Cheap holiday on government money

That is what most people in Harare said the acronym, CHOGM, stood for. Other variations included coming on holiday on government money or comrades on holiday on government money.

But what most of those involved in CHOGM, though mostly as service personnel, are talking about is how some people made money. One chef is actually reported to have been running a shebeen at one of the major venues.

Drivers recruited from across the country talked about working with chauffeurs who were not civil servants but were specifically hired to drive heads of state at CHOGM. These drivers say there was a racket in which senior civil servants hired unemployed drivers and then gave the drivers a 30 per cent cut of the allowance entitled to drivers.

Even some top officials within the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department(CMED) are reported to have been caught unawares and were left guessing for which ministry the drivers they had issued cars worked.

Some drivers said they were surprised to find that the cars they had been issued had already been taken by some other people and there was no record of who these people were. These drivers even said it was quite possible that some of the Mercs might not find their way back to the CMED.

Another story told to The insider involved workers who claimed to the delegates they were looking after that the country was so broke that they were not being paid.

The delegates are reported to have showered them with the gifts and one woman was heard boasting that members of her team had been given her $2 000, each. However, when confronted by one of the chefs that they had sold out the government she backed down and said she had not been given any money but some bracelets which turned out to be gold bracelets.

There is also the story of one senior chef who locked away some of the equipment donated for use during CHOGM to create a shortage so that a company offering the same services could get some business. One can only hope that the equipment that was locked away will find its way back into the government pool rather than that of the chef. This needs to be looked into carefully, especially by the donors some of whom have already vowed that they will not give any aid to corrupt governments or those who do not respect human rights.

There was also this big boob by our security people. Right in the midst of CHOGM was an alleged Mossad (Israeli) agent who was covering the meeting. An international news agency hunted the man down and even photographed him yet the story never saw the light of the day in our local press and our security people seemed to care less.

Now that it is over and only $11 million was budgeted for, according to the estimates of expenditure, people would like to know exactly how much was spent on CHOGM.

The meeting no doubt played a vital public relations job for the country, but it should be the country that benefitted not individuals.

There is talk about uniforms for entertainers, staff, drivers, etc. One would like to know who the suppliers were. Definitely, there were just too many uniforms and they seemed to have been dished out even to those not involved with CHOGM. The same applied to briefcases meant for participants some of which found their way to Mbare Musika.

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