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Knives out for NRZ boss as workers demand ouster

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KNIVES are out for National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) acting general manager Respina Zinyanduko as disgruntled workers opposed to a restructuring exercise push for her ouster, but she claims to be unmoved, saying resistance was always expected.
LIZWE SEBATHA
Zinyanduko, a former board member, is overseeing a restructuring exercise that began in June 2020 and is ostensibly meant to turn around the fortunes of the railways.
She was appointed acting GM in February 2021, taking over from the late Joseph Mashika who passed away in January this year.
Mashika was acting GM at the time of his death.
The ongoing restructuring exercise will, among other things, see the abolishment of some positions, redeployment of some managers, executives and general workers while short-term contracts will not be renewed.
Insiders, however, said the restructuring exercise faces resistance from some line managers and other executives who are now pushing for Ziyanduko’s removal.
Zinyanduko is now accused of failure to consult, nepotism and favouritism by using the restructuring exercise to, among other objectives, hire or promote her close circle of friends and relatives by creating new top positions.
“Normally, when a big organisation like NRZ is restructuring, certain things are followed like engaging human resources consultants who would guide the process. Experts in different branches or departments are consulted for input because NRZ is an industry on its own. As we speak, the new structure has reduced people who work on the track to just four from a total of 18. Four people cannot cope with our rail gauge which weighs 4.5kgs. This is destroying the NRZ to the bone marrow,” reads a petition to the board by disgruntled employees dated 4 August 2021.
“She has instructed our HR (human resources department) to internally advertise jobs for her office with high grades.  Her secretary or PA (personal assistant) has been raised from C4 to D3 just like that without any job evaluation or use of the Petterson system that NRZ uses. Most of our engineers are graded in D1 and her secretary now surpasses them.”
As part of the restructuring, the NRZ is trimming the number of its executives from six to three, a process that will leave the parastatal with a GM, chief operations officer and chief finance officer.
Already, the parastatal board has sacked general manager Engineer Lewis Mukwada and three other senior executives: director of marketing Elector Mafunga, director of operations Samson Bhuza and director of corporate services Misheck Matanhire.
The petition adds: “Some workers who have been told to revert back to their proper grades have basically downed tools, thus affecting the organisation’s operational pulse. Government should consider other options if they want to re-awaken NRZ because the acting GM has no capacity whatsoever and does not have any vision or strategy for the organisation. There is no harm in NRZ going through reforms and restructuring but it should be done procedurally and in line with corporate governance virtues.”
In an interview on Thursday, Ziyanduko denied the slew of charges against her as untrue and influenced by “resistance to change”.
“Everything is being done above board. The company position is clear. These (new) structures are not the GM’s structures but those of the shareholders that will drive the business. Whenever you are introducing change, you are bound to face resistance,” she said.
“Those that are affected will obviously not be happy but will always want to vilify the process. How do I favour my PA? I do not want a typist but someone who will be useful. We advertised those positions internally and I do not understand why then I am accused of promoting my people. All positions that are being created are being advertised internally unless in cases where we fail to get skills from within.”
In June 2020, the late Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Joel Matiza directed the board to restructure management and bring in fresh blood to revive the rail parastatal.
The NRZ requires US$400 million in the short term and US$1.9 billion in the medium to long term to recapitalise its operations. Its operational efficiency and capacities have largely been affected by maladministration, impropriety and a harsh economic climate.
At its peak, the NRZ moved 14.4 million tonnes against an installed capacity of 18 million tonnes annually.
The NRZ is also seeking a strategic partner after the government cancelled a US$400 million deal the parastatal and the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Groupand Transnet had agreed.

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