THE cash-strapped government has splashed millions of dollars on more than 300 top-of-the-range vehicles, which include Toyota Fortuners, Ford Rangers and Toyota Corollas to appease security bosses ahead of the general elections next year, the Zimbabwe Independent can exclusively reveal.
By Wongai Zhangazha/Elias Mambo
Government officials revealed the latest consignment of cars is being allocated to senior army chiefs, who include Air Force of Zimbabwe wing commanders and Zimbabwe National Army lieutenants-colonels, in a move widely seen as a coup-proofing measure.
The government sources said the vehicles will also be allocated to various military units.
“Senior police officers are getting Ford Rangers while some members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) will be given Toyota Corollas and Toyota Fortuners will go to assistant directors,” the official said.
Two months ago, the CIO took delivery of new Datsun vehicles, while top-of-the-range vehicles were given to intelligence bosses.
According to the sources, Toyota Fortuner SUVs, which are being delivered to the securocrats, cost US$75 000 each while Ford Rangers double cabs depending on the model, are valued between US$53 000 and US$89 000 each. Toyota Corollas range from US$25 000 to US$29 000 per vehicle.
Some of the newly acquired vehicles are being kept at the Zimbabwe National Army’s Harare Base Workshops Ordinance Supply From Depot in Msasa, awaiting allocation.
“The new vehicles will be used to fulfil a backlog in the allocation of cars to lieutenants-colonels and other senior officers. However, this has been largely seen as a way to appease the securocrats ahead of the 2018 elections,” a senior government official said.
The purchase of the new vehicles comes at a time ordinary Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet due to the deteriorating economic environment, which has resulted in company closures, job losses as well as a tight liquidity crunch and cash shortages.
The government is also failing to provide adequate social services, including adequate health care as well as water and sanitation facilities.
Zimbabwe National Army public relations director Lieutenant-Colonel Alphios Makotore refused to comment, referring questions to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces spokesperson Colonel Overson Mugwisi.
When asked to comment, Mugwisi requested written questions, but had not responded by the time of going to print.
The procurement of the cars comes a few months after government bought vehicles for the police, including two buses, 25 Ford Ranger single-cab trucks and 28 Ford Fiesta B-Cars worth US$1 million. The cars were purchased in October 2016.
In July 2015, government acquired 633 vehicles, which included all-terrain troop-carrying trucks, water cannons, buses and equipment, mostly used by military and police, worth an estimated US$50 million.
In May 2015, Mugabe officially commissioned a fleet of 97 vehicles at a ceremony at Morris Depot. The fleet included 77 trucks and 20 buses.
Since the 2013 general elections, the government has been buying military equipment as it secretly bolsters its instruments of repression to combat any possible Arab spring-style uprising due to the explosive socio-economic situation in the country, while also appeasing security chiefs.
The security sector has traditionally played an important role in propping up Mugabe’s regime, particularly during elections. The military is credited with masterminding Zanu PF’s brutal 2008 presidential run-off poll campaign, which saw Mugabe retain power after his fierce rival, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the polls citing violence and intimidation.
Tsvangirai had won the first round of elections.
Army personnel also took charge of Zanu PF primary elections in 2013 with some officers actively involved in drumming up support for the party ahead of the harmonised elections by, among other actions engaging chiefs on its behalf.
Apart from splashing millions of dollars on cars for security bosses, the government has been spending huge sums on vehicles for cabinet ministers and senior government officials.
Early this year the government splurged about US$20 million on cars for top government officials, pointing to systematic self-aggrandisement and patronage by the current administration.
Cabinet ministers currently have top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz sedans, Range Rovers and Land Cruisers. Deputy ministers have the latest all-terrain Mazda BT50s as well as Mercedes-Benz sedans.
Government sources said ministers, who already have several luxury vehicles amid mass poverty and suffering, are given the option to purchase the cars at 10% of original value after two years or if the vehicles have clocked more than 100 000 kilometres.
Government sells vehicles at “book value” — a token, giveaway amount.