FORMER deputy chief secretary to the president and cabinet Justin Mpumalanga has bounced back into the civil service as adviser to Agriculture and Lands minister Perrance Shiri, barely two months after announcing his retirement on account of having reached the government-stipulated retirement age of 60.
The Zimbabwe Independent has learnt that Mupamhanga joined Shiri’s ministry late last month. He immediately made demands for a deluxe office which infuriated senior staffers.
Shiri, sources said, also appointed Mupamhanga to head a “grain taskforce” charged with the responsibility to import supplemental maize to be distributed across the country as food assistance to starving communities.
The office, according to sources, is situated on the first floor at Ngungunyana Building along Borrowdale Road in Harare.He announced his retirement from the civil service on November 10 last year, having served for 36 years.
“Everyone was surprised to hear that he was now with the ministry as adviser to the minister. This was around mid-December which is just a little over a month after he had announced his retirement. He has since been allocated an office on the first floor of Ngungunyana Building,” a ministry official said.
“So when he came, he demanded a luxurious office and new furniture which has since been secured for him. Many people felt the demands were outrageous given the state of affairs in the country but the furniture was acquired despite the disgruntlement,” the official said.
Some officials in the ministry have raised questions of favouritism given that Shiri has previously worked with Mupamhanga.“They were both members of a taskforce to ensure food security in 1994. This was a time when drought stalked much of southern Africa and the taskforce’s main duty was to ensure food security by facilitating the importation of maize to avert hunger. Other taskforce members were the late Major-General Amoth Chingombe and Ngoni Masoka, who was permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture at the time,” an official said.
Mupamhanga declined to comment on the matter and referred questions to Shiri.“You will have to talk to the minister about it since he is the one responsible for that appointment. I am not going to talk to you about it. It’s like flying into your newspaper and start talking to you,” he said.
Strangely, Shiri said he was not aware of Mupamhanga’s new appointment.“It’s news to me. I am hearing it for the first time from you,” he said.
However, unbeknown to him, the Independent had already dialed the ministry’s official general landline number (+263)-242-797390 and had been transferred to Mupamhanga’s office, where an official said he had left for the day. Shiri abruptly terminated the phone call when this information was put to him.
On Tuesday this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade tweeted that Mupamhanga had gone to Mozambique to meet government officials there over maize imports. He went there in the company of Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China, Douglass Nyikayaramba.
“Ambassador Nyikayaramba and the Grain Taskforce headed by deputy chief secretary J Mupamhanga today met chairperson of STEMA Sillos of Mozambique Arlindo Chilundo to establish preparedness to receive and load the expected Zimbabwe (maize) cargo,” the tweet reads.
Mupamhanga joined the civil service on March 1, 1983, serving in the economics division of the president’s department and rising through the ranks to become its head nine years later in 1992. He was later elevated to the post of deputy director (external intelligence).
In 1994, he was posted to London, England, as minister counsellor.He was recalled home four years later to transform the economics division into the economics branch it is today. His brief involved creating a nexus between the branch and all the country’s economic stakeholders before becoming permanent secretary in the ministry of Energy and Power Development in 2002.
He became deputy chief secretary to the president and cabinet, responsible for implementation, monitoring and evaluation of government programmes and projects in 2012.