The shame at NBSZ blood bank in Zimbabwe

By Farai Chirimumimba

It is over 5 years now since the Ernest and Young forensic audit at National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ) unearthed massive financial illicit flows and non adherence to good corporate governance by the board members and management.

This audit signalled the beginning of the shame at NBSZ that recently extended to foreign currency externalisation scandal involving over US$100,000 where the organisation has refused or failed to show members at the AGM held on 15 June 2018 a clearance letter from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to boost blood donor confidence. By any measure, the catastrophe of these scandals is in the world of their own when compared to other blood donor organisations in the region.

The shame at NBSZ does not begin and end with scandals but goes all the way to shareholder participation which in Zimbabwe generally favours the majority, yet the minority shareholders are no different in that they would also have invested in the organisation, in this case through blood donations at NBSZ and should be heard.

I arge Mutare blood donors to initiate a membership revolution and push for membership agreements with the “big boys” to secure a voice in the governance of NBSZ which they invest dearly through their blood donations. Membership relations at NBSZ is typical of a “tyranny” controlled by the “big boys” in the board some of whom enjoy the payout they get when they travel to Harare to represent membership from as far as Mutare and all the way from Bulawayo.

I will comment on the representative of the Mutare Blood donors, his transport and other costs met by NBSZ for him to travel to Harare for the Annual General Meeting (AGM). He comes, he sees and leaves without raising a single point as to why the donors that he travelled all the way to represent rejected outright the new NBSZ articles of association that were forced on donors without the option of including any amendments.

No doubt, this was a well choreographed plan to mute so called “dissenting voices and stifle any rebellion like the one witnessed in February at the EGM through a vote of the articles of association without any option for amendment.

If one looks at the new articles they will note for instance that articles 12 has made it practically impossible for members to call for an EGM. The section says that one-third of total national membership can call for an EGM whilst board members of nine only require a simple majority for the same purpose. Currently membership is hovering around 1,000 which effective means that about 300 signatures are required. Where will members who want to initiate an EGM get all these members? Bulawayo blood donor branch is reported to have rejected Article 12 outright but the NBSZ management represented by one Mr. Chikwereti were determined to have the articles accepted by the general meeting without any option of an amend despite the AGM being the supreme body of the organisation, yet another evidence of the shame at NBSZ.

What is even more shameful was that the board and management didn’t provide at the meeting the new articles of associations which were under consideration. This stifled debate as the management and board were scandalous in that they chose a few clauses that they presented for adoption as representing the entire document. Although this speaks to lack of shareholder/membership activism, is yet another example of the shame at NBSZ.

As l have said earlier whilst Mutare outright rejected the articles of association their representative who happens to be enjoying NBSZ monies as a board member could not even utter a single word to object the articles on behalf of the donors in Mutare. What NBSZ management and board fail to understand is that the majority as the “big boys” will still need the minority in Mutare to donate blood. In February when the EGM to adopt the articles was aborted, one the reason was that Masvingo had outright rejected the articles. Sadly the same could not be accorded to Mutare that has a vibrant blood donor community. The shame at NBSZ is telling yet no concrete action from members.

This shame at NBSZ come as the organisation confirmed a new Chairperson Mr. Rodgers Matsikidze who takes over from Retired Justice George Smith who had been in the board for 41 years. One hopes that Mr. Matsikidze will intensify efforts to come up with a new working model for the organisation to head off enduring viability and liquidity crises triggered by dollarisation.

NBSZ should effect a pact that gives minority votes to be heard through consensus. This trajectory taken by management led by one Mrs. Lucy Marowa and board is dangerous for the viability of the organisation especially now that NBSZ is all over the news requesting people to donate blood when their voices are muted by the “big boys” in the name of majority which is nothing other than popularism that will further scare away donors, another shame at NBSZ.

With reports of free blood in public hospitals beginning 01 July, NBSZ should brace for further decline in donor numbers as there will be no incentive to donate blood when it becomes free for all. For an organisation that failed to break even in 2017 financial year where revenue was 6, 1 million against expenses of over 7 million is sad. But what is more shocking is that when members’ attended the AGM they kept their silence as if everything is normal. NBSZ is a shame like no other! No wonder there is growing donor exit.