Govt splashes out $66k to donate $3k
By Farayi Machamire
Government has come under fire for spending a whopping $66 000 in commemorating the International Day for Persons with Disabilities in Caledonia — on the outskirts of the capital city — where beneficiaries only received donations worth $3 000.
It has since emerged that pay-as-you-go pension scheme, the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) was arm-twisted by the ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to fund the event, held on March 26.
A leaked letter addressed to the authority shows that the event was funded to the tune of $66 000, although only $3 000 was used to buy 20 crutches and 10 wheelchairs that were donated to persons with disabilities (PWD).
According to the letter to former Nssa general manager Liz Chitiga, the secretary in the ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Ngoni Masoka gave Nssa two days to process the payment.
Masoka said the ministry had budgeted for 5 000 people to attend the commemorations and needed more funds to cover for the surplus, estimated to be another 5 000 people.
Of the $66 000, $7 000 was paid to musician Jah Prayzah, with Emmanuel Manyika who was the director of ceremonies pocketing $1 000.
Devine Sounds provided the performance stage at a cost of $1 500.
About $24 000 went towards the purchase of 3 000 round T-shirts and 2 000 golf T-shirts while $22 500 was budgeted for buying lunch for the attendees.
Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa said it was surprising that Nssa was using pensioners’ funds to bankroll government expenditure.
“If government has no money to host such an event, it has no business dipping into the pot reserved for pensioners… This can’t be good use of pensioners’ money…This is heartless when you consider the poverty affecting many pensioners who spent years contributing to Nssa,” he said.
“But given that its election season and the location of the event, this looks like an election campaign disguised as commemorating an International Day for People Living with Disabilities. It’s tantamount to Nssa being asked to provide political party funding to Zanu PF,” he added.
Constitutional law expert Fadzayi Mahere said there was no doubt that the expenses for the commemoration as set out in the Labour and Social Welfare ministry’s order were in flagrant disregard of the law.
Mahere said Nssa makes its money from the mandatory contributions of employees throughout Zimbabwe and the said contributions were meant to be invested in the interests of the said employees in matters of social security, including pensions, health and safety issues like workplace accidents and matters incidental thereto.
“The Act does not contemplate that the fund will be dipped into in the manner ordered by the secretary in the memo. Significantly, section 23 of the Nssa Act sets out the principles that shall (this obligation is mandatory) be observed by the authority in the carrying out of its functions and the administration of the funds that it holds,” she said.
“In particular, Nssa is required by section 23(a)(ii) always to act in the interests of the employers and employees who contribute to its schemes and by section 23(b) to act in consultation with persons whose interests are affected by the performance of its functions. It also is required by section 23(c) to keep its expenses as low as is consistent with the provision of efficient services to contributors and beneficiaries of any of its schemes,” Mahere said.
She said by making such payments, Nssa was in breach of its obligations under section 68 to act, inter alia, lawfully, reasonably and in a fair manner.
“None of its contributors were consulted before the instruction to pay this exorbitant amount was made. This violates the contributors’ rights to both procedural and substantive fairness.
“The amounts paid — including $7 000 to a performance of a few hours — are grossly unreasonable when juxtaposed with the meagre pay outs that pensioners who have contributed for several decades to wards Nssa schemes are receiving — again a violation of section 68 of the Constitution,” Mahere said on her Facebook page.
Efforts to get a comment from Masoka were fruitless as he was said to be in meetings.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated annually on December 3.
The day was set aside by the United Nations to commemorate PWD all over the world.
An estimated 10 000 people thronged Caledonia for the event.
After braving the scorching heat, they trooped back to their homes disappointed after Vice President Kembo Mohadi capped the event by donating 20 crutches and 10 wheelchairs worth less than $3 000.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been billed to be guest of honour but could not attend as he was away in Abidjan for the Africa CEO Forum.
He delegated Mohadi to hand over the items on his behalf.
Mohadi delivered a speech where he waxed lyrical about how government was committed to the cause of those living with disabilities.
While he indicated that tonnes of rice and 120 metric tonnes of maize had also been donated to PWD, the whereabouts of the consignment has remained a mystery after the people living with disabilities who were at the event said they did not receive them.
At the commemorations, all hell broke loose just after Jah Prayzah had just started playing his hit song Kutonga Kwaro.
As the physically-challenged rose to dance to the smash hit, there was a stampede as the crowd rushed to loot fast foods from an awaiting van while others looted T-shirts stacked in a commuter omnibus.
Police were forced to lob teargas to disperse the rowdy crowd.
As the crowd scurried for free lunch with baton stick-wielding police frantically trying to disperse them, the high-powered government delegation comprising various ministers, including Paul Mavhima, Petronella Kagonye, July Moyo and Miriam Chikukwa fled the VIP tent. Daily News