Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent
EMMB Africa — touted as one the best training institutes for earth-moving equipment operators — has been awarded a Government contract to train hundreds of children of war veterans, charging $2 000 fees per head when it does not have a single fully-functional machine, The Herald can reveal.
Government, through the War Veterans’ Fund, pays money directly to EMMB Africa for training of interested children of war veterans, but the intended beneficiaries have cried foul over the quality of training which has seen a lesson running for less than 10 minutes.
Recently, EMMB Africa was awarded a contract to train the children, but the unavailability of adequate earth-moving machinery for training has compromised the quality of education.
At times the trainees are taken to third parties carrying out construction work as far as Norton, just to have a feel of earth-moving equipment as part of the lessons. An investigation has shown that the company only owns an old model dozer machine and a folklift which is defective and appears to be on display at its stand at the Harare Exhibition Park.
Government might be losing thousands of dollars to the company and its associate PATAB Driving School, which are proving to be incapacitated to train the ballooning number of trainees with limited resources.
The company is paid through the War Veterans’ Fund, which is under the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans.
EMMB and PATAB institutions, which were recommended by the Children of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association to train their members in earth-moving machines and Class Two driving lessons, continues to recruit hundreds of trainees and receive thousands of dollars from the Government amid reports they were failing to adequately equip them with the necessary skills.
Most trainees at PATAB Driving School, which is a sister company to EMMB, said the training school had reneged on its undertaking to offer 30-minute lessons for prospective Class-Two drivers, resulting in the institution training people for less than 10 minutes.
Allegations have also been raised that the institution resorts to paying $200 bribes to Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) officials to facilitate easy issuance of licences to their “half-baked” trainees.
“Students were told that they will do 30 minutes for driving lessons at PATAB Driving School, but now they are told their fees have been eroded by inflation and it is now equivalent to 10 or less minutes of practical lessons. What is surprising most of us is that Government would have paid these institutions in time, but because they recruit too many people, they end up failing to meet the demands and in turn produce half-baked drivers, yet they would have used the money,” the student said.
Another trainee who refused to be named said because the institution does not have the requisite machinery and equipment, trainees are now forced to spend more than a month for a course which is supposed to last two weeks.
The trainees said this will end up in them living in unconducive boarding environments where they would at times get one meal a day. Another one concurred with her counterpart and said EMMB does not have enough machines to train the trainees.
“EMMB does not have enough machines to train a huge number of students within a short space of time.
“On one occasion, I remember we went to Norton for our practical lessons, we were supposed to operate a dozer and EMMB has an old one which does not even function well,” the trainee said.
“In Norton, we were then shown a bulldozer, and only made to lay our hands on it for less than 10 minutes per person and we were told that was enough and we were ready to go. But honestly, we did not learn anything.
“We learnt later that EMMB did not own the dozer, but had made a deal with the person operating it on that particular day to train us even without the approval of the owner.”
“I also was trained to operate a forklift, grader and a front loader, and it took me close to six weeks despite being told that it would take me only two weeks.
“The problem is the institution has no machines which can cater for a huge number of students.”
Some trainees, mostly form Masholand East, have since written to the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) and Government through their organisation, seeking an urgent intervention to their plights. They are seeking an investigation into the allegations and have since engaged the Department of War Veterans.
ZNLWVA national spokesperson Cde Douglas Mahiya confirmed receiving a request from Children of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association to investigate issues suspected to be taking place at the said institutions.
“I received a complaint regarding children doing earthmoving machine training at EMMB and those taking driving lessons at PATAB Driving School, in Harare. We were asked to investigate issues associated with corrupt activities and ill-treatment of these children by the institutions. We will urgently look into the matter, we are going to carry out investigations and get to the bottom of it as soon as possible,” Cde Mahiya said.
Owner of EMMB and PATAB Driving School Mr John Manjengwa could not deny or confirm having inadequate earthmoving equipment.
He also denied corruptly engaging VID officers on issuance of licences.
“I am a law-abiding citizen who does not engage in corrupt activities. I simply offer lessons to trainees until they are capable of driving and operating machines.”
He also challenged Government to timeously pay for the courses to avoid erosion of the funds by inflation.
“Government has not been paying the fees in time. By the time the money reflects in our account, it would have already been eroded by inflation.
“That compromises the quality of services we offer,” he said.