GWERU City Council management has put forward an expenditure of $660 000 to go towards the purchase of all-terrain 4×4 vehicles for top officials and a posh Mercedes Benz for mayor Josiah Makombe.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE
The itemised expenditures are included in the 2019 budget submission presented to thematic committees and key stakeholders by the finance director Edgar Mwedzi this week. Management intends to buy six all-terrain 4×4 vehicles — at $85 000 each — for the five department heads, Mwedzi (Finance), Sam Sekenhamo (Health Services), Shingirayi Tigere (Housing and Community Services) and Robson Manase (Engineering Services) as well as town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza and chamber secretary Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe.
Council also intends to purchase a Mercedes Benz C class for mayor Makombe at a cost of $150 000.
Gwatipedza confirmed the plans and said since appointment in 2016, she and the city council directors have not been given brand new vehicles, which were part of their conditions of service.
“Yes, the plan is to include purchase of the vehicles in the 2019 budget. Gweru city recruited directors in 2016 and since then, no vehicles were purchased for them. As you may be aware, before April 2016, it was only the director of finance who was substantive,” she said.
Gweru Residents Forum chairperson Charles Mazorodze, however, immediately shot back at the plans to spend big on the vehicles, saying council must prioritise service delivery problems bedevilling the city.
“The proposed purchase of a luxurious mayoral Benz C Class to the tune of $150 000 for mayor Makombe and six 4×4 vehicles for city directors is an insult to residents, especially considering the serious financial crisis of revenue income at council. The plans come at a time when the road network system is in a deplorable state and the traffic lights in the central business district are all not working,” he said.
“The city is grappling with the typhoid outbreak and the rehabilitation of the public toilet systems is at its low in the city. Water and sewer services need serious funding to resuscitate them. These are areas where money must be channelled to instead of the cars.” He said it was better to channel the money towards purchase of more skip bins to tackle the erratic garbage collection problem in suburbs.
Makombe, however, told Southern Eye that the proposed purchases were still being discussed at management level, but he also expressed concern over such extravagance.
“We are yet to sit down with councillors to deliberate on those figures, but there is no way we can buy cars at such expensive prices. Our priorities as of now are water and service delivery for our residents,” he said.
“I think the planned cost of a car for my use is too much. I do not even think a Merc will do for a mayor who is not executive. What is needed is a car to use, but not an expensive one.”
He rubbished reports that council management intended to pamper him with the vehicle so he would not fight the plans to purchase the vehicles.
“I am principled and I will not go that route if that is what they think. I will put service delivery first, and above all, I have my own cars and so I cannot be enticed by one,” he said.
Cecil Zvidzai, the MDC Alliance national secretary for local government, declined to comment on the matter, but indicated that he would engage the councillors and management as “an interested stakeholder”.
The proposed 2019 budget is pegged at $44 million. Gweru is financially crippled and between January and August this year managed to collect $12 080 149 out of a targeted $38 533 380.