SUSPENDED Zimbabwe National Road Administration Authority (Zinara) chief executive officer Nancy Masiyiwa-Chamisa has given Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza a five-day ultimatum to issue a public apology for making corruption allegations against her, failure of which she would file a lawsuit at the courts.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
Masiyiwa-Chamisa was suspended from her job mid-last year amid widespread allegations of corruption and abuse of office at the cash-rich parastatal.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Finance on Monday last week to answer questions regarding issues at Zinara, Matiza named Masiyiwa-Chamisa as one of the directors who has been receiving thousands of dollars to fund their lavish lifestyles, outside official contractual benefits.
Matiza also averred that Zinara was currently looking for a new CE to replace her, despite the fact that there have not been any disciplinary procedures against her.
There was also an allegation that Masiyiwa-Chamisa unlawfully and without approval benefitted from a housing loan via CBZ Bank and in doing so, she encumbered the employer as guarantor.
Masiyiwa-Chamisa’s lawyers Mtetwa & Nyambirai, wrote to Matiza on Monday this week demanding that the minister withdraws the statements, which she deemed to be derogatory and defamatory.
The lawyers also indicated that Matiza’s statements were reproduced in newspaper articles, further injuring their client’s reputation.
“Our client notes with concern that you appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on transport around 3 May 2019. You are reported as having stated that Zinara is searching for a new substantive CEO on account of the fact our client’s contract was not going to be renewed. This is ostensibly based on allegations of misconduct and maladministration which have been made against our client, for which no disciplinary hearing has ever been conducted. It is also clear that before that, and being aware that you would make negative statements against our client, you took no effort to hear her side before condemning her,” the letter of demand, dated May 13, 2019 reads.
“Our client also notes several newspaper articles in which the issues surrounding Zinara have been reported. In almost all the (newspaper) articles our client has read, the overtones used therein suggest that there is a belief that she is part of the corruption that had bedevilled the parastatal and that her departure from the organisation is the solution to the issue. This is despite the fact that no hearing was ever conducted in which those suspicions were independently verified as correct.”
The lawyers also indicated that current Zinara board chair Michael Madanha further added salt to the wound by making similar statements in parliament and in newspaper interviews.
“Our client refers to various media articles, last of which appeared in the Sunday Mail of 12 May 2019. In all appearances, neither the honourable minister nor his appointed board chairperson took time to accord our client her right to be heard before serious allegations were publicly made against her.”
The lawyers claimed that the incessant negative publicity which Masiyiwa-Chamisa was being subjected to have left her traumatised.
“A disciplinary hearing was supposed to be conducted in July 2018 and it failed to take place because of the employer’s blunders on the choice of law and procedure. Another hearing which was supposed to take place before a Justice (Moses) Chinhengo led panel also failed to take place because the committee was conflicted. Instead, our client has remained on suspension in perpetuity, while the employer, through the board and now recently through the person of the minister, continue to pummel her name and soil her reputation in public. This is more traumatising for her as the employer is repeating the same allegations over and over, yet Engineer Madanha had gone out and declared that the charges have no merit before somersaulting when he appeared before the committee,” the letter reads.
“Our client has taken the view that since she has not had her day in a disciplinary hearing, it was unnecessary for her to deal with the allegations in the court of public opinion. At the hearing, which ought to have happened by now, the employer was going to bring the evidence to support the factual allegations against our client and the evidence would be tested and its weight pronounced upon. Given the serious attacks on our client’s name and reputation which are very damaging and are now emanating from the minister, our client has no choice but to seek redress.
“We are instructed to demand, as we do now, that the minister must substantiate the allegations of corruption made against our client when the minister appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee and which statements have been repeated in various media outlets. In the event that the minister does not substantiate these allegations, our client demands a written retraction of all such claims directed to her and thereafter published in a newspaper of wide circulation in Zimbabwe.”
The lawyers said while it was not necessary for the matter to be litigated upon, their client would not hesitate to approach the courts for redress to protect her name and reputation.
“We demand that a response on the substance be done to this letter on or before 17th May 2019. In the event that we do not receive a response favourable to our client or at all, we shall take necessary legal action to protect our client and vindicate her reputation. Be guided accordingly,” the lawyers wrote.