The Air Zimbabwe board, which met last Friday to deliberate on the fate of suspended chief executive officer Captain Ripton Muzenda, has no mandate to unilaterally sack him, Business Weekly has established.
It was largely expected that by end of last Friday, Cpt Muzenda would have been sacked by the board for insubordination, particularly pertaining to his alleged reluctance to retrench almost 300 employees as part of measures designed to cut down employment costs at the struggling national airliner.
Although board members who attended what was billed as a “make or break” meeting remained tight-lipped over the meeting’s resolution, Business Weekly has since established that should a decision be reached that Cpt Muzenda must be sacked, Government will have the final say considering that it is the appointing authority.
This means the Air Zimbabwe board can only deliberate on the issues levelled against the CEO and forward its “observations and recommendations” to Government.
Air Zimbabwe board chairperson Professor Chipo Dyanda, declined to entertain questions from Business Weekly, saying she was not keen to talk about her employees’ contracts with the Press.
No comment could also be obtained from Cpt Muzenda as his mobile phone was not reachable, while he had not responded to a message sent to his phone.
Prof Dyanda’s refusal to speak on the issue stems from an alleged pact that the board and Cpt Muzenda entered into after the handing of a suspension letter, which prohibited both parties from making public comments on the issue in the media.
However, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo,told Business Weekly last week that he was yet to be briefed of the outcome of the board’s deliberations.
“They have not informed me of what happened in the meeting, and the course of action they have taken on him.
“But I must tell you that the board is free to assess how the CEO operates, and discipline him where necessary. But when it comes to dismissing him, they can’t do that without notifying me.
“His appointment involves me and the President, which means the board has to come through me with any recommendations over that issue,” said Dr Gumbo.
A source close to Cpt Muzenda, said he “remains interested in continuing with his job”.
The source said Cpt Muzenda had started the retrenchment exercise as directed by the board, had “already selected those employees that the company could let go”.
“He was actually surprised to be served with the suspension letter but he remains hopeful that the board will appreciate that he is not defiant but is actually working towards retrenching employees,” said a close source.
The delay in making an announcement on the future of Cpt Muzenda suggests that the board might have been impressed by the progress made by Cpt Muzenda in so far as complying with the directive to retrench employees is concerned.
Nonetheless, it would be interesting to establish how Air Zimbabwe will deal the matter considering that the Labour Court recently gave Air Zimbabwe a 60-day ultimatum to either reinstate or pay damages to 300 workers whose contracts were unlawfully terminated on three months’ notice in 2015.
Labour Court judge Justice Emilia Muchawa, found that although Air Zimbabwe ended the contracts in line with the now infamous Zuva Petroleum judgment of July 17, 2015; Section 24 of the Finance Act Number 8 of 2015 gave retrospective effect to the Labour Amendment Act, Number 5 of 2015.
But whatever happens, it has become apparent that the post of Air Zimbabwe CEO has become a “hot potato” and only the strong-hearted are ready to accept it given the volatility associated with it.
In the last 14 years, seven CEOs have left Air Zimbabwe mostly under unclear circumstances.