SHURUGWI — Political interference is taking its toll on the operations of the Tongogara Community Share Ownership Scheme in Shurugwi, amid reports of gross abuse of public funds.
BY MOSES MUGUGUNYEKI
Investigations carried out by NewsDay revealed that the share ownership scheme, regarded as the success story of the indigenisation policy, has been destroyed by political meddling whereby board members of the scheme and other officials are reportedly awarding themselves hefty allowances to the detriment of service delivery.
Politicians and other people with political connections are allegedly dictating projects for the community while others are said to be using the scheme to gain political mileage.
This newspaper established that board members were getting $5 000 annually in board fees while sitting allowances were pegged at $100 per meeting.
There has been an outcry from villagers over these hefty allowances and they want the fees to be reduced to match those awarded by Tongogara Rural District Council (RDC). The local authority pays councillors allowances of $100 per month and sitting allowances of $35 per meeting.
The District Administrator, District Youth Officer, District Social Welfare Officer, Tongogara Rural District Office Chief Executive Officer, three traditional leaders — Chiefs Banga, Ndanga and Nhema — council chairman, financial adviser and legal adviser make up the board.
“This community share ownership is benefiting only a few. These board members are taking home a lot of money and government should intervene,” said a village head who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The board members convene unnecessary meetings to get allowances and nothing is happening on the ground with regard to development.”
Tongogara Community Share Ownership Scheme is one of the country’s most successful projects under the government’s controversial indigenisation policy.
The scheme, which has been receiving seed money from Unki Mine, managed to build a school at Musasa, improve services and infrastructure at clinics, upgrade water systems, rehabilitate roads and construct a mortuary at Zvamabande Clinic.
However, villagers insist there is still gross abuse of funds.
The Trust is said to have failed to fund any project in 2013 and 2014, but board members were getting their allowances. A full board meeting is held once every quarter.
The hefty allowances, last year, drew criticism from former Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Francis Nhema who had called for the review of allowances. However, Nhema left his ministerial post before the review was done.
Tongogara Share Ownership Trust administrator Maxwell Davi said the Trust was yet to review the allowances, but indicated that the board members rejected the proposed allowances as contained in the Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment ministry policy.
“We were told to review the allowances according to the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment policy. The policy says the allowances should match those given to RDC councillors. However, the board members rejected the proposed allowances,” said Davi.
He said the Trust was working on its own new policy, which would deal with the issue of allowances.
But investigations also indicated that politicians were abusing resources belonging to the Trust and using their political muscle to interfere in the operations of the projects.
“Some politicians usually demand the Trust’s truck to support their political activities. There are many incidents where politicians have used resources that belong to the Trust,” said a source.
Chief Nhema could neither confirm nor deny the allegations.
“Yes, it’s true we give them the truck or any of our resources, provided what they are doing benefits the community,” said Chief Nhema.
There was also an outcry when classroom blocks were built at Banga Primary School under Chief Banga instead of Chekenyu Primary School under Chief Ndanga, which is in a state of decay. It is alleged that politicians and board members were behind the move.
However, Chief Nhema refuted the allegations saying the Trust was working with councillors who would work with village heads in their respective wards to come up with projects.
“We do not have problems with politicians when it comes to projects.
“The Trust works with different government departments, not individuals. I have never encountered that political interference you are talking about since I became a board member in March,” he said.
Chief Banga, who sits on the board, last year acknowledged before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment that there was political interference in the operations of Tongogara Share Ownership Trust.
He said there were instances where they would get directives from “the top” on how to run certain projects.
Chief Nhema said for fair distribution of projects, the Trust allocated $25 000 to each of the 24 wards in Tongogara Rural District Council.
“It is up to the councillors and village heads to come up with their own projects.
“We tried to allocate equal amounts of money in each ward in order to remove this bias,” he said.