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Hostile take over fears at Psmas

Some civil servants last week wrote a petition to Public Service Commission chairperson Vincent Hungwe and copied it to all service commissions to stop an attempt to take over Psmas, calling for the holding of the 2020 AGM without conditions.

SYDNEY KAWADZA A MEMBER of the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) board has dragged the government to the High Court challenging the postponement of an Annual General Meeting (AGM), amid fears of a possible plot to demutualise the cooperative association.

Some civil servants last week wrote a petition to Public Service Commission chairperson Vincent Hungwe and copied it to all service commissions to stop an attempt to take over Psmas, calling for the holding of the 2020 AGM without conditions.

The AGM was scheduled for June 30 but was disrupted after Psmas members found the venue cordoned off by police.

In his papers filed at the High Court in Harare last week, Psmas board member and secretary for the Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Unions David Dzatsunga accused the PSC of using unorthodox means to demutualise the society.

Respondents in the court application include Ministry of Health and Child Care permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza (first respondent), the PSC (second respondent), and the third respondent, Psmas. The respondents are expected to file opposing papers by the end of the day today.

Dzatsunga argued that an order by Chimedza to stop the AGM last month was defective and unlawful.

“On 25 June 2021, the first respondent wrote to the third respondent advising that he had received a joint letter of complaint from two of the third respondent’s members in which they requested a stakeholder meeting ahead of the third respondent AGM of 24 June 2021,” reads part of the application.

“First respondent attached to his letter of 25 June 2021 aforesaid, a letter on the letterhead of the second respondent jointly authored by Jonathan Wutawunashe and Walter Chikwanha, who is the secretary of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

“While the two were writing a letter of complaint as members of the third respondent, they are senior government officials who ordinarily would be aware that complaints raised in their individual capacities cannot be written on official government stationery.”

Dzatsunga further argued that the joint letter by Wutawunashe and Chikwanha was written on June 25, 2021, a day after the scheduled AGM.

“I further aver and challenge the first respondent to deny that he abdicated on his regulatory function which demands fairness, impartiality and objectivity and colluded with the second respondent to postpone the AGM to fulfil the second respondent’s ambition to demutualise and take control of the third respondent,” he argued.

“On this point, I bring it to the attention of this court that in its 2020 strategy, second respondent puts it in black and white that it desires to demutualise the third respondent.

“It should be noted that the law administered by the first respondent compels all medical aid societies in the country to hold their Annual General Meetings no later than 30 June each year. It was with this compliance issue in mind that the third  respondent’s 2021 AGM was slated for June 30, 2022,” Dzatsunga stated.

In keeping with the provisions of the Psmas constitution that the AGM was advertised and issues from members were included on the agenda but Wutawunashe and Chikwanha did not submit their concerns, he averred.

Dzatsunga also brought to the attention of the court that Chimedza wrote to Psmas on the eve of the AGM after allegedly receiving some grievances from members.

“As if any further evidence was needed to confirm that first respondent had abdicated on his statutory duties and was being used as a willing tool by the second respondent in its desire to demutualise the third respondent, on the very day the first respondent advised the third respondent of the postponement of the AGM,” he added.

Dzatsunga further argued that Chimedza, in postponing the AGM, had made reference to a forensic audit ordered earlier, but Psmas had indicated that the regulator could appoint an auditor and pay him with taxpayers’ money.

He argued that in 2020, Grant Thornton presented a clean audit of Psmas, adding that it was also unheard of for a government employee to order a forensic audit on a private institution, appoint the auditors and burden the taxpayers with payment of costs.

“I challenge the first respondent to demonstrate his conduct in that regard in terms of any law or practice. I have gathered from the relevant office of the third respondent that advertising, printing and other costs related to the hosting of the 30 June 2022 AGM is in excess of ZW$15 million. If the AGM is re-advertised in full and fresh materials are printed, the ZW$15 million will be a sunk cost,” Dzatsunga argued.

He alleged that in fulfilment of its demutualisation of Psmas, the PSC was using unorthodox means and is determined to have its way at all costs. Dzatsunga further argued that Chimedza, who was supposed to be a referee in matters involving medical aid societies and their members and ensuring that they comply with all regulatory requirements, was abetting the PSC to the extent of breaking the law.

He said Chimedza, by postponing the AGM, had violated his rights as a Psmas member while his administrative conduct was unlawful, unreasonable and disproportionate.