I feel ostracised by my boss — Deputy minister

HARARE - Deputy Higher Education minister Lutho Tapela says he is being “systematically sidelined” by acting minister Ignatius Chombo and has literally been rendered idle.

Tapela, a member of Welshman Ncube’s MDC, says Chombo has not even bothered to talk to him since he was appointed acting minister following the death of Dr Stan Gorerazvo Mudenge in October last year.

He says he now spends most of his time buried in newspapers.

While he continues to receive all the ministerial perks, Tapela says he feels bad drawing a government salary while doing nothing.  

“Literally I come here to read newspapers,” the deputy minister told the Daily News.

“If I was still young like you, I would do my PhD studies here because I do nothing on a daily basis.”

He heaped praise on his deceased boss Mudenge’s work ethic, who he said engaged him on all ministerial business unlike Chombo.

Since Chombo took over, things have dramatically changed, with directors in his ministry also snubbing him.

“I should be supervising the implementation of the ICT (Information communication technology) programmes in training institutions,” Tapela said.

“There is a director responsible for that but he has stopped reporting to me.”

Tapela said he is yet to be formally introduced to the acting minister.

“I hear that we have an acting minister through the media, he has no courtesy even to say hello to his deputy,” Tapela complained.

“The permanent secretary has not bothered to inform me that there is an acting minister, no communication to me, nothing and I mean nothing,” said the soft-spoken Tapela, who is also senator for Bulilima-Mangwe.

This is not the first time that such allegations have been levelled against Chombo.

His deputy in the Local Government portfolio, Sessel Zvidzai, also says he is treated like a stranger in his own workplace and hardly talks with his boss.

The Daily News could not get a comment from Chombo as his mobile phone was unavailable.

As the inclusive government totters to the end of its tenure, government officials like Tapela believe intolerance by some politicians and senior civil servants has contributed to government’s failure to deliver.

“I think the fact that some civil servants have never worked in an arrangement like this, they have grown to know Zanu PF ministers only; they cannot accommodate other political players, I think they are too Zanu,” Tapela said.

“When I joined the ministry, I asked to tour all departments so that I could know who is who and which is which in the ministry.

“We used to have meetings every Monday but today no one calls me for such meetings. I am left to sit in this office with no one talking to me except those who work in my office,” he complained.

“Why should government have deputy ministers when ministers and permanent secretaries are able to do everything? Look, I am paid on monthly basis; I get all my benefits for sitting and reading newspapers,” said Tapela. - Xolisani Ncube

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