Source: Night of the Long Knives at ZCDC | The Sunday Mail July 24, 2016
LISTENING to the individual accounts of the legion of disenchanted former Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company workers, some of whom were dismissed just two months into their new jobs, one is tempted to dismiss them as tall tales.But are they?
Theirs are intriguing tales, punctuated by John Grisham-like twists and turns.
Of course, the clincher is undoubtedly the account of the bitter dismissed driver who painfully recounts how he was not even given the opportunity to clean himself up and was sent home in his dirty worksuit.
It could be funny, were it not for the fact that these are people’s lives we are talking abotu. More tragic is that ZCDC carries the hopes of millions of Zimbabweans who are banking on improved fortunes from the Chiadzwa diamond fields after the State took over mining aoperations there early this year.
Last week, ZCDC ex-workers ratcheted up pressure on Secretary for Mines and Mining Development, Professor Francis Gudyanga, for firing top officials without regard to due process.
Top executives at ZCDC were dismissed barely two months into their jobs on allegations of failing polygraph tests.
A polygraph, commonly referred to as a lie detector test, measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions.
Last week, some of ZCDC’s former staffers told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy that the polygraph tests were conducted by an as yet unidentified “white gentleman” at the Ministry of Mines offices.
It is alleged some officials were dismissed without even being informed of their test results.
ZCDC’s former minerals resources executive Mr Takawira Zhou last week told legislators that before the polygraph tests were conducted, he was summoned to Harare without being told what was happening.
At the Mines Ministry offices, Mr Zhou met fellow ZCDC bosses who were similarly unaware of the reasons for summons.
About 11 senior staffers were present.
After being called into the boardroom, where Prof Gudyanga and “the white gentleman” were seated, the permanent secretary explained why the officials were called to Harare — for polygraph tests.
It is understood two ZCDC board members — whose names were not disclosed — also attended the meeting.
According to Mr Zhou, the polygraph test was made of “just simple, marginal questions like, ‘do you operate a syndicate?’ Have you ever dealt in diamonds?’”
Immediately after the polygraph test, the workers were told to drive back to Chiadzwa to resume their duties. For some, the polygraph test results came almost a week later, while others never got theirs.
“(Some) never saw any results (but others) were called back later. Personally, I was never called; I had come to Harare on business and lucky for me, I bumped into this letter of dismissal and I just left,” said Mr Zhou.
Mr Zhou said he had a six-year contract with the company. He was shown the door two-and-a-half months into the job.
After being quizzed by Dr Daniel Shumba, the Mines and Energy Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson, why — as a professional — he simply accepted his fate, Mr Zhou said he had not been afforded a chance to a make representations.
When Mr Zhou was called to collect his dismissal letter, he happened to be in Harare on an errand assigned by ZCDC chief executive officer, Mr Mark Mabhundu.
Mr Mabhundu was also to be dismissed.
“I think around 6:30pm or so, I was called to the (ZCDC chairman Prof Gudyanga’s) office . . . I just got into the office, he was seated there and there was another gentleman — not the white man — by his side and there was a letter there and a pen.
“I didn’t know the person but I understood he was a Ministry of Mines official. So he showed me the letter and he pushed it to me, I just looked at it; I never read it, I just looked at the headline, ‘termination of employment’.
“I only asked one question; I just said ‘what have we done’? He never replied to that and I was asked to sign. I signed, then I was instructed to go and surrender all that was theirs to Reggy Nyashanu and I drove back to Mutare that night (and) the following morning I gave away everything, then I left,” said Mr Zhou.
Critically, Mr Zhou noted that the “process, even the business environment itself”, had become poisoned.
It is understood that management were no longer allowed to make key decisions and were just ordered to adopt everything foisted on them by Prof Gudyanga.
“We could see that things were not right, something was coming. And when we started to do these polygraphs and being called and given letters, it became very clear to me that these people were actually intent,” he added.
Mr Zhou walked away without nothing, not “even a pen that is written ZCDC”.
He will, however, not approach the courts for recourse.
There is a feeling among former employees that there was a sustained campaign to get rid of them.
The secretary’s tale
Ms Getrude Vambe, a former secretary at ZCDC, she is still trying to process what happened.
Interestingly, she got the job without being interviewed and the interview was supposed to occur within the first three months.
Ms Vambe was then fired exactly two weeks after inking a contract.
“I did not understand why I had been retrenched. I had been given a new contract in May which was stating that in the next three months I would have undergone an interview, medical tests, police clearance, and a polygraph test.
“Two weeks after signing that contract, that was when I was called into the (ZCDC) chairman’s office and that is when I was given a retrenchment letter.
“I had not gone through any of the processes. I did not go through the polygraph test. Before I was retrenched, a lot of executives had been sent home and on that particular day I was retrenched together with the CEO, the driver and the finance guy (Mr Stewart Musekiwa).
“They had gone through the polygraph tests but myself and the driver did not, not even an interview. Nothing!” said Ms Vambe.
After being fired, she was promised to be paid her dues “end of June but nothing has come through”. A fortnight ago, Ms Vambe got half the arrears.
As part of her termination of employment benefits, Ms Vambe was promised two months’ salary for every year served, while she would also be paid for three months up to August.
Driver driven away
An ex-driver claims he was part of the team that used to work for Marange Resources before Government stopped operations at Mbada Diamonds, Kusena, Jinan, Diamond Mining Company, Gye Nyame and Anjin to form a consolidated firm.
“I am not happy with the way I was fired. I have been with the company since the Marange time; I was collecting parts from suppliers and taking them to mines. In some cases I would work throughout the night, getting into concessions.
“I was pained because after leaving security guards at Gache Gache to guard the mining activities there, I just arrived and got a letter of retrenchment. I was given by the chairman, Professor Gudyanga.
“He was with the new finance executive called Mr Gambe. They gave me the letter and told me to sign it. They way it happened … I was very dirty and asked to clean myself, I was also tired but they never gave me that opportunity.
“They just said read the letter and sign and put your things. I was literally pushed out as if I had stolen at the company. Up to now, I am not happy with the way I was fired, I was not told the reasons for being fired,” he said.
Last week, repeated efforts to get a comment from Prof Gudyanga were fruitless as he was not answering his cellphone.
However, from the accounts of fired workers, Prof Gudyanga was an overbearing boss who wanted to micro-manage the diamond company.
Mr Zhou alleges that though he was roped in on the strength of his proposed strategy, which had been accepted by the ZCDC board, he never got the opportunity to push through his plans as an equally determined Prof Gudyanga wanted to see his own designs implemented.
“We were asked to just concentrate on those operations that were actually existing, despite the fact that there was not much diamonds.
“It was the ministry (that blocked us). Not the minister but the permanent secretary as the chairperson of ZCDC. I don’t know whether he was talking as the chairman or permanent secretary there,” said Mr Zhou.
He said there was no “real basis” for increasing the production targets by 100 000 carats every month as proposed by the Ministry of Mines.
Mr Zhou said they were “just numbers from nowhere, and they are still just numbers”, not backed by what obtained on the ground.
The team says it had its own timelines for ramping up production.
Though Parliamentary Portfolio Committee hearings seem to be inviting the right individuals to hearings and asking the right questions, some people are growing increasingly skeptical of the effectiveness of such processes as there seems to be no subsequent corrective action.
On Thursday, Mines and Energy Committee chair Dr Shumba told The Sunday Mail Business that portfolio committees sought to achieve “basically four things”, which include highlighting illegalities and failure to uphold a culture of good corporate governance so that responsible authorities, like the Zimbabwe Republic Police, can escalate the issues.
“One achievement is to highlight illegalities that may or would have taken place and these could be prejudicial to the State or the taxpayers and they are also at variance with the expected norms of corporate governance.
“Now, once those things are highlighted, if there are any illegalities, we expect the police, the anti-corruption to take up those cases. The police must go and investigate, the anti-corruption must go and investigate those cases. Parliament is not an arresting authority. That is in respect to illegalities.
“In respect to process, for instance, tender is being awarded illegally, and so on, the Parliament is as good as the comptroller and auditor general. We highlight these things and people can now go to court and use the Parliament documents to enforce their rights.
“Our judgment is as good as a court judgment. So we are indeed a force to reckon with but of course we can’t force the police to arrest, they are just supposed to do their duty but at least you can see that Parliament is doing its oversight work,” he said.