Scandal-ridden Chihuri new Zesa board chaiperson

By Philemon Jambaya and Fungayi Chimbindi

The Minister of Energy and Power Development Joram Gumbo has appointed a scandal-ridden former Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco) boss, Collins Chihuri as the new Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) board chairperson.

Other board members include Benson Munyaradzi, Jacqueline Sande, Trust Chifamba, Hussein Omar, Catherine Befura and Thomas Timire.

Chihuri has been Cottco Managing Director as well as the company’s head of Corporate Procurement.

Chihuri stepped down just after the ouster of former President Robert Mugabe. At the material time Cottco was supposed to carry out a forensic audit and all Executives were expected to cooperate with auditors.

The Forensic audit then exposed some of the corrupt deals included an input scam which Chihuri did not deal with as the head of the Organisation.

In November 2014, Cottco applied for judicial management at the High Court after the firm failed to turn around its operations despite a capital injection from the sale of its Seed-Co stake.

Cottco owed creditors US$48,1 million, while its liabilities exceeded its assets.

Its internal audit pointed to senior officials taking advantage of lax systems to siphon inputs.

Chihuri who was the managing Director, head of operations Petros Piki, Cottco Kadoma business manager  Stanford Mahambire and crop procurement officer Learnmore Matsvaire are named in the internal audit.

The audit report exposed that Chihuri did not take action against people who were prejudicing the company.

According to Cottco’s loss control investigation report, the Kadoma unit raised write-off forms for the disposal of 361 CAN fertilisers which they claimed were no longer usable.

Instead of selling the “unusable fertiliser” to outsiders, managers insisted it be sold to staff.

After buying the dumped fertiliser, the inputs were taken back into stores as “recoveries” from cotton growers who had not paid up their debts.

The internal audit report noted: “The business may be accepting stock of no commercial value and make use of the same to discharge inputs debts and some farmers are returning chemicals citing efficacy issues especially on reformulated pesticides.”

Questions were raised why Chihuri and Piki did not take action against officials accused of prejudicing the company.

Meanwhile, Gumbo speaking at a board appointment ceremony, said he expected the new board members to act on the various cases of graft at the scandal-ridden parastatal.

“One of the major challenges that you will be confronted with as a board is the issue of corruption.

“Cases of corruption in procurement, prepayment meter allocations, illegal electricity connections and nepotism in recruitment of employees are rampant in the organisation. I have confidence you will deal with this rot,” Gumbo said.