Suspended PetroTrade board plots showdown

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BY MELODY CHIKONO /TAURAI MANGUDHLA
ENERGY and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda yesterday set himself on a collision course with the PetroTrade board which he suspended for allegedly interfering with the company’s daily operations and tender processes.

The board, which was suspended on Wednesday for alleged corporate governance malpractices, has threatened to escalate the matter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Soda, however, said he was unfazed by the threats and challenged them to go ahead.

Tenders in question are in respect of the construction of two service stations whose value was a combined US$8 million, but were said to be worth US$1 million.

The statement suspending the board read: “While  the board  of  directors  for PetroTrade was appointed  in terms of section 11 of the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act, with the concurrence  of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I have, today, 9 March 2022 suspended the entire board, pending investigations, into matters of corporate governance.”

Soda said he will soon appoint a team to look into the matter, whose findings will then inform the way forward.

Last year, the board clashed with management amid reports the board had halted controversial and costly contracts awarded to suppliers without due diligence.

In one of the cases, PetroTrade management allegedly approved the purchase of vehicles, as well as the construction of two service stations at higher prices than prevailing normal market rates.

Asked to specify the charges, Soda said he could not divulge details as the issue was under investigation.

“It would be preemptive to tell you the issue of the violation. I think to us it’s enough to say there are some investigations around corporate governance issues.

“It would be preemptive to give some details when we have indicated that we have engaged a team that will do investigations.

“You see people will always have ways of defending themselves,” he added.

He said there were institutions in places where fired board members could report, such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission).

“Our governance structure is very clear, they can go and make their complaints as well, they are allowed,” he said.

Board members, who spoke to NewsDay Business  said  they had acted responsibly.

They said they trebled the company’s market to 8% and grew sales from two million litres a month to at least four million litres a month.

The suspended board members are Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, Zanele Dube, Simbarashe Mhuriro, Gladys Mumhure, Ferida Matambo, Lilian Timveos, Getrude Marabada, Godfrey Ncube and  Dakarai Mukuku.