Acting Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (ZISCO) board chairman, Professor Gift Mugano, has stepped down from his role after being accused of being critical of government policies.
In a letter to Industry and Commerce Minister Sekai Nzenza, the renowned economist, who was appointed acting chairman of the defunct steel maker in September 2019 alongside other board members- Constance Zhanje, Mabel Buzuzi, Sheila Hawa Mwasa Sidambe and Timothy Phiri- to spearhead the resuscitation of the Redcliff-based steel producer, said his public comments on government policies were viewed to be in direct conflict with his role as a board member of a State Enterprise”.
Last week, Nzenza appointed additional board members – Martin Manhuwa, Demand Gwatinetsa and Edmore Tafirenyika and acting chief executive officer, Farai Karonga, as part of efforts to bring back to life ZISCO, which government said remained of paramount importance considering its pivotal role in the mining and manufacturing sectors.
Mugano said some government officials called his criticism of government policies “inappropriate for someone heading a State entity’s board of directors”.
“As a follow up to our conversations over my comments on public media on government policies which are viewed by some sections of Government as in direct conflict with my role as a board member of a State Enterprise, I took a reflection of the concerns and decided to resign from the ZISCO board,” Mugano said in a letter to Nzenza dated June 29,2020.
He added: “The decision to resign is built on a firm view that I believe that my contribution on the policy discourse is of primary importance which cannot be forfeited in favour of maintaining a micro role as the interim chairman and Board member of ZISCO.”
Mugano decided to quit the board and be on his own, writing and speaking his views on government policies “without any constraint”.
“For avoidance of doubt, notwithstanding the arguments that my comments are negative and retrogressive, evidence shows that in a number of times policy makers regularly took up my submissions,” he said.
“In any way, the Second Republic, in line with the provision of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on freedom of expression, which is outlined in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme paragraph 1766, has opened the space for citizens which include commentators such as economists to freely express themselves. It is on the basis of the foregoing that I took a firm view that it is in the best interest of the country that I continue to provide uninterrupted and constructive views on various policies without any constraint for the interest of our beloved country. It is my sincere hope too that Government will remain open to divergent views on various policies and pieces of legislations.”
ZISCO stopped operating in 2008 owing to financial challenges. Efforts to try and bring it back have been futile. In 2015, an Indian investor Essar Africa Holdings pulled out of a deal to revive operations of ZISCO due to complications involving the steel maker’s global debts, effectively sealing the fate of t6he deal, which first stalled due to bickering within the inclusive government over mineral concessions. The deal later suffered from government pressure to have the Indian firm takeover all government debts.
Another deal with a Chinese investor, R and F collapsed last year.