ZIMBABWE’s new government has splashed close to US$20 million on luxury cars, including Mercedes Benz and SUVs for 26 cabinet ministers, 13 ministers of state and 24 deputies at a time when more than two million people are reportedly facing starvation.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent showed government bought top of the range Mercedes Benz E350 sedans and Toyota Land Cruisers VX200 for ministers and deputies who yesterday received either a Land Rover Discovery SUV, a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux 4×4 double cab each.
While it may be difficult to quantify the exact cost, a survey by the Independent shows that car dealers are selling 2012 models of the Mercedes Benz sedan at around US$130 000 each, Toyota Land Cruiser VX200 at an average US$138 000, Ford Rangers at an average US$55 000 while Toyota Hilux 4×4 double cabs cost between US$55 000 and US$60 000.
A senior minister said: “I received my two cars this week, a Mercedes Benz E350 and a Toyota Land Cruiser VX200.”
A deputy minister confirmed: “I am collecting my own (vehicles) this afternoon (yesterday). I have been told I am getting a Land Rover Discovery and a double cab –– a Ford Ranger or a Toyota 4×4.”
Ministers in the just-ended coalition government took home Mercedes Benzes, Prados, Jeep Cherokees and Range Rovers for paltry amounts such as US$7 000 for two vehicles. In addition to the US$20 million, the government is also expected to fork out close to US$11 million for MPs.
Last year, legislators were allocated US$30 000 each to purchase vehicles and assuming the figure remains the same, government will spend a total of US$10,65 million for the 275 National Assembly members. This will also include the five non-constituency members, and 80 senators.
The delivery of the vehicles comes hard on the heels of a recent report by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) which estimates 2,2 million people –– a quarter of the country’s rural population –– are in need of food aid due to a poor harvest realised in the last cropping season.
The millions being spent on vehicles, plus the civil servants salary rise which government has promised, are expected to further bleed the depleted fiscus.
Civil servants’ salaries were gobbling close to US2,6 billion in 2012, translating to 70% of the government’s total revenue collections.