PARLIAMENTARIANS who were stranded in China after missing their flight to Harare while on a shopping spree returned home yesterday, narrating harrowing experiences of their stay in the Asian country.
Of the 27 who missed the flight, only 18 touched down yesterday after the others found their way back home on their own.
The MPs said for almost five days since Sunday when they missed their flight, they were virtually squatters inside Beijing International Airport.
They only took off for Harare on Thursday and for days, were sleeping on the floor and surviving on cheap noodles and soft drinks.
The MPs had the taste of a decent meal three days after missing their flight, courtesy of the Zimbabwean Embassy staff in China who brought them food, including bread, meat and drinks.
With no money after a shopping junket, the MPs had to form “co-operatives” to buy food to keep themselves alive before they got their next flight back home.
As if that was not enough, the MPs had no access to bathing facilities, resorting to brushing their faces in public toilets until they found a hotel to shower up after missing bath for three days.
Harare Metropolitan Senator Rorana Muchihwa (MDC-T) said it also emerged that they had used tickets for disabled persons atthe time they were trying to secure the next flight back home.
Muchihwa yesterday had no kind words for Makoni South MP Mandi Chimene (Zanu PF) who organised the trip under the China-Zimbabwe Friendship Association.
She accused Chimene of “taking them to China to dump them”.
“I don’t want to hear anything about Chimene. She dumped us in China,” Muchihwa said.
“She deliberately led us to the wrong boarding gate so that we would miss the flight. We caught onto Zanu PF factional fights.”
Muchihwa said the stranded MPs had to fork out an additional $900 to come back home after they were told that their tickets would not be rescheduled because they were for disabled persons.
“Imagine, I was surprised when the Chinese brought us some wheelchairs intending to carry us thinking that we were disabled. That was embarrassing,” Muchihwa said.
“I don’t want to hear anything about Chimene and her travel agency.”
Muchihwa said problems started when they arrived at the airport in China and were met by seven Chinese who took them to a hotel in Beijing.
She said Chineme asked them to pay $7 each and also some more money for an agency. The MPs started to question the
need to pay an agent.
They paid $50 each per night at the hotel.
“Chimene identified 12 MPs and said they should stay at the hotel and would meet a Chinese delegation to build partnerships for ZimAsset [Zanu PF’s economic blueprint]. We had paid our own money and would not be drawn into looking for partnerships for ZimAsset,” Muchihwa said.
But Chimene had a different story, accusing Zaka Central MP Paradza Chakona (Zanu PF) of leading a revolt against her wise council and repeated calls from embassy officials against travelling to Guangdong, 2 300km from Beijing for their shopping junket.
Chimene said Chakona started organising other MPs, telling them that he would lead them to the shopping trip South of China and organised transportation by bullet trains to Guangdong, a 10-hour journey.
She said Chakona was enjoying support from Mt Pleasant MP Jason Passade (Zanu PF), Bikita South MP Jeppy Jaboon (Zanu PF) and Muchihwa.
“When they came to the airport, Chakona defied an instruction to come to Gate 3 before gates were closed, insisting he would go to Gate 2 where Hon Jaboon was. That is how they missed the flight,” Chimene said.
Chimene claimed the stranded MPs did not pay an extra $900. She said the travel agency, Sontin, negotiated with the Ethiopian Airways for the stranded MPs to top up only $50 on the understanding that they had used all the money they had. She said they could only be charged that much if they changed the route.
“I negotiated with Sontin and Ethiopian Airways. I am grateful to them that they honoured my request so that thee MPs would come back home,” Chimene said.
Chimene confirmed that she organised the MPs’ tickets for the disabled in order to get them cheaper ones because they had indicated that they had no money. The MPs paid $260 each for the$1225 tickets.
They are expected to pay the balance over six months through a stop-order facility to Skycred, an organisation that paid the tickets on behalf of the MPs.
Passade yesterday reportedly approached Avondale police to launch a report against Chimene and Sontin, accusing them of causing the MPs to miss their flight. But Sontin is said to have explained to Passade air travel rules in the presence of the police.
“I organised the trip for the purpose of exposing the MPs to travelling,” Chimene said. She said a delegation of 52 took off for China.
“It is sad that we ended up in factions when we arrived there with Chakona mobilising MPs to disobey advice.”
Chakona and Passade could not be reached for comment as their phones were unavailable.