History will judge me —Kanyekanye

Joseph Kanyekanye (JK) left his position as group CEO of Allied Timbers Zimbabwe last year after 14 years at the helm. In this question and answer with NewsDay (ND), Kanyekanye gives insights into how he left the group and source of current fight with the integrated timber concern. Below are the excerpts.

ND: What led you to leave Allied Holdings — an institution that had become part and parcel of your life?

JK: I joined Allied Timbers Zimbabwe (ATZ) on September 1, 2001 on an indefinite contract. In 2013, I had made up my mind that I would leave Allied Timbers to pursue other interests, but that was not to be. I was persuaded by the board, then led by Livingstone Gwata, to stay on, on account of what I had achieved for ATZ. But when the board was replaced a few months later, this became the genesis of clashes between the incoming chairman, (Emmanuel) Fundira, and me. This eventually led us to part ways in February 2015.

ND: We understand that you were given a golden handshake. Can you confirm that?

JOSEPH-KANYEKANYE-2 Joseph Kanyekanye

JK: The fact that you didn’t get to hear ATZ or any of its executives being implicated in the so-called Salarygate should tell you that I was leading a loyal, ethical, professional and responsible team that was not out to enrich itself from abusing a public asset. While I would have wanted to disclose what I negotiated as my exit package, I am bound by the terms of a separation agreement that I put my signature on in February 2015, which precludes me from discussing contractual matters save to tell your readers that our separation was mutual.

ND: But have you been paid your exit package as yet? We hear that your case is before the Labour Court?

JK: It’s unfortunate how things have turned out. The current board at ATZ has departed from the initial understanding that I had reached with the previous board after several months of back-and-forth negotiations hence I have had to seek redress from the courts. A ruling has since been made in my favour by the Labour Court, which we now seek to enforce through the High Court. This has never been my wish; one can only hope that ATZ will act with haste to stop this drama.

ND: When the ATZ board suspended you on January 16, 2015, they said it was to facilitate investigations into acts of corruption, failure to observe operating procedures and gross insubordination. What became of these investigations?

JK: Allow me to begin by getting the facts right. The suspension actually came as an afterthought for I had applied to go on my traditional annual leave from December 18, 2014 to January 23, 2015 in line with ATZ’s conditions of service, having earlier discussed my intention to go on vacation with the chairman. On the December 10, 2014, I was handed a letter in front of my subordinates, directing me to go on forced leave to allow “the board to independently evaluate the operations and financial position of the company”, in my absence. As indicated earlier, this was the tipping point in our relations.

ND: What about the allegations of abuse of office, conflict of interest, corruption and insubordination?

JK: The fact that I am not in prison or going through trial in the courts should tell you that these were nothing, but trumped up charges by those who sought to pursue their selfish interests. The allegations had absolutely nothing to do with my performance or management having done anything prejudicial to the company’s interests. It was more of a fishing expedition. Each year, our accounts were audited and we were never found wanting. Under former chairman (Gwata), we had audits commissioned by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, which exonerated management of any wrong doing. Currently, there is another audit by KPMG. This latest KPMG report is coming ahead of two similar forensic reports by BDO Chartered Accountants and Proctor and Associates who could not find any conflict of interest, preferential treatment let alone corrupt practices by my administration.

ND: How then do you explain the viciousness with which you are being pursued if you did nothing wrong?

JK: In my conversations with my immediate former chairman (Fundira), some of which conversations are on tape, it was made clear to me that my persecution was political. It was put clearly to me that the person who ordered my persecution didn’t want me to stay at Allied any day longer hence pressure was brought to bear on the board to get rid of me at any cost. Another aspect of it is that I then differed strongly with my boss over his leadership style, which bordered on micro-managing the institution as well as usurping the role of management, which was not in line with international best practices and corporate governance requirements. Because I had had enough of it, I decided it was about time for me to leave.

ND: Did you, at any given point, operate a pay structure that had no approval from the board as to give rise to allegations that some of your benefits were not taxed?

JK: At all times, ATZ has been a law abiding corporate citizen. In the period 2013 to 2014, as was the case with the other years before, we asked auditors to look into our remuneration structure and they gave us a clean bill of health. In their report for the period July 1, 2013 to 30 June 2014, Baker Tilly Gwatidzo, who conducted our remuneration audit — the last during my time — had this to say about the group chief executive officer’s salary, benefits and board fees, “the group chief executive officer’s current salary, benefits and board fees correspond with what was prescribed by the board of directors”.

ND: How come you are being asked to remit uncollected tax on your benefits to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) if recent reports are anything to go by?

JK: The correct position is that Zimra conducted their payroll audit on ATZ last year and directed the current management to gross up untaxed benefits such as motoring, school fees allowances, home security, DSTV subscriptions, rentals and utility bills for management and staff as opposed to the system that we had applied during my tenure, which, by the way, is also legal. As a culmination of that exercise, ATZ found itself with a tax bill of over $600 000 of which a portion of it was said to be “my tax liability” in the sum of about $294 000. ATZ has made unsuccessful attempts to claim that portion from me to the point of asking Zimra to collect the money themselves. I have said no to that because my separation agreement with them is clear that I am no longer ATZ’s employee and, therefore, I have no obligation towards them anymore and vice-versa. Any deductions outside this mutual separation agreement and Zimra tax directive are ultra vires our agreement. That position has since been confirmed by Zimra which, in April last year, categorically stated that the responsibility of remitting tax lies with the principal, that is, the employer. In any case, it’s not as if I received cash for these benefits namely motor vehicle, security, maid, etc. ATZ was paying directly to the providers of the service. It’s also disheartening to note the double standards at play in my case whereby ATZ is only targeting Kanyekanye and not the other staff members who find themselves in the same situation like me.

ND: What if the company decides to withhold your exit package?

JK: This is precisely what they are trying to do hence my decision to seek recourse in the country’s courts. Eventually, justice shall be served.

ND: What would you count among your successes at ATZ?

JK: Since 2001 when I came on board at Allied Timbers, we worked well as a team and, with support from the old board to make ATZ what it is today — an integrated timber business with three divisions. Our performance before my departure speaks for itself. ATZ became undoubtedly the biggest timber enterprise in Zimbabwe, with niche export markets in Zambia, Botswana and some such African countries. Consistently, we have been posting profits and, along the way, we acquired a controlling stake in EC Meikles in 2006 — the largest producer of sawn gum timber in the country. My trophy cabinet is also teeming with acknowledgements from various independent bodies.

ND: What is keeping you busy these days?

JK: I have set up a few businesses that are keeping me busy. I have also gone into consultancy, which is taking me to several African countries and beyond where I am busy deploying the experience that I have gained over the years.

ND: Do you regret leaving ATZ?

JK: I am forever grateful to ATZ for honing my skills and building me into what I am today. I had a wonderful time at ATZ never mind the run-ins I had with a few individuals towards the end of my loyal and dedicated service to the business. Whatever happened, I have learnt to take it in my stride; forgive and forget. I am moving on with my life – no hard feelings.

ND: What was the source of differences between yourself and Fundira?

JK: Now that we are both out of ATZ, I am sure we want to forget about our differences as one horrible dream that is now behind us and focus on the future.

ND: There have been reports that Allied Timbers has been a perennial loss maker. Is this correct?

JK: Whatever the motive, it is wrong and unethical for public officials to give inaccurate statements. The audited financial statements for Allied Timbers are a public record and will disprove this malice. The company consistently made positive gross profits during my tenure and also made positive net profits under the previous board with the exception of 2004 when a decision to impair assets resulted in a book loss. Since 2002 up to 2013, audited results show the group balance sheet grew by 55% with gearing levels of less than 5%, making Allied Timbers the most profitable and least geared timber company in Zimbabwe at the time of my departure.

Attempts to rewrite this narrative fly in the face of audited results. Audited financials actually show that Allied Timbers turnover was going up consistently since dollarisation with just a minor dip in 2013 traceable to reduced export earnings arising from the depreciating Rand in the group’s main export markets coupled with a decision to close the Botswana subsidiary. Allied Timbers was not only profitable, but had no debt burden, thanks to the prudent management of the group under my leadership and my fellow directors in the previous board. I can say categorically that production targets for timber and poles, export sales and low gearing under which this board took over has deteriorated since I left the group in 2015.

ND: Could you respond to claims that there were no exports to talk of at ATZ?

JK: This is completely false as the current board is aware that we were serving local and export orders with the export order payment terms being cash upfront for Zambian orders. There are problems of marketing now but these did not exist when I was in charge.

ND: Do you have any hard feelings against your successor and the current board at ATZ?

JK: I wish my successor, Dr Dan Sithole whom I worked with before, success in running ATZ profitably as I did in 14 years. My only advice to him is that the interests of ATZ shareholders could be best served by unlocking value going into the future instead of launching repeated and costly investigations on issues that had been investigated before with a preconceived objective of substantiating falsehoods.

14 Responses to History will judge me —Kanyekanye

  1. Zvanyadza February 16, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    Itsotsi iro, railinira mukadzi waro nehama dzaro madhiri.

  2. Tisu February 16, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    guys go to the estates and see how this man plundered the company.newsday go there and see the sorry estate they are in now even mutare office yacho.go and investigate for yourselves how he and his relatives looted from the company.all he is saying is trying to defend himself now he is running mabusiness ake from those looted funds!endaiko kuma estates and see their sorry state and ask vashandi what was going on in his tenure.dont be fooled imbavha huru iyi in fact he should reimburse the company

  3. Mukanya February 16, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Let it be known that ATZ was not born from scratch as currently being peddled.
    It is the former commercial division of the Forestry Commission soundly managed then, which focused mainly on growing/utilization/processing of exotics in the country , mainly centred in the eastern highlands. As a division of the FC , it had its own share of blemishes here and there which involved the divisional management of which JK and his current successor at ATZ were part of then.
    In short, JK inherited a jewel of a business entity in commercial forestry, only to brutally bruise it to its current status.

    • gutter poet February 16, 2016 at 10:19 am #

      You are charitable…he did not brutally ‘bruise’ but BATTERED IT….Newsday better be really careful here.To present a more balanced report, Sithole should also be given space and a visit to the estates which are all here in Zimbabwe will complete the tale. The above looks like a PR puff piece.

  4. Tindo February 16, 2016 at 11:32 am #

    Big thief, go to Allied Saligna and see for yourselves. how can workers go for 7months without wage. its so unfair, most have responsibilities but it seems he only thought of himself as the only deserving one. God will put you in your right. place

  5. mazano February 16, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    Mr Jk , answer these questions
    1. What happened to FITC under your helm
    2. What happened to Chinhokwe under your leadership
    3. What happened to Gwendingwe forest under your ‘loyal’ leadership
    4. What happened to Stapleford Sawmill under your headship
    5. What happened to Mtao forests?

    Newsday ask our dear Dr these questions please?

  6. stupid February 16, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    THIEF, MBAVAH IYO

  7. Tisu February 16, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    newsday dont prop this guy for a balanced report go to the estates.can you please address these concerns.we dont believe in this article in which you try to prop a THIEF.Mr editor pse revisit this issue

  8. tawanda February 16, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    very irritating to read stuff like this for those of us involved with the ATZ. the company was already the biggest Forestry company before he took over. it’s all sorry stuff now. please go on the ground and investgate for yourself editor

  9. gaza February 17, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    Newsday to hell, this is rubbish. Allied timbers is dead. i was fortunate to be at Erin forest and Gwendingwe recently. they are in sorry state. joseph is lying. he is a beneficiary of political appointments where his uncle Francis Nhema spearheaded his appointment when he was minister. ATL was indeed a perennial loss making parastatal. Fundira was just victim but had a vision to turnaround the fortunes of the parastatal but kanyekanye and his team cooked up a story against him that he unprocedurally paid $10 000 yet the finance director was there. workers have not been paid for too long. we hope external audit exercise underway will soon expose such malicious lies to the public

  10. Do Something Newsday February 17, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    So when all people tell their stories like this, WHY DOESN’T THE EDITOR ALSO RESPOND (& it seems many are from ATZ). We expect NEWSDAY to be better than state newspapers

  11. Forester February 17, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Newsday is being paid dirty money by Joseph Kanyekanye. Hapana zvinotyisa kana kushamisira apa. Its common knowledge that the whole establisment as it stands today right up to the Minister is not serious. It takes one page letter to suspend them all and only one week to determine imperically how much was stolen by who and recover it all. Imbavha. The whole country must stand up against this. Ministry of environment isina basa neenvironment yacho. Opa aitotaura zvemadividends instead of how that has caused draughts. What her ministry can do. What the Forest Act can do. Izvozvi hakuna kana Forester kwese kuHarare kwacho.

  12. Concerned February 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    I am not very sure but sometimes its very good to judge others even before we look at ourselves and the conditions surrounding the issues. Not to say JK did well but given that we fully dollarized in 2009 and every company started very zero tell me which company in Zimbabwe did well without shareholders injection of value? Look at even Econet and trace its balance sheet from 2009 you will find that its debt has been increasing as shareholders were trying to create value under a dollarized environment. I don’t want to believe that JK performed poorly before I ascertain if he had the tools to perform under a dollarized environment. Instead of looking at the real issue and give appropriate advice we spend time and resources fighting the wrong corner. If the shareholder is to blame please lets state the facts right in order to correct the situation. At some point people were made to believe that Cuthbert Dube was sorely responsible for the demise of PSMAS but since his departure what has changed? Watch this space guys ATZ will be the same or worse off even under the leadership of the best CEO we can think for as long as the shareholder is folding hands and keeps looking on. The reason behind ATZ and many other Zimbabwean companies fall is because of no injection of capital by the shareholder after dollarization. I know its a hard pill to swallow to many of us but that’s the truth. Blame him or whatever the problem will remain there and ATZ is going to fall with JK mark my words. Sithole only took up the offer because he wanted a job but he will not do any better unless if he is lucky to get shareholder capital injection.

  13. Papa India February 17, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

    Mr. Concerned/Dr. Kanyekanye: Stop telling us this dollarization mantra or injection of cash by the shareholder. Don’t even look at any balance sheet. Do not compare with econet. You stole 40,000ha of timber worth 1 billion dollars. You burnt down Stapleford Sawmill and proceeded to burn down Chimanimani Sawmill complex and looted all valuable machinery and gave it to Gondobwe and Chenjerai Kanyekanye your brother. You sent Marowa to commit arson in Mvuma and Chimanimani so that you could fudge numbers and bribe auditors and the press. You did this by making patently false charges on all professional foresters who challenged you to stop the destruction of Zimbabwe. You reconfigured Allied to leave your brother in law Tadzingwa Sithole lead the poles division yet he has never studied forestry or wood science. You put Aleck Mlambo to direct sawmilling when you know very well that he is not a sawmiller. You want them to perpetuate your looting empire. You built this evil structure with Francis Chinyani and left him to loot more. You know that Dan is not a Forester, and will fail for as long as he implements any brilliant idea through your criminal syndicate. Tell us why you were transferring poles to a closed factory in Botswana? Tell us where you put our wages, salaries and benefits. Tell us where you put sixty million dollars worth of machinery. Tell us where you put all our money. You had timber sold to Botswana and elsewhere. Tell us how dollarization affected Botswana. You destroyed over 100,000ha of the best land on earth and rubished some of the best professional in the industry for fear of prosecution. Why don’t you tell the Newsday the truth that you were fired because you were caught red hand stealing poles from Mtao to closed factory in Botswana on January 28, 2014. Tell the reader that Dan has hard time doing anything because you stole it and burnt it out. You want the government to inject capital right. We will come and arrest you and every single person who will obstruct us and recover our money from you, starting with the vehicles, furniture, buildings, accounts, securities and everything and inject it back to ALLIED TIMBERS.

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