The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Stranded MPs Refuse to Pay for Air-Tickets

The 27 Members of Parliament who got stranded in China after missing their flight back home have said they will not pay the balance left for the cost of their air-tickets covering the trip organised by a local travel agent at the behest of Makoni South MP, Cde Mandi Chimene (Zanu-PF).

The legislators said they would soon write to the Salary Services Bureau rescinding a stop order facility authorising their paymaster to deduct US$217 per month for six months covering the cost of air-tickets.

It costs around US$1 200 for a return air-ticket to and from Beijing.

Spokesperson of the MPs and Zaka Central MP, Cde Paradzai Chakona (Zanu-PF), said they now wanted a forensic audit to evaluate the cost of the air-tickets and establish if it was consistent with the money that the organisers wanted them to pay.

In addition, Cde Chakona said they did not realise any value from the trip that would warrant them to pay the balance because they had to pay for their return when they did not get any service from the organisers.

He said that they realised that their air-tickets were not transferable after they intended to secure a flight from Guangdong to Addis Ababa, where they had gone from Beijing for shopping.

The legislators from both zanu-pf and the two MDCs, missed their flight from Beijing, China, after they strayed to a distant southern part of the Chinese city of Guangdong some 2 294km away, as part of their shopping junket in the Asian country.

The 27 MPs, some with their spouses were part of more than 60 MPs who travelled to China on a private trip to explore business opportunities. In an interview yesterday, Cde Chakona accused Cde Chimene of being the brains that saw them missing their flight saying she misdirected their bus to Terminal Two instead of Three.

"There was no any business meetings that Honourable Chimene organised for us. Instead, she only hand-picked 12 MPs which she moved around with.

"After missing the flight there was no any other service that we got from the travelling agent. We had to look for our own means, organise ourselves and pay for our travel costs back home," said Cde Chakona.

"We suspect that the $250 that we paid as deposit was just pocketed. In any case we had to organise ourselves for our return divorced from the travel agent.

"In fact I had to use my credit card to help those MPs that had no money. We latter discovered that air-tickets that we used were meant for disabled persons that is why they were not transferable."

Cde Chakona said he had to use his connections to convene business meetings for other legislators after Cde Chimene failed to do so. When contacted yesterday, Cde Chimene said the MPs had no legal right to unilaterally repudiate a contract that they entered into with the travel agent.

"They will get themselves into trouble because they voluntarily signed a loan agreement.

"It is not true that the air-tickets were for disabled persons but I organised and negotiated a group fare. How was I supposed to organise business meetings for them when they left us soon after we landed and refused to take guidance from me?" Cde Chimene asked.

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