wife, a Mr Moyana and others were directors. The company in which the Administration Controller was company secretary/public officer had been set up to tender for the state land which was being offered for sale by ADA.
“Then there were irregularities in the Human Resources Department in which the Human Resources Controller approved and obtained his own cash in lieu of leave for days he had not accrued. He promoted secretaries at his whim without consent from his immediate superior. All this was pointed out in an internal audit report but nothing was done because he is related to the General Manager and comes from the same village with one of the Deputy Managers. The position of Human Resources Controller was never advertised and referred to the Board when he was given the post.
“The previous General Manager’s secretary was the Administration Controller’s wife, cousin to the General Manager. The General Manager uses a company vehicle but claims mileage for use of his personal vehicle. This is a case of fraud or theft by conversion. The amount involved is colossal as he has claimed over one thousand dollars per month for the past six years or so.
“There is gross negligence if not fraud, in the sale of two brand new Peugeot 504 vehicles to Mr O Hall and as a cover to Dr Jacklich one of the advisors at ADA, when the vehicles were bought and foreign currency allocated by Government because ADA had no vehicles. They were resold in breach of exchange control regulations which say vehicles have got to be sold within a specified period from the date of importation … by ADA.
“There is a case for the problems of inefficiency, nepotism, chiefdom and unchecked thefts and fraud rising at ADA with the coming of trade liberalisation and the reduction in Government controls as this happened in the eyes and before a Board supposedly of so incompetent people and Ministry of Agriculture officials. The sale of land was advertised in early 1988 and the vehicles sold thereabouts.
“All this happened and no one was made accountable maybe because of the General Manager’s connections. This all means that after they have destroyed and pilfered ADA they are appointed to some more positions higher up in the public sector on the basis of their so-called invaluable experiences at ADA. The common man in the street pays high prices for the goods produced in circumstances of inefficiency, apathy and nepotism no wonder the workers are not in favour of trade liberalisation.
“There is no micro-economic justification for its existence because before it was to operate small holder units served by the central estate as a basis egalitarianism or the distribution of resources to the povo. But in their foolishness the management discarded that rural development notion and opted for control of only the core estate.
“Strategic crops are better grown everywhere in Zimbabwe by individual farm units who do not refer decisions to Head Office. There is no accountability from the farm level to the general manager as all or most of the occupants of the command structure are related. The growing of the so-called strategic crops is best done by manipulation of prices by government.
“What are the strategic crops which ADA has been able to grow better than the individual farmer put together. The social cost of maintaining ADA is high. Agricultural crops can be grown by private individuals given better prices b Government. The sale of the farms presently being operated by ADA will raise a lot of money for the fiscus and thereby reduce the tax burden.
“ADA is not like the National Railways of Zimbabwe or ZESA or PTC where a lot of thought has to give in privatising them. The World Bank in its review and recommendations for the structural adjustment programme sees no role in the economy for ADA in the era of adjustment. If Government is serious about trade liberalisation, or is Parliament itself as the watchdog of good government, enquiry and take the appropriate action.
“A lot of people were victimised at ADA for raising their eyebrows yet the culprits remain in their untouchable positions at ADA.
“PS: The General Manager is awarding contracts for typing and secretarial services to a company that is run by his cousin’s wife. The cousin’s wife was once the GM’s private secretary. This is fraud, creating work for relatives.”
Replying to the allegations in the document, Mhlanga who was flanked by his two deputies, Matanda and Made said: “I don’t think the person who drafted that report is very well versed with what is going on in ADA. He is probably operating from rumours more than from knowledge of what is going on. The reason I say so is that you have statements there that are made, allegations that things happened one way or another. Those things are not true in some cases and in other cases there might be elements of truth but wrong conclusions.”
Mhlanga and his deputies were aware of the document and had seen it before The Insider asked for comment on its contents.
On his appointment to ADA he said: “I was actually offered two posts available at the time one was permanent secretaryship of the Ministry of Energy and the other was to bring together three organisations Tilcor, ADA and Sabi Limpopo Authority into one ADA. I was interviewed for both and then chose to come to ADA because it was more challenging. Again the author does not know what he is talking about. I did not apply for the job, government invited me.
“Financially I lost by coming here. I was already earning close to US$100 00 a year and I came here to get around Z$30 000, so it was not as if there was financial attraction but I came here because some of us are interested in the development of this country and I am still interested.
“As for qualifications, I was doing a similar job for the United Nations in an administrative capacity. If it’s a question of agriculture I was also involved with agricultural projects in Bangladesh, East Africa, and Central America. I travelled also to western countries like Canada and Japan to see their agriculture.
“Besides I did agriculture at Domboshawa many years ago and where it not for historical reasons I would have done my PhD in agriculture but the people here (Rhodesia) said they would not recognise any degree in green agriculture from anywhere unless it was done at the local university.
“I am involved in environment and am a member of some of the top organisations looking at agricultural planning based on environment in the world. I am a member of International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. I am member of the International Policy Council on Marketing. That is not really to boast but that is to show the league I play with professionally, I really shy to talk about myself.”
On employing relatives, Mhlanga said: “There are people who come here and are employed and they are related to me.
“Whoever is employed by ADA -some of these documents have revealed things I did not know- goes through the system. Whoever is employed by ADA is employed on the basis of their knowledge and capacity and not because of their relationship. In some cases these people are indirectly related to me. For example, I had my secretary and one of my cousins got interested in my secretary and they got married. What could I do?
“Human resources advertises the posts. There are very few posts in which the board is involved. Employment of my deputies, for example, is the responsibility of the board.
“What we normally do is advertise a post that is available internally to give our people a chance and then externally. After interviews, we recommend the person to the board. It is not as if I go and say let’s employ this person. By the way we notify the Board on just about every appointment. We make it a point to submit the staff movements every month to the board including movements from one office to another -people leaving and people coming in.”