Storm over Arda boss

Employees of the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) are calling for the removal of the organisation’s acting general manager, William Mbona, insisting that he is not suitable for the job.

Mbona, however, dismissed the workers’ call as baseless and politically motivated. The call comes amid concerns that most parastatal heads are not qualified for the positions they hold, having been appointed on partisan grounds.

Arda sources, writing anonymously, charged that Mbona, who has been acting in his current position for the last five years, is incompetent.

“The issue of unqualified parastatal bosses seems to cut across non-performing parastatals. The acting Arda general manager…is not qualified to lead the agricultural institution,” said the workers.

They claim it took Mbona between 16 and 18 years to get two Institute of Administration and Commerce and ACCA diplomas. They said he was once suspended for incompetence by the then general manager, Erickson Mvududu, who was pushed out in 2009 after two years at the helm.

In 2010, Mvududu, while giving oral evidence in parliament, alleged that he was removed from the struggling authority for resisting undue manipulation and corruption, which he blamed mainly on the agriculture minister, Joseph Made.

Mvududu accused Made of arm-twisting him to till land for Made’s fellow ministers for a song, resulting in prejudice to the parastatal. He added that thousands of cattle belonging to the authority had been looted by top Zanu (PF) officials and Arda managers.

Mbona replaced Mvududu.

The workers, who say they have not been paid for several months, allege that Mbona, at an unspecified period, presided over a controversial contract with a “bogus company”, named as Tandarai Inn, that resulted in Arda being defrauded of $170,000, but the sources did not give details.

The employees further accuse the Mbona-led management of failing to facilitate the delivery of tea-picking machines brought from Argentina in 2004.

“Mbona’s management accepted in a meeting with employees that they have failed to run the authority. The question that the board has failed to answer is why the board is keeping this type of management?” said the workers.

But Mbona, in an interview with The Zimbabwean, dismissed the allegations as unfounded.

“All the claims by these employees are false and malicious. It seems there is politics at work here,” said Mbona. He said the allegations could be the work of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) affiliated employees.

“This anonymous letter comes after the expiry of the GNU (Government of National Unity). The first letter was written before the GNU and both letters seem to be aimed not at me, but a higher authority (Made). Why is it that no letter of this nature was written during the GNU?” said Mbona.

He said he could not comment on why he had been in a temporary role for five years, saying that to do so would be tantamount to querying the decisions of the Arda board, Made and President Robert Mugabe.

The Arda outcry is just one of many to hit parastatal bosses, who are being criticised for awarding themselves hefty perks in collaboration with allegedly partisan boards.

In mid-January, the permanent secretary in the ministry of information, media and broadcasting services, George Charamba, publicly acknowledged that the suspended chief executive officer at the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Happison Muchechetere, was unqualified for the job.

Muchechetere, a war veteran, was reportedly paying himself around $40,000 in salary and allowances at a time when the corporation was failing to pay its workers.

Several parastatals are headed by former senior army bosses. Almost all the parastatals, notable among them Air Zimbabwe, the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company, the Grain Marketing Board and Arda, make a loss and depend on the government to bail them out.

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