Robin Vela, the former board chairman of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) who was fired on March 29, 2018, has been on the offensive, firing various salvos at perceived enemies who, in his mind, were responsible for his downfall. The reason for his firing point to him being a foreign resident with local interests.
Rather than taking the dignified way and going quietly, Vela, “the foreign resident” is kicking and screaming and raising all manner of allegations against officials at the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare under whose auspices NSSA falls.
True to his mercurial nature, Vela has employed a well-calculated media strategy to hit back. This strategy is hinged on social media, particularly Twitter, and from there amplified by the mainstream media — the press and radio.
Word has it that he has commissioned an army of bloggers and journalists to unleash an onslaught against his former employer, the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.
In his latest barrage, “Fired NSSA boss bares all”, which was published in a local Sunday weekly newspaper, Vela made his all too familiar claims that his hands were clean and that he transformed NSSA from a rag tag sordid entity in 2015 into a $1,5 billion behemoth by 2017.
In his own words; “The beauty about the truth is that it cannot be suppressed forever. In our case I am sure it will show its head before the end of August.” The first part of this statement is indisputable, but the second is full of innuendos. What is magical about August, one wonders?
Which brings us to the import of this instalment: What is the real truth about Vela and NSSA?
Was NSSA such a rag tag entity when Vela’s board took over in 2015?
As they say, facts are sacred, opinion is free. Here are the numbers:
Total assets were just shy of a billion dollars at $917,302 million in 2015 when Vela took over, increasing to just over a billion in 2016 and then an unaudited $1,3 billion in 2017, representing a 41 percent growth during his tenure. Suffice to say that the growth in assets experienced in 2016 and 2017 was on the back of a solid base established prior to the time that Vela took over.
It is also surprising to note that the former NSSA board chair keeps flaunting the magical $1,5 billion figure, yet NSSA’s own books point a figure just shy of $1,3 billion.
Vela also sites a spectacular 119 percent growth in investment income from $22,755 million in 2015, $23,461 million in 2016 and $49,861 million in 2017.
However, the market is well aware that this was courtesy of a bull run on the local bourse, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), that benefited virtually every asset management company that is worth its name.
For the record, the ZSE’s bull run was driven by a monetary crisis that saw the bourse’s benchmark industrial index gaining 130,42 percent in 2017. As one of the largest investors on the ZSE, NSSA was bound to gain from this run and it would be folly to believe Vela’s claim that it was solely because of his own ingenuity.
It therefore goes without saying that the commensurate growth in surplus can be attributed to the same factors highlighted above.
This is the beautiful truth that cannot be suppressed, taken from figures in Vela’s own statement that he issued when he was fired.
So what really is Vela’s problem? Many a board chairmen have been fired before and just recently, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa dissolved three zesa boards. In all this, rarely have we heard so much noise from the affected.
Word has it that the real problem is that Vela is a petulant fellow who could not work with anyone else other than his relatives.
He purports to have had a good relationship with Patrick Zhuwao, the former Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, but this could not be further from the truth. It is a known fact that Zhuwao was on the verge of firing Vela, only for that to be scuttled by Operation Restore Legacy, which saw him and his G40 cahoots relegated to the dustbin of history.
Could there be something hidden that has made Vela bitter against his dismissal that he has sunk so low as to disparage the name of NSSA and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare? Could it be more than just NSSA business, politics perhaps? Only time will tell.