NEWLY-APPOINTED NetOne chief executive officer, Lazarus Muchenje, has petitioned the High Court challenging Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security minister, Supa Mandiwanzira’s directive compelling the parastatal to reinstate the nine executives whose contracts had expired.
BY CHARLES LAITON
In his urgent chamber application filed on August 3, 2018, Muchenje, who joined NetOne in April this year, accused his fellow directors of clandestinely holding meetings behind his back to implement “unlawful” directives.
“This is an application seeking urgent relief in the form of a prohibitory interdict against the respondents (six directors and Mandiwanzira) set out in the draft order attached hereto, and as a final order, a declaratour to the effect that a ‘special board meeting of the board’ purportedly held on Saturday July 28, 2018 was irregular and all resolutions taken at that meeting of no force and effect,” Muchenje said in his founding affidavit.
According to Muchenje, prior to July 28, 2018, a decision was made by the board of directors not to renew the employment contracts of nine executives whose terms had expired and had been paid out for the remaining period of their contracts before being sent home.
However, Muchenje said Mandiwanzira, “through a verbal directive to each or most of the directors of seventeenth respondent (NetOne)”, including himself, demanded that the decision to fire the executives be rescinded immediately.
“The sixteenth respondent (Mandiwanzira) did not put his directive in writing. Instead, he called other directors of seventeenth respondent and ordered that they ensure that the decision be rescinded,” he said.
“A meeting was convened on Saturday July 28, 2018 at a private residence in Greendale. There was no notice or agenda of the meeting; certainly not to myself, as director and chief executive officer of the seventeenth respondent.
“I am not aware that any notice or agenda was sent to all other directors who are ten in total including myself. Only six directors cited as first to sixth respondents attended the purported meeting to rescind the decision not to renew the contracts of seventh to fifteenth respondents.”
Muchenje further said “the meeting, which cannot be termed a board meeting” held by the six other directors, was to implement Mandiwanzira’s directive.
“I was called to the meeting venue for a friendly discussion, essentially informing me that these directors present, had decided to implement the minister’s demand for political reasons. As a consequence of a defective meeting held in an attempt to implement an unlawful directive from a government minister, persons whose contracts have been lawfully terminated, have effectively been given some opaque tyranny at NetOne,” Muchenje said. He added: “NetOne’s corporate governance structures have been totally and blatantly violated in an attempt to sanitise an unlawful ministerial directive”.
According to the court papers, NetOne fired nine of its executive managers for yet undisclosed reasons. In an email to its employees dated July, 27, 2018, the State-owned telecoms operator, provided a list of the executives that were dismissed along with new temporary appointments to three executive positions.
The boardroom fights at NetOne took another twist yesterday with Muchenje being suspended for “gross misconduct” and replaced by Nkosinathi Ncube as acting chief executive officer. Prior to that Ncube was NetOne’s mobile service financial director.