THE dispute over allowances for Civil Aviation Authority (Caaz) firemen deployed to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in October 1999 was prompted b
y a misunderstanding by the firemen of their role in the central African country, a former aviation boss told businessdigest this week.
Karikoga Kaseke, the former Caaz CEO, said the firemen had misunderstood their deployment in the DRC to have been “a foreign business mission” when in fact they were on external duty for which they had to be paid less than they were demanding.
The Caaz board had recommended that the firemen receive US$20 per day in allowances during their deployment, although management had offered them between US$75 and US$100 per day.
However, the fire fighters later demanded payments of US$250 per day after seeing a memorandum circulated by Kaseke which stipulated allowances of US$250 per day for staff on foreign business missions.
Caaz failed to explain whether the firemen were on external duty, which attracted US$20 per day or on a business trip, which attracted US$250.
This sparked the row between the authority and the fire fighters which has since been brought to the attention of Transport minister Christopher Mushohwe.
The DRC mission kicked off when the Kinshasa Airport caught fire after a crash landing.
DRC fire fighters had failed to put off the fires, prompting their government to call for Caaz reinforcements after flames threatened to spread into suburbs.
Caaz dispatched fire tenders and 20 firemen for the operation. Sources indicated that the DRC president, the late Laurent Kabila, had been impressed by the performance of the Zimbabwe servicemen and had subsequently requested their services at both the Kinshasa and Lubumbashi airports under a business arrangement for which the DRC government was to pay Caaz.
The firemen were subsequently posted to the DRC for two years.
Last week the National Railways of Zimbabwe confiscated DRC wagons the non-payment for services rendered by the company during the war.
The firemen complain that their allowances were reduced without explanation to US$75 and US$50 for senior and junior firemen, from US$100 and US$75 respectively.
Kaseke said these allowances were higher than what the firemen should have received because management felt their risk factor during the deployment was high due to the fact that they were civilians.