Top chefs set to fall in PSC shake-up

Misheck Sibanda

AN overhaul is looming at the Public Service Commission (PSC) with reports suggesting President Emmerson Mnangagwa is likely to transfer chairperson Vincent Hungwe from his powerful post while commission secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe has since left the post.

According to high-level sources, Mnangagwa is moving Hungwe to the Office of the President and Cabinet in a move likely to spark a new twist in the succession of the incumbent Chief Secretary Misheck Sibanda, who is on the verge of retirement.

According to multiple sources, the development has been received with massive jubilation among civil servants who have endured an uneasy relationship with Hungwe and Wutawunashe since their appointments in 2018.

Contacted for a comment, Wutawunashe on Wednesday laughed off the reports indicating that a proper announcement would be made through government channels.

“I have nothing to say until an official statement has been released from the government and I will make sure you are the first one to know,” Wutawunashe said.

Hungwe was not reachable for comment as his phone went unanswered. He did not respond to messages sent via WhatsApp.

However, acting PSC secretary Edson Badarai confirmed Wutawunashe’s retirement from the PSC.

“I can confirm that he (Wutawunashe) is now retired but we will be issuing an official statement very soon,” he said.

Badarai, however, scoffed at reports that Hungwe was being moved from the PSC.

Government sources, including civil servants, confirmed Wutawunashe’s departure from the PSC. However, there were conflicting reasons for his departure.

“Yes, Wutawunashe is leaving the public service and it’s just a retirement of the secretary but there is no shake-up at all and that is not true,” a senior government official told the Independent early this week.

The top official also said Wutawunashe, a former top diplomat, who also served as the principal director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, was working on a contract basis for the past two years.

Wutawunashe reached the retirement age of 65 years in 2020.

However, other sources said Mnangagwa was forced to remove Wutawunashe after the former diplomat was reported on various allegations.

The career diplomat also courted controversy last year when he was named among senior government officials who reportedly received soya bean inputs but failed to plant the crop.

News of the Hungwe-and-Wutawunashe departure from the PSC has been gleefully received among government employees, according to sources. The duo has clashed with civil servants since their appointment, especially during wage negotiations and conditions of service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Civil servant representatives, who spoke to the Independent on conditions of anonymity, alleged Hungwe and Wutawunashe were abusing their positions.

“The two messed up a lot of things. Hungwe heads the most powerful commissions including those of Defence and Police making him a very powerful person in Zimbabwe. They have excess power heading all government commissions and it has caught up with them. We are very happy with the development,” the source said.

The workers said one of the most unreasonable decisions by Hungwe and Wutawunashe was sending police to disrupt an annual general meeting called by the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas).

“That was an unfortunate decision by the two because the meeting was due and was called for according to the Psmas constitution. Government workers who have heard about what is happening at the PSC are ecstatic. There is hope that we will get people who are conscious of our plight as civil servants,” another source said.

The workers also revealed that the PSC had been alienated from representatives of other government departments, especially the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, expressing concern at the way the two conducted themselves towards civil servants’ concerns.

Hungwe was appointed PSC chairperson on June 1 2018, taking over from Mariyawanda Nzuwah, who retired in March of the same year.

Hungwe heads the PSC, Defence Forces Service Commission, Police Service Commission and the Prisons and Correctional Service Commission.

Hungwe and Wutawunashe presided over a mandatory biometric registration exercise for all civil servants in 2019.  The PSC said those who were unregistered by the due date would be struck off the salary roll.

The biometric registration exercise was expected to help streamline the public sector payroll by weeding out “ghost workers”.

The programme was part of measures adopted by the government, with advice from the World Bank, through the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) 2018-2020.

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