Zimbabwe: Traditional chiefs fight with MPs over luxury cars for respect

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Traditional leaders in the southern African country of Zimbabwe are demanding improved allowances and top of the range Mercedes Benz vehicles so as to gain the “respect” of their “subjects” reports say. They are making the demands to a broke inclusive govenment that is struggling to pay decent wages to civil servants.

The traditional leaders from the Midlands province told a “national healing” meeting that the incentives “will spur them to perform better”.

A representative of Chief Chirumanzu told National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration co-ministers John Nkomo, Gibson Sibanda and Sekai Holland: “It is difficult to understand why an MP or even a Deputy Minister drives a better car than a chief. As chiefs we should command better respect than MPs.

“At times we get delayed to important meetings because of the kind of
vehicles we use. We need better cars such as Mercedes Benz to improve
service delivery. I do not think this will cost the government that much especially given the kind of work we do for our people” he said.

Added another lower village leader, “The government does not take us
seriously. Our allowances need to be reviewed upwards. In my area, I
have so many teachers based there, more than 200 I think. How then do
I control them if I get an allowance that is below their salary? We need better remuneration for us to be respected.”

Nkomo told the chiefs: “We will take the issues you raised with us to Harare to our principals for consideration.”

Before the inclusive government cheifs were pampered by Robert Mugabe’s regime in exchange for patronage and votes. Their monthy allowances were higher than most civil servants. But all this have been reduced as government can not afford to waste money. There are over 100 traditional chiefs in the country.

$30 000 car bonuses

The chiefs’ demands come in the wake of reports that members of
parliament are refusing to return vehicles they grabbed from the central bank. This is despite being given US$30 000 each to purchase cars of their choice.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe(RBZ) lent 50 previously used vehicles to the MPs while waiting for the Ministry of Finance to revive a government loan scheme for parliamentarians.

The government angered Zimbabweans when it agreed to provide the MPs
US$30 000 each to buy new cars at a time the unity government was
struggling to raise money for basic services and salaries for civil servants.

The majority of the MPs had by last week taken delivery of the new vehicles bought from several car dealers in Harare but continued to hold on to the RBZ cars. This means that they will have two cars during their five-year terms, which is unprecedented.

Sources said the MPs were now demanding that the RBZ cars be sold to
them at book value. “We must be given these cars for free or at least the RBZ should sell them to us at book value because we spent the whole of last year without salaries,” said one MP. “In fact, there are already high-level talks concerning this matter. That’s why we have not rushed to return the cars.”

The MDC-T led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai ordered its MPs who
had taken delivery of the RBZ cars to return them as Finance Minister,
Tendai Biti insisted the central bank had overstepped its mandate.

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