A MINISTER was held hostage for four hours after the officials who ran the 2016 Zimbabwe National Paralympic Games, most of them on wheelchairs, lost patience over their unpaid allowances for the games which ran from March 31 to April 4.
Abigail Damasane, the Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Deputy Minister, together with Sports and Recreation Commission officials, were made to endure the long wait after the games officials barricaded a gate at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic College in Gwanda on Sunday, demanding their per diems.
Assistant Commissioner Happymore Sigauke, the second in command of Matabeleland South police, and the provincial administrator, Mr Midard Khumalo, intervened towards midnight to break up the tense standoff with the officials numbering about 40.
The angry officials blocked vehicles coming out of the college including that of Damasane and SRC director, Joseph Muchechetere, who was driving in the same car with the games project manager Mr Martin Dururu.
They were accusing the SRC of misusing funds sourced in the name of disabled people.
They said SRC officials used the money to wine and dine in upmarket lodges while participants in the three-day event that ended on Sunday, were accommodated in classrooms.
The disabled officials appealed to the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe, who is their patron, to intervene and stop the abuse they said has been going on for the past nine years.
Deputy Minister Damasane and other officials sat in their cars from around 7PM as the technical officials refused to budge until their grievances were addressed. Following the police intervention, the SRC officials and the games general managers called for an urgent meeting. Officials promised the technicians they would receive their money the following day.
Officials from Matabeleland North, Mutare and Bulawayo identified Matabeleland South SRC sports coordinator, Mr Lifa Mpofu, as the nexus of their troubles. “Lifa Mpofu lied to us. We were made to believe everything was in order. We had to borrow money to travel to this place,” fumed one official from Mutare.
“Now we’re stranded and have no money to go back to our homes. The GMs were accommodated in nice lodges and hotels enjoying themselves while the technical officials were putting up in classrooms.”
He added that the SRC promised to pay them $40, which he said was not enough for their transport and food.
Deputy Minister Damasane yesterday said she was not directly involved in the issue.
“I’m a person who doesn’t lie. I wasn’t part of the issues. I just saw chaos and closed my windows and stayed in my vehicle for security reasons. I didn’t hear what they were saying. Is it newsworthy that a minister was kept waiting?” she asked.
The disabled officials are still camped in Gwanda as the money they had been promised has not been paid.