Energy Minister Fortune Chasi, trying to fix the endemic corruption and mismanagement mess at ZESA, has gone back 13 years and re-appointed Sydney Gata, who was sacked as executive chairman leading to a lengthy legal battle.

Chasi announced Gata’s appointment as executive board chairman on Tuesday.

He will be deputised by Tsitsi Makovah, who was described in the ministry’s press statement as a “chartered secretary, administrator and business leader with experience in the energy industry.”

Gata was fired from ZESA in 2006 and later described his time there as a “nightmare”.

He oversaw the unbundling of ZESA into several units, each with their own management.

Zimbabwe is currently going through some of the worst power cuts in the country’s history, caused by reduced generation at the main hydro-power station in Kariba because of drought and ageing equipment at the coal-powered power plants.

Successive ZESA chiefs, including Gata, are blamed for lacking the foresight to build new power stations which would have averted the current power outages lasting up to 18 hours daily.

While looking for a new ZESA board, Chasi took the unusual step of advertising the vacancies in the media, saying he wanted to open up the process to talented Zimbabweans.

“The story of ZESA’s collapse cannot be written without the name of Gata,” said Alex Magaisa, a former adviser to the late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. “He was sacked, he fought ZESA and won a house in the upmarket suburb of Umwinsdale in Harare. But last year, he lost a US$10 million claim against ZESA. Now he’s back as top dog. It’s unbelievable.”

Magaisa said ZESA was “arguably worse off now than when he left and indeed worse than he found it.”

“When Chasi advertised board positions, he was praised for a fresh approach. No-one could have imagined it would lead to the return of tried and failed hands like Gata, with a terribly murky ZESA history behind him. It’s a complete anti-climax. Flaccid,” Magaisa tweeted.

MDC vice president and former finance minister Tendai Biti said: “Sydney Gata must rank as one of the worst mangers to ever run a state enterprise. Not only was he incompetent, but he was extremely dubious and shady. Just check his village in Chipinge. That he has been reappointed ZESA executive chairman once more is crazy. How does a hyena guard a corpse?”

Chasi said he hoped Gata and Makovah will lead other board members to be announced soon “in tackling the myriad of challenges currently being experienced in a generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in Zimbabwe.”