GOVERNMENT has once again splurged millions of dollars on luxury cars, including Mercedes Benz and SUVs, for 10 Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and 24 deputy ministers at a time when the country is experiencing a serious liquidity crunch and Treasury is broke.
Zimbabwe is also grappling food shortages, with more than two million people reportedly in need of food aid. Service delivery remains poor or non-existent, while schools and hospitals as well as other public facilities are severely underfunded.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent show government bought Mercedes Benz E350 sedans, Toyota Land Cruisers and Range Rover Sport vehicles for provincial ministers and deputy ministers earlier this month.
"The Mercedes Benz E350 sedans were distributed to provincial state ministers while the Range Rovers and the Toyota Land Cruisers were allocated to the deputy ministers. The deputy ministers will also be given their luxury sedans soon," said a highly-placed official source.
Checks by the Independent showed car dealers were selling the Range Rover Sport for between US$130 000 and $160 000, depending on specifications while 2012 models of the Mercedes Benz sedan were going for around US$130 000 each.
A Toyota Land Cruiser VX200 is selling at an average price of US$138 000.
President Robert Mugabe's birthday bash at Rudhaka stadium in Marondera last Sunday provided an opportunity for both deputy ministers and provincial affairs ministers to showcase their spanking new acquisitions as the small farming town was invaded by VIPs driving top-of-the-range vehicles some of which were still to be registered.
Among the unregistered vehicles were Ford Rangers T6 3.2 Ltd 4×4 and double cab (automatic). The vehicles are being sold for between $55 000 and $60 000 on the market.
In a move which further shows government's skewed priorities and insensitive abuse of public funds, the latest expenditure comes after Treasury has already spent a fortune to acquire new vehicles for the 26 cabinet ministers and top civil servants.Government is struggling to pay civil servants even though the wage bill chews up to 70% of its revenues. Soon after winning the elections, the government also bought new vehicles for security sector bosses in what was seen as a thank you gesture for the role they played in the polls. Police officers from the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner were allocated double cab Ford Rangers.
While government continues to splash out on vehicles, thereby maintaining the luxurious lifestyles of the chefs who live beyond their means, ordinary Zimbabweans, including civil servants, are finding life difficult to cope in the prevailing harsh economic climate.
Government has failed to fund a substantial increase in civil servants salaries since dollarisation in 2009 despite repeated calls for poverty datum line-related pays. Company closures and resultant job losses have become the order of the day.