NATIONAL Social Security Authority (Nssa) Investments and Properties director Brian Mrewa has been suspended, as turmoil, external interference and factional-driven fights continue to buffet the compulsory pensions fund since general manager Arthur Manase was placed on mandatory leave in July last year.
This comes as Coordination and Development Planning deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) Willard Manungo has allegedly been accused of being the force behind the reversal of the 29-year-old institution’s rotational policy of its acting general managers amid divergent views about his authority to do so.
This comes as the pension fund remains in a state of limbo and paralysis owing to a leadership vacuum since Arthur Manase was sent on leave in July 2022.
The Independent is reliably informed that a camp sympathetic to interim Nssa acting general manager Charles Shava is doing everything in its power to ensure he remains in the hot seat.
“You will be aware by now that the contradicting statements by Nssa board chairman Percy Toriro on Agnes Masiiwa’s appointment as acting general manager was solely linked to Manungo’s January 3 2023, letter — to Labour minister Paul Mavima and — to the effect that there could not be any changes because it was against the Public Entities Corporate Governance (PECG) Act and a potential threat to the ongoing AMG Global Chartered Accountants forensic audit,” sources said this week, adding the contentious directive was also a “direct counter to the minister’s December 29 2022 letter”.
“What is curious is Manungo’s powers in issuing that order since the Corporate Governance Unit is now headed by Allen Choruma and, of course, his blatant move to protect Shava who is subject to the AMG Global Accountants probe and current Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) investigations,” the sources added.
According to the sources, the letter that sparked this controversy should have ordinarily been written by then acting chief secretary Martin Rushwaya.
Contacted for comment, Manungo promised to respond to questions posed to him but had not done so by the time of going to print.
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Manungo's rejoinder has also sparked debate about the “conflicting interpretation of the PECG Act” — wherein individuals or parastatal executives cannot be in an acting position for more than six months and such as is the case with Shava.
The top bureaucrat’s explanations might not hold water as there are precedents at Nssa where Manase’s prolonged stay (after his initial secondment from the board) and David Makwara’s six months-plus tenure were vigorously challenged at some point.
The sources said there was no explicit evidence that Vice President Constantino Chiwenga (who is quoted in the January 3 2023, letter) was consulted — and as is the norm when such key decisions are made – to veto Mavima’s proposal.
This is the reason, and premise on which Mavima’s recommendation — and Toriro’s subsequent newspaper announcements – were made, but the moves were thwarted by forces opposed to Manase’s return.
Contacted for comment, Toriro said he was unable to comment further on the statements he made.
"While I am always available for comment, for this I will not say anything further to the statements I made. Unfortunately I am away, if I was around I could've sat down with you," Toriro said.
In the meantime, the boardroom fights playing out at the state-run pension scheme come at a time all allegations thrown at Manase who is currently on suspension have been investigated — over a six months period — and cleared by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), among other law enforcement agencies.
Apart from the Zacc probe over a controversial mortgage deal funded by Nssa, Shava is facing accusations of making senior appointments at the authority without the board and minister’s approval as well as failing to regularise several key matters. In light of the foregoing, Manungo’s quest to override the minister in rotating the compulsory pension fund’s leadership has not only raised eyebrows, but sparked questions about his interest and failure to understand or observe governance issues such as the separation of daily operational/managerial matters and forensic audits.