High Court upholds Gata’s suspension
THE High Court has upheld a decision to suspend Zesa Holdings executive chairperson Sydney Gata, pictured, pending investigations into abuse of office allegations.
This comes after Zesa communicated the suspension to Gata in a letter dated July 30, which he rubbished and refused to comply with.
In a report allegedly sent to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Gata faces a string of allegations, among them diversion of Zesa projects to entities associated with him, employment of ghost workers and unauthorised use of Zesa funds for his personal benefit, with reports that $10 million was spent on two lavish parties in Hwange and Kariba and $2 million alone spent on alcohol.
In a judgment delivered last Friday, Justice Tawanda Chitapi upheld Gata’s suspension-on-paid-leave for 60 days and barred him from visiting the Zesa offices during the period.
“The respondent is ordered to comply with the directive given to him by a letter dated July 30 placing him on mandatory leave on conditions that it will be for an initial 60 days and will be entitled to full pay and benefits,” ruled Chitapi.
“The respondent shall not be allowed access to his office and to any other offices and places of operation of the applicant wherever situated in Zimbabwe unless by authority of applicant.”
Chitapi noted how Gata had monopolised Zesa operations by dismissing the suspension letter.
“There was, therefore, a standoff between the respondent and the rest of the board. The respondent declared that he had to authorise all board meetings single-handedly. He unilaterally suspended board sub-committee meetings until he individually was satisfied as to their value,” Chitapi said.
“In other words as far as the board existence and function was concerned, only him would call the tune…it was more like treating the applicant as the personal property of the respondent.”
He ruled that Gata had exhibited a propensity to impede investigations that were being done on his conduct.
“The respondent has resolved to flex his muscles in a clear case of abuse of authority to trash and impede the board’s ability to carry out lawful mandate. It is very disturbing that the board chairperson would confront and threaten other members instead of cooperating to clear the serious allegations made against him,” he said.
“The company at play in this matter is a public interest company…
“There is irreparable harm if there is no resolution of the matters at play in that a successful organisation cannot be allowed to be headed by functionaries and operatives who are corrupt. It is important for the company to clean its house.”
Gata claimed that he was appointed to the position by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and argued that being the executive chairperson it was a “special” appointment since his assumption of the role was in extraordinary circumstances.
He claimed that in his letters of appointment signed by then Energy minister Fortune Chasi, he was mandated to adopt a hands-on approach and address the power situation in the country.
The court heard it was also noted in the letter that the position would be temporary and a chief executive officer would be appointed to deal with areas of potential conflict.
However, Zesa disputed that Gata was appointed by Mnangagwa and argued that he was employed by them and received his salary and benefits directly from the company.
Gata also submitted that if the High Court had determined that he was an employee of Zesa the matter had to be transferred to the Labour Court, but Chitapi dismissed the argument.