Mugabe fires SPB’s Kuwaza

Mugabe fires SPB’s Kuwaza

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ZIMBABWE – President Robert Mugabe this week fired State Procurement Board (SPB) executive chairman Charles Kuwaza in a shake-up that insiders said was crucial for the performance of the public sector and the implementation of ongoing government reforms. 

It was also understood that Kuwaza’s sacking was meant to appease multi-lateral institutions that have complained about the body’s “opaqueness”.

Mugabe has since 2013 changed tack and agreed to engage the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) among other key international creditors with whom he had fallen out of favour in the prior decade.

“He (Kuwaza) had developed into an albatross around the necks of key government projects and last month it all came to a head,” an insider said.

Kuwaza was reportedly fired through a October 30 letter that gave him until December 31 to wind up business. But Mugabe went a step further, announcing a new SPB board in the Government Gazette yesterday ordering Kuwaza to vacate his office in central Harare on Monday.

Effectively, Kuwaza will be on paid leave until December 31 as the new board headed by career diplomat Buzwani Donald Mothobi, begins work on Tuesday next week.

The President also reportedly ordered Kuwaza to surrender several official vehicles he had been using and move out of the government house he has been staying in – which was at one time the subject of public debate over how much was spent on refurbishment and security installations – by March 31 next year.

Bizarrely, Kuwaza, according to top government officials, had no contract with the government.

“He was permanent secretary at the Finance ministry and was involved in the formulation of the SPB. So when he was moved from Treasury to head the SPB, he did not ask for a contract, but his appointment was gazetted, hence he had a blank cheque to do as he pleased,” NewsDay heard.

With the WB and IMF insisting on key changes to Mugabe’s internal economic management infrastructure, NewsDay understands the SPB has been identified as being critical to any economic transformation that the government might envisage.

“There has been a feeling in government circles that he (Kuwaza) was stalling progress and the implementation of important government projects,” another senior government official said.

“He has, in the process of trying to flex his muscles, stepped on a few toes in top government offices, hence this has been long coming.”

Early last year, Kuwaza claimed he had been the target of an assassination plot through poisoning at an official function by State security agents.

“I can also tell you that, if there was a world championship for being investigated, I would be close to getting the gold medal,” he said vaingloriously at the time.

Besides Treasury, Kuwaza also served as permanent secretary for the Defence ministry and deputy chairperson of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe board of governors before taking charge of the SPB in 2001.

Last year, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, chaired by Zanu PF lawmaker Lovemore Matuke, sought to charge Kuwaza with contempt of Parliament after he refused to answer questions relating to corruption and dodgy deals at the SPB.

Kuwaza in 2012 admitted before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Budget and Finance that the SPB had corrupt officers who “opened tenders and phoned bidders demanding bribes to facilitate winning”.

A new seemingly cosmopolitan team, headed by Mothobi, has now taken over.

Mothobi has been part of the SPB board since 2003. He is current chair of University of Zimbabwe Council. He will be deputised by Law Society of Zimbabwe president Vimbai Nyemba. She is also a member of the Deposit Protection Board and ex-member of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange board.

Other new board members are permanent secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet and former Zimbabwe representative to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, Local Government principal director and retired soldier, Joseph Mhakayakora,
Architects Council of Zimbabwe chairman William Kurebgaseka, Chinhoyi University lecturer and procurement expert Michael Musanzikwa, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Davison Norupiri, Engineering Council of Zimbabwe chairman Martin Manuhwa and industrialist-cum-educationist Ntombenhle Moyo. Only Mothobi and Kurebgaseka survived the chop from the Kuwaza-led board.

Kuwaza had been in the spotlight for a while, following the explosion of the Salarygate scandal, where he was reported to have been under investigation for tax evasion after it emerged he had received over $350 000 in allowances and perks in one year.

The sum reportedly included about $150 000 in refurbishment allowances for his Quinnington, Borrowdale, house.

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