MEDIA, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu last week “unilaterally” made appointments to six media institutions which fall under the ministry.
The appointments were roundly condemned by media organisations and the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC. Our political editor Faith Zaba interviewed Shamu’s deputy Jameson Timba on the issue, in which he dismissed the appointments as illegal. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Zaba: Last week, you said the appointment of the Zimpapers board was unlawful and that of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (Baz) was unprocedural and invalid. Dr Paul Chimedza, the acting chairman of Zimpapers, responded in a story in the Herald on Tuesday saying the appointments were procedural because they were filling vacancies.
Permanent secretary in your ministry George Charamba in the same Herald story seems to have apologised to you for having erroneously included the Zimpapers Board list among the list of other parastatal boards under the ministry announced last week. What is your comment on these issues?
Timba: Firstly, the explanations given are the biggest joke in the corporate history of Zimbabwe. It’s like a young boy who has been caught by his mother stealing sugar and his lips are covered all over with the sweetener, but still says I didn’t do it mum. Charamba should apologise, not to me for his acts of omission or commission regarding Zimpapers, but to the generality of the people of Zimbabwe who through the Mass Media Trust of Zimbabwe are the legitimate co-owners of Zimpapers. I am just an elected people’s representative who will not shy away from defending the interests of Zimbabweans when they are being short changed.
Zaba: What is your position regarding the legality of the board?
Timba: That board is as unlawful as it was before Chimedza and Charamba spoke and more so after they have spoken. Firstly, how does Chimedza become an acting chairman of a board that he is no longer a member of? The chairperson as announced is Dr (Charles) Utete. Secondly, at what stage did he and others fill the vacancies? Was it after they had resigned their own positions or before? What was announced was a completely new board which excludes him and two others who were in the previous board. Thirdly, assuming that Chimedza and three others were filling casual vacancies which are disputed, do they have the legitimate authority to do so when their own original appointment was unlawful?
Zaba: What do you mean by saying the appointment of Chimedza and three others were unlawful?
Timba: They were not elected by the shareholders of the company so whose financial interests do they represent? They were initially unlawfully appointed by the previous Information and Publicity minister. So an illegitimate board cannot create a legitimate one by filling vacancies.
Zaba: What is then the way forward?
Timba: A return to the rule of law is the way forward and if any of the people who were unlawfully appointed to this board are self-respecting then they should distance themselves from this illegality. In addition, it is up to the shareholders of the company to regularise their board otherwise they will face serious problems in future if that board makes decisions that affect their interests. The decisions of an unlawful board are a nullity and since the members of that board do not have the protection of the law and corporate veil because they were not properly appointed, then they run the risk of being liable personally for any decisions they make which affect the legitimate interests of others. As a government we should operationalise the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust so that it can assume its rightful place as one of the major legitimate shareholders of Zimpapers.
Zaba: Why then has an impression been created, including in the Herald and other publications, that Zimpapers was owned by government and controlled by it through the Information ministry.
Timba: You see, the government of Zimbabwe has never been an owner of the Zimpapers group. The owners have been the generality of the people of Zimbabwe through a public trust irrespective of the government of the day or political affiliation. What has been happening is that over the years each subsequent Information minister has been abusing these papers and using them as a private army to fight real or perceived enemies within their own party or outside it.
Zaba: What is the position on Baz?
Timba: Before we get to Baz. Let me also tell you that the appointments of the boards of New Ziana (Pvt) Ltd and Kingstons Holdings Limited are also unlawful. Those two companies are not owned by the government of Zimbabwe. They are owned by the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust. The trust deed of Mass Media Trust does not empower the Minister of Media to act on its behalf under any circumstances. Only the trustees can act on behalf of the trust. So, let’s wait and hear whether officers in our ministry also included these two boards on the published list in error.
Zaba: And Baz?
Timba: That Board is unlawful and cannot legally act on behalf of that authority. There are two procedural and legal issues that must be satisfied. Firstly, all board appointments which the president must make on recommendation from either a minister or parliament to a state enterprise or parastatal, service commission or constitutional commission can only be valid if the appointments are done in consultation with the prime minister. This means that the president and prime minister must agree on each individual before the president formalises an appointment.
Article 20.1.3(p) of the 8th schedule of the constitution is clear and it states that the president “in consultation with the Prime Minister, makes key appointments the President is required to make under and in terms of the constitution and any Act of Parliament’’.
If that is not done then that board or commission is invalid. Secondly, with respect to Baz, after the president and prime minister have agreed on all the members of the board the office of the president must then seek the views of the Standing Rules & Orders Committee of Parliament (SROC) with respect to nine of the members although not bound by its recommendations whilst they are bound to appoint at least three from six nominations made by the SROC.
Zaba: From what you are saying it seems of the six boards announced, only two are legitimate, that is the ZBH and the Transmedia boards.
Timba: To some extent there are problems with those two too. You see government is an animal of rules. If you sidestep them you create anarchy. In addition to the procedures listed above it is also a cabinet procedural requirement that you cannot proceed to recommend the appointment of a board of a state enterprise without consulting and in fact without showing evidence of having consulted the State Enterprises and Parastatals ministry.
Zaba: What are your views about the individuals appointed to these boards?
Timba: I am not at this juncture concerned about individuals but processes and procedures. Individuals are a function of process and procedures. If the correct procedure is followed then some of the individuals will not be there. Most of the board members appointed through the flawed process are either friends or colleagues of the recommending authority and not necessarily the best Zimbabweans for the job.
Zaba: Have you raised any of these issues with your colleagues in the ministry?
Timba: I do not have a platform to do so. The minister and the secretary (Charamba) hold management meetings to which they do not invite me. They make most of their decisions and I see them in the newspaper like every other Zimbabwean. Unless we are forced to meet because there is a requirement to do so from another office then I am excluded. I am supposed to be the deputy spokesperson of this inclusive government but, I am excluded in its processes including not being given information on government decisions which if the minister is not reachable I am supposed to communicate.
Zaba: Independent lawmaker Jonathan Moyo in an article published in the Sunday Mail recently said you are part of a nexus that includes Jessie Majome, Eddie Cross and Roy Bennett that ensures that Andrew Chadwick of the Prime Minister’s office is paid. What is your comment to that?
Timba: My Friend Jonathan Moyo is a seasonal rather than a serious politician. No serious person takes him seriously in this country except maybe those who took seriously a n’anga who says you can extract pure diesel from a rock. Firstly, I am not part to any nexus neither is there a parallel government in the Prime Minister’s Office. Secondly, it is preposterous to suggest that MDC is pursuing a regime change agenda.
If he says the MDC is pursuing democratic change within the inclusive government he will be correct. Equally he will be correct to say we will enter the next electoral race in order to win. Thirdly, I have no time to engage Moyo on trivia such as whether Andrew Chadwick is able to pay his bills or not. If he cannot, I will gladly pay them from my own pocket. The only crime committed by Andrew Chadwick, according to Moyo and those who think like him, is that he happened to be born white.