By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
05 March 2014
The decision by the ZANU PF government to acquire luxury vehicles for its ministers has outraged legislators who have not been allocated a single vehicle since they assumed office seven months ago.
The issue arose during the ongoing parliamentary debate on corruption, when legislators unanimously called for the government to provide them with vehicles to enable them to effectively carry out their duties.
Last month the government bought Mercedes Benz E350 sedans, Toyota Land Cruisers and Range Rover Sport vehicles for 10 provincial ministers and 24 deputy ministers, the weekly Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported Friday.
The vehicles cost an estimated $130,000 for a Mercedes Benz, up to $160,000 for the Range Rover Sport and $140,000 for a Toyota Land Cruiser.
ZANU PF has already spent $20 million on top-of-the-range vehicles for its 26 Cabinet ministers.
“Members of Parliament are not demanding vehicles because they are being demeaned as is being reported, but they are saying give us what is due to us,” Mabvuku Tafara legislator James Maridadi told SW Radio Africa.
Maridadi said every legislator is entitled to a vehicle for use in their constituency during their five-year term in office.
“MPs don’t get given vehicles as such but they get a loan to purchase one and have to pay back these loans. This is unlike the ministers’ benefit where they are allocated two luxury vehicles which they don’t pay for.
“All we are saying is that the loans and the vehicles must be made available so that MPs can do their constituency work without hindrance. There is nothing scandalous at all in what we are asking for.”
Ministers also get a third vehicle under the same loan scheme as the MPs.
The Mabvuku MP said there was consensus in the House that the government was neglecting them while showing preferential treatment to ministers.
“Within 48 hours of being appointed, ministers had received their entitlements while elected MPs continue to struggle to get fuel coupons.
“Since I was elected, I haven’t received a penny as sitting allowance and I have only received fuel about five times, but ministers get their allocations accordingly.”
Maridadi said it was clear that government did not consider the legislature important “and this is wrong, the people should come first and luxuries second.”
The MP said they did not understand what the hold-up is in releasing loans.
The ZANU PF administration has been saying that Treasury has no money for essential projects, so this latest spend on luxury vehicles for party stalwarts raises eyebrows.
Running into millions, the spending comes amid a multi-million dollar birthday and wedding for President Mugabe and his daughter – whose funding sources have not been adequately explained.
In the Masvingo District, thousands of families displaced by floods at Tokwe-Mukosi are without tents and food, following more flooding at Chingwizi where they are temporarily sheltered.
Millions others are on the verge of starvation, with a cash-strapped United Nations issuing an appeal to raise $60 million to feed hungry Zimbabweans.
Lowly paid teachers are yet to receive their backdated wage increments despite several promises from the government and Mugabe himself.
Service delivery has ground to a halt, with poor service and infrastructure haunting the country’s hospitals and schools. It is being left up to western donors to try and ensure that some essential services remain functional.
From this month, the British will be paying school fees for 250,000 poor children, while the Americans are heavily involved in the Tokwe-Mukosi disaster relief.