National Social Security Authority (NSSA) chairman, Dr Percy Toriro (pictured), has offered to resign citing his prolonged physical absence from the country, making him the fifth person to leave the board of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest state-owned pension fund in seven years.
Sponsored bickering as forces angle to control the pension fund, has seen board chairpersons and general managers hardly lasting more than two years on average at the authority and reports say a guillotine was also allegedly hanging on Toriro’s neck and would have fallen anytime.
But in his letter to Public Service and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavhima last week, a copy of which was leaked to Business Weekly, Toriro, a renowned urban planner, said he remained occupied with consultancy work in West Africa and recommended the Government to find his replacement.
Insiders say Toriro decided to dwell on professional matters as reasons for his departure, opting to leave out simmering internal squabbling in the organisation.
Toriro has been out of the country since October last year and attended board meetings virtually.
Reads his resignation letter in part: “Further to my letter of 28 December 2022, I wish to advise you that I continue to be away doing consultancy work on urban planning advisory in a few cities on the continent in West Africa. There continues to be a lot of work for me here and I may not be back in the country any time soon.
“It has become increasingly difficult to effectively participate from a distance even when you have appointed an acting chairperson. Although I have been able to attend some business and meetings virtually, I recommend that you identify a replacement board leader so that the diverse and complex NSSA operations are not disrupted by my absence.”
Calls seeking comment from Toriro had not been answered by the time of publishing.
In the letter, Toriro also suggested that he could have resigned way back but opted to stay until an audit into doctors’ remunerations was completed. The audit has since been completed and the details would be reported elsewhere in this publication.
“Now that I have been verbally interviewed by the forensic auditors and have since submitted my written responses, I feel I have done what I could in service of NSSA. I think this decision is in the best interests of NSSA and the country,” said Toriro in the letter.
However, multiple sources within NSSA and the Government, told this publication that “toxic working culture due to serious political interference” could have pushed Toriro to step down. His first five-year term was due to expire in 2026.
One source said “corruption, personal interests and political influence” has become a permanent challenge at NSSA, which manages assets worth over US$1,2 billion.
Apparently, since 2015, NSSA has had four different boards, and five general managers. Most of them were fired for allegedly being involved in looting public funds.
From 2015, since the long-time serving general manager, James Matiza, left NSSA, the majority of his predecessors were kicked out after a short period for being involved in corrupt deals.
NSSA executives, board members and Government ministers were at times also caught in the web.
“It’s only that NSSA collects retirement savings every month; that is why it is surviving,” said a source who declined to be named for professional reasons. “From the time James Matiza left, it has been corruption after corruption and it appears that anyone who gets the privilege of influencing decisions wants to lay his/her hand on NSSA coffers.”
“So it cascades from the top (the politicians) to managers, everyone sees opportunities. There is no longer a shared purpose, or vision, people are just motivated to line their pockets.”
Human resources experts say the high staff turnover at senior level would usually negatively affect the performance of big organisations. “Because of staff turnover for any organisation, it is very rare to implement strategies that would have been formulated by other managers or other directors,” Memory Nguwi, a human resource consultant with Harare-based Industrial Psychology Consultants said.
“The heavy burden, which comes along with the mandates of running such institutions, requires consistent implementation of strategies and that is difficult when you have staff (high) turnover.”
Some experts say the optimal tenure for the board of directors in big companies and institutions tends to be several years, and more precisely the common view is that the board of directors should stay in the board between seven to 12 years.
NSSA’s general managers since 2015
James Matiza fired in October 2015
Hashmon Matamera, a board member appointed acting general manager
Elizabeth Chitsiga appointed general manager in August 2016, sacked in 2018
Emmerson Mangwariri takes over, fired in 2020
Arthur Manase appointed general manager in January 2021, suspended in July 2022
Dr Charles Shava takes over – suspended
January 2023, Agnes Masiiwa appointed general manager on rotational basis
Decision reversed in less than 24 hours
NSSA’s board chairpersons since 2015
Robin Vela appointed NSSA chairman in 2015, sacked in 2018
April 2028, Daphne Tomana appointed acting chairperson
Cuthbert Chodoori appointed board chair in February 2019
His board dissolved in November 2020
May 2021, Dr Percy Toriro is appointed
March 2023, Dr Toriro offers to resign