Nkosilathi Sibanda, Sunday News Reporter
WORKERS at Rhodes Jubilee Cottages (RJC) in Barham Green in Bulawayo are reportedly resigning en masse, citing mistreatment, as the ongoing battle for control of the old people’s home rages on.
The home is overseen by the Combined Community Development Fund (CCDF) which is led by the chairman Mr Jonathan Bismarck and his deputy Mr Donovan Jones. However, they have been at loggerheads with management and workers who allege too much interference. The fund is also responsible for other community amenities at Barham Green such as the Rufus Green Hall and the Barham Green Sports Club. There are 25 residents at the facility who depend on the CCDF and support from the Bulawayo Help Network.
Some families were said to be contemplating relocating their elderly to other homes in the city. Tensions have mounted, with Mr Jones being fingered as the one who is allegedly interfering in the operations at RJC, to a point where crucial staff has quit work. So far, RJC is short staffed following the resignation of Mrs Maureen Meade-King, a seasoned administrator.
In her letter of resignation, Mrs Mead-King said she was forced to quit due to hostility shown by Mr Jones. “I would like to inform you that I will be resigning as chairlady of the Rhodes Jubilee Cottages Old Age Home with immediate effect due to all the animosity shown to be by the vice-chairman of CCDF, Mr Donovan Jones.
“I am unable to work with Mr Jones due to his dictatorial attitude,” read part of the letter dated 13 August seen by Sunday News.
While CCDF’s mandate was to supervise the facility, Mrs Mead-King said Mr Jones had no right to unilaterally threaten staff or forcibly pry into the accounts books. Mr Jones is alleged to have visited RJC on 12 July this year, “demanding” to see financial records, in what was seen as an undue interference.
“Mr Jones has lambasted me about finances for not being completed, as initially we had been informed by the accountant that she would be done by the end of June. Mr Jones has been constantly harassing the accountant with phone calls and visits to see RJC books which they declined to do as they had been instructed and paid by RJC. This is causing all concerned a lot of stress and in fact the accountants threatened at one time to stop midway and hand everything back, all because of the harassment from Jones,” said Mrs Mead-King.
Residents at Barham Green, in a series of interviews said the on-going infighting will certainly have a negative effect on the running of community services and care of the elderly who live at the RJC.
“We appreciate their work as far as being leaders of the CCDF committee, but we are concerned on how they treat workers at the Rhodes Jubilee Cottages. Workers said they are constantly harassed and their immediate concerns such as salaries and general welfare are not met,” said a source who preferred not be named, for fear of being victimised.
The issue has caught the attention of the Bulawayo Help Network, who have written to the RJC committee advising them not to panic.
“It has come to our attention that the committee at Rhodes Jubilee Cottages, comprising chairlady Maureen Mead-King, vice-chairman Nicholas Finch, Brian Bel, Alison De Souza, Thelma De Souza and Shirley Paul is feeling threatened. Bulawayo Help Network wishes to make it absolutely clear that our relationship with the current committee has been transparent and accountable,” read the letter gleaned by Sunday News.
Efforts to get comment from Mr Jones were fruitless but he responded to Mrs Mead-King’s resignation through a letter gleaned by Sunday News.