ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade minister Frederick Shava has removed Professor Gift Mugano from the ZimTrade board on the basis of incompetence, the economic expert says this move shows the regime’s growing impunity against alternative voices.
ZimTrade is a joint venture partnership between the private sector and the government that promotes the country’s exports to global markets.
Mugano, who worked for government, is a professor of economics and director of the Centre for African Governance at the Durban University of Technology in South Africa.
In August, he said he had quit working with the government, saying they do not listen to policy advice, and that he now supports the main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa.
This week in a letter dated 4 October, Foreign Affairs secretary James Manzou wrote to Mugano saying the ministry had with immediate effect terminated his membership from the ZimTrade board in terms of Article 10 of the Constitution of ZimTrade as read with Section 16 of the Public Entities and Corporate Governance Act (Chapter 10:31).
“I wish to thank you for the services rendered to the Board and the Ministry and to wish you well in your future endeavours,” read part of the letter addressed to Clara Mlambo, ZimTrade chairperson and Allen Choruma, permanent secretary Corporate Governance Unit (CGU).
Mugano has however told The NewsHawks that his removal from the ZimTrade board is part of the government’s crackdown on dissenting voices.
“I hear all this nonsense they have been saying on social media that I was fired because of incompetence. How can do you say a professor for being incompetent? A professor who is sitting on on the board of ZimTrade, who is doing similar work in the region for various international organisations and governments helping them to position for exports?” Prof Mugano said.
“A professor who has produced six doctors in international trade, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) holders, and providing guidance to professors. A professor who has written books that are on Amazon and various selling platforms, on international trade and Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs). And, a professor who was very instrumental in the work of ZimTrade. I was a chairman for that matter of the Export Development Committee.”
Added Mugano: “So, when they appointed me to be a chairman of the board, where was the incompetence? This is politics. What matters is what next for the government? Are they going to continue fighting intellectuals because they have disagreed with them in whatever case, be it economics or politics?”
Professor Mugano said he will remain resolute in despite government’s overtures to silence him.
“This is not the first time I have been harassed. Even at one of the local Universities I used to work, I was harassed there. But there is a point where the world has to know that, when we say government does not want alternative views, this is the evidence.
“I was serving and helping them (ZimTrade). If they do not want to be helped, I do not pursue to say ‘let me help you’! I just feel sorry for those who were benefitting from my technical expertise, our exporters, the young women and young men, because we had strategic programmes to help young women and men.”
“We had programmes like The Eagles Nest and Next She Exporter. Those programmes were coming from our committee! Also, the export development cluster which we were guiding management to do, those things were coming from the committee, and it is known.”
In August, Mugano said he was last year kicked out from another state institution last year for his criticism on government’s decision to suspend lending, leading to his eventual blacklisting from key national events such as budget consultations.
He said his recent removal from the ZimTrade board shows dilution of quarsi-government by toxic party politics.
“I feel sorry because ZimTrade is a beautiful organisation. It is not a Zanu PF organisation. They should not do that and say we are friend to all and enemy to none. How can they even implement this when they are enemies with their directors?
“I am praying that one day we become mature like South Africa where Ramaphosa interacts with the opposition. Not for a minister to say I am firing you from the Board because you voted for Chamisa. I voted for him because he is a Zimbabwean and he was put on the ballot box. And I made it clear because it is our democratic right.
“Davison Gomo is a Zanu PF principal director in the commissariat, he is in Human Resources manager. So there is no basis for them to say you voted for Chamisa, you spoke politics. The same Gomo addressed media attacking Chamisa (Nelson) and he is a Zanu PF technical director. I even know people who are Zanu PF in the Board who never came out in public.”