HARARE – Treasury is set to splash over $20 million on top-of-the range vehicles for Members of Parliament and Senators in the ninth Parliament.
This is at a time when government is struggling to mobilise resources to contain a cholera outbreak that has since been declared a national disaster.
The Daily News is reliably informed that government is considering acquiring Toyota Hilux double cabs, Isuzu KB D-tech or Toyota Land Cruiser 200 series for the lawmakers, valued between $60 000 and $180 000 each.
Considering that the bicameral Parliament has a total of 350 MPs and Senators, at least $21 million would be spent on the legislators in hard currency.
During the eighth Parliament, the lawmakers were mostly given Ford Rangers valued at $35 000 each with those requiring vehicles valued above that having to top up on their own.
The purchase of the off-road monsters is likely to raise a lot of dust for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration which has been calling for belt-tightening measures to revive the country’s economy.
Government is often accused of unbridled profligate spending on perks for ministers and other government officials while turning a blind eye to the plight of ordinary citizens who are wallowing in poverty.
Contacted for comment yesterday, the Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda said they would only have a clearer picture of the vehicle requirements for the ninth Parliament once the committee on standing rules and orders has looked into the matter.
The committee is chaired by the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda.
“For now, we don’t know what they (MPs) will be given because the committee on standing rules that is responsible for that has not said anything yet,” Chokuda said.
Anticipating brisk business, car dealers have lately been aggressively marketing their vehicles to lawmakers of the ninth Parliament, and officials responsible for procurement.
Outside the Parliament Building in Harare, car dealers have been displaying some of their brands on offer.
MP for Mabvuku-Tafara James Chidakwa confirmed to the Daily News that legislators were being approached by the car dealers, enticing them to go for their brands.
“We do not know what sort of vehicles we will be given yet but we saw the companies advertising when we were voting for presiding officers. Some even spoke to us, encouraging us to take certain brands,” Chidakwa said.
Critics have previously urged government to shun imports when acquiring vehicles for public servants to preserve the little foreign currency in the banking system.
Some have suggested that government should purchase its vehicles from the struggling Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries (WMMI) to stimulate local production.
WMMI, the country’s largest car assembly plant, is currently struggling under the weight of crippling debt and declining sales volumes caused by a spectacular meltdown in its diversified motor industry that has put more than 200 jobs at risk.
In 2013, Parliament’s portfolio committee on State Enterprises and Parastatals Management on Industrial Development Enterprises recommended an urgent bail-out for the firm, but the calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
Although the company has vast machinery at its disposal, there is no production taking place and the workshops are deserted, leaving the company with no option but to pay idle workers and other unavoidable fixed costs.
Despite a strong Buy Zimbabwe lobby, bigwigs in government, including MPs, prefer to spend on top-of-the-range imports.
The National Assembly consists of 270 MPs out of which 210 are elected directly in constituencies spread across the country.
The remaining 60 are selected through a quota for women who are chosen on the basis of proportional representation.
The Senate comprises 80 Senators, six of whom are elected from each of the 10 provinces on the basis of proportional representation.
Eighteen of the Senators are Chiefs including the president and deputy president of the National Council of Chiefs and two are from each of the eighth provinces excluding the metropolitan provinces.
The final two are special seats reserved for representation of persons living with disabilities.