Infighting among top management officials has intensified at the once mighty Agricultural Research and Extension Trust (ARET) over ideological differences over managerial issues.
Khumbanyiwa: Aret CEO
Inside sources say those at war are Chief Executive Officer Andy Khumbanyiwa, Deputy Director, Research and Technical Services, Robert Gomonda, and Deputy Director of Extension and Specialist Services, John Nyangulu.
According to the sources, it all started as soon as the current Chief Executive, Khumbanyiwa started work at the organization in 2013 when he brought new ideas he said were aimed to uplift the status of the organization.
His two Deputies, John Nyangulu and Robert Gomonda resisted ideas saying they were contrary to the Trust’s Mission, Vision and core functions.
For example, sources say, Khumbanyiwa wanted to turn around ARET’s three research centres, Kandiya in Lilongwe, Mwimba in Kasungu and Kabwafu in Mzimba into commercial farms which the deputies did not embrace.
“He also brought in ideas of crop diversification saying ARET and tobacco farmers cannot continue relying on tobacco as it was believed to be a dying crop. Some people thought diversification was a good path for the organization and it was long overdue. Others thought the path taken was not good and rushed as there was no clear source of funding.”
The CEO interpreted the apparent resistance from his deputies as sabotage aimed at making his him fail.
“War started. He was overheard saying that he didn’t want his two deputies. He said he would rather work without them. He proposed and put down his suggestion to the ARET Board but it was shot down,” said our source.
Our source said at one extension quarterly meeting in Salima in 2014 he told members of staff that some people were blocking his way to implement his plans for ARET and warned that “ndiwaduda” meaning I will deal with them.
According to our sources in another finance meeting he told members of staff that anyone against his vision for the organization “will be hit by a 50-pound hammer.”
“He said he would not care if he was using a big weapon on a small animal like a lizard. He then started issuing instruction and working straight with field staff by passing their immediate boss (his deputy – extension). The relationship between them (CEO & deputies) grew from bad to worse.
Then he called for consultancy exercise to review the function of ARET. That exercise has resulted in restructuring of some positions at ARET. The two positions of Deputy Directors (Research and Extension) have been removed effectively succeeding in getting rid of Nyangulu and Gomonda.
“The restructuring has also affected some junior positions leading into a dozen job losses,” said our sources.
Meanwhile it is not known where will the board get will money to compensate Gomonda and Nyangulu since the two had contracts expected to end next year.
In an interview Nyasa Times, Khumbanyimba challenged that all is rosy at the ARET.
Khumbanyiwa said asked our report to “go back to the sources” saying there is no infighting there before he cut the line.
ARET is a non-profit making organization funded by tobacco farmers mandated by an act of Parliament through tobacco levy at the Auction floors.
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