The effectiveness of the Cheer Fund, formerly The Mayor’s Christmas Cheer Fund, has been questioned by seasoned council workers who claim to have been shut out of its operations by the board.
The Cheer Fund is the City’s social responsibility arm, and has a long legacy of colourful fundraising activities held all year round but strongest at Christmas. The Fund regularly gives to charity, donating groceries and paying school fees where needed. But according to some, there appears to be a decline in the vibrancy of the Cheer Fund as compared to years gone by.
A council worker, who declined to be named, and was involved with the Cheer Fund in the past, attributed the decline in the Fund’s activities to the new system introduced two years ago by the new board. He explained that the board had taken control of the Cheer Fund away from council workers despite the new board being “inexperienced”.
“As a result, the Cheer Fund is no longer generating the attention it used to do during former mayor Muchadeyi Masunda’s tenure. At one point, the Fund raised more than $300,000 and rarely would two months pass without the Cheer Fund making any donations. But it seems the donations are drying up. Council employees are the ones who were in contact with most of the donors but it seems the board is now side-lining them,” explained the council employee.
“I think the board is trying to privatise the Cheer Fund because it has employed a former board member to do the secretariat’s duties. This is costly to the Fund as this salary will chew up some of the funds raised for charity. It was more logical for the Cheer Fund to continue utilising the free services that were being provided by council employees as they are already on a payroll,” he added.
When contacted for comment, patron of the Cheer Fund Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni disputed the claims, saying that things were progressing well and confirming that the board was using a new system meant to strengthen the Fund’s effectiveness.
“We have tried to run the Cheer Fund far from Town House because it is the community side of the mayor’s office, and when there are negative issues around Town House we try and minimise the contagion so it doesn’t affect the Cheer Fund. That is why most of the Cheer Fund’s activities almost seem under the radar, but it is functioning well,” said the Mayor.
The Mayor added that he did not have facts and figures about the current activities of the Cheer Fund off hand, but said that the Cheer Fund hosted a successful fundraising dinner in October that raised more than $20,000 for charity. Manyenyeni also denied claims that the board had employed someone to replace the secretariat.
Chairperson of the Fund Tendayi Mashingaidze said that the new board was still on a learning curve as 85% of the people on the board are new members who have served for less than a year. Mashingaidze said that in spite of this, the Cheer Fund’s work was progressing well.
“To date the Cheer Fund has hosted a successful High Tea, Golf Day and Dinner in the last year, and concrete plans for various fundraising activities for 2016 have been put in place. While the Cheer Fund may seem less visible than in the past, its impact is still being felt by those whose lives are touched by it,” said Mashingaidze.
Image: Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni
Image credit: Harry Davies