Saturday, October 11, 2014

Guess who got elbowed out of ROHR?

Guess who got elbowed out of ROHR?

Some of you may already know that I am the first chairman of the recently formed Middlesbrough Branch of ROHR Zimbabwe, the organisation run by Mr Ephraim Tapa. I was voted interim head and then confirmed on the 8th of March 2014 when the branch was formally launched.

Last Saturday, 4th of October, I was part of a delegation from Middlesbrough that attended the ROHR National Conference at Malaika House in Birmingham. This included a closed meeting with other executives. One of the issues discussed was the financial position of the organisation. Mr Tapa presented a financial report, a summary really. It claimed that the ROHR had received about £5000 and spent about the same, with a deficit of about £175. I pointed out that this summary did not really tell us much. Tapa's reaction was to point out that Rose Benton (from the Vigil) had spent several hours compiling that information, which was very difficult to do as some of those who deposited money in to the ROHR account did not make notes. I replied by pointing out that there was no need for Benton to have worked so hard; a standard online banking service, such as the one I have, has a function that enables you to get a list of transactions between any given dates and times in your account's history. Furthermore, you can download this information as a PDF or Excel file, and circulate it anyway you wish- email, Whatsapp or print. If you do not have online banking, you can always walk in to your local branch and get that information. "Are you saying the report is dishonest?" Tapa asked. "No," I replied, "I am saying this report tells us nothing at all."

I had raised the issue (the lack of financial information) in the National Executive Committee meeting in London about a month ago, and had been told that as we did not have a substantive Treasurer, it would be a while before such information would be available. One was chosen at the Conference.

On the 8th of October, the Middlesbrough Executive met in Middlesbrough. It was there I was told by Tapiwa Semwayo that a decision had been made to replace me as Chairman. My new role would be "Advisor". I shrugged. I had too much work anyway, having gone back to university etc. Someone grumbled about the need to put the whole thing to a vote, but no one listened.

Then, yesterday, Fungai Mabhunu called me and said he had noticed my name was no longer on the National Executive Committee group on Whatsapp. "Did you say something stupid in Birmingham? Maybe raise questions about financial matters?" he asked.

Of course I did.

I seem to have a knack for this sort of thing, don't I? Pissing people off by insisting on a certain measure of integrity and transparency. My crimes did not start at the Conference. When the Branch was launched, in March of this year, I pointed out that members were mostly asylum seekers, subsisting on the £37/week stipend the Home Office grants them and felt that it was unfair to expect such people to part with even a pound. I also insisted that we are all absolutely clear that being a member of ROHR doesn't automatically make the Home Office grant you refugee status. At the London meeting, Tapa said he would write to the Home Office to block an errant member's application. I was one of those who objected immediately. Of course, he cannot block an individual's application- this declaration was for the benefit of his thralls in the meeting. If anything, the Home Office has stated that he is under investigation for his activities.

Perhaps too the fact that I voiced my opposition to the proposal that the Middlesbrough Branch pay for Mr Tapa's fuel costs for his visit from the south of England had something to do with it. All in all, I have not been a very good team player. I don't think my replacement quite grasps what has happened, that they have been put there because they are likely to not see much and, most importantly, not likely to say much.

What does an "Advisor" do exactly? I did not even bother to ask. I know this much, though. An "Advisor" does not attend the National Executive Committee Meetings in London. An "Advisor" does not have access to the kind of documents that someone like me will raise questions about. Locally, an Advisor does not contribute the way that I did as a chairman to the Middlesbrough branch.

No doubt, there will be an attempt at defamation on the part of Tapa's sycophants. It is already being said among them that I joined ROHR ZIMBABWE because I needed "back-up" now that my residence permit is to expire next year. The truth is I only joined the organisation to support a friend, someone who thought the branch needed someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and would place the interests of Zimbabweans in Middlesbrough over the petty ambitions of individuals.

I just thought I'd get in there first.

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