Kuda Bwititi, Harare Bureau
Government is weighing the option of purchasing vehicles for ministers and parliamentarians from local vehicle assemblers to promote the domestic industry and reduce foreign currency expenditure in line with austerity measures being undertaken.
Local vehicle assemblers say such a move will create thousands of jobs and revive the vehicle assembling sector.
Quest Motors and Willowvale Motor Industries (WMI), which are country’s foremost vehicle assemblers say they have capacity to produce quality vehicles which match imported Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs).
The vehicle assemblers argue that Government is obliged to implement a directive issued by the Office of the President and Cabinet that compels them to purchase vehicles from local assemblers.
Many developed countries reserve locally produced vehicles for their Government officials; with the case in point being Britain which exclusively produces locally made Jaguars and Range Rovers for its Cabinet Ministers.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said in an interview that Government was considering buying the next batch of ministerial vehicles from local assemblers after suspending vehicle imports for the current crop.
“That is a very interesting proposition that we definitely have to consider,” he said. “What is of importance to note right now is that Government has not bought or ordered cars for ministers.
“Most of the ministers and permanent secretaries are driving vehicles that they had in the past or which are pool cars in their respective ministries or parastatals.”
Quest Motors operations manager Mr Tom Sarimani said the company had to scale down its operations owing to a low uptake from its biggest customer, the Government.
“Current manning levels are down to 120 people due to low take up from our previous biggest customer which was the Government and associated departments,” he said.
“Production per eight hour shift is 35 units, maximum output is 100 per day which is 22 000 units per year using current installed capacity. Max employment per shift is 1 500 workers, and 5 000 at full installed capacity.
“Downstream industry jobs that can be created is over 40 000. These facts can be verified by NEC records from that time.”
Mr Sarimani said his company had capacity to supply vehicles suitable for ministers and parliamentarians.
“We have quality vehicles for line ministries and MPs,” he said. “We are not new to this line of business as we used to supply the army, CMED, National Railways, police, etc, in the past.
“We have partnered with some of the biggest brands in China and in some cases the world and the quality of our product has not changed since we began production.
“This is evidenced by the number of units over 30 years old still in service today. In fact, quality has gone up due to investments in new equipment and better training.”
Mr Sarimani implored Government to go back to the drawing board and implement the standing directive from the OPC that encourages local purchase of vehicles.
WMI managing director, Engineer Dawson Mareya, said Government had expressed interest in purchasing locally assembled vehicles from his company and the matter was under deliberation.
“The matter you are referring to is currently under discussion with the relevant stakeholders,” he said.
“Any developments will be communicated. Willowvale Motor Industries has the capacity to meet the country’s automotive requirements given the necessary support.”
Deven Engineering managing director Mr Patrick Munyaradzi implored Government to support local industry in its drive to provide buses for the urban and rural mass transit system.
“The buses being imported must come in kit form for local assembly,” he said.
“Assembly fees will be paid in local currency, which means that we can save on foreign currency imports, while at the same time creating more people in our factories.”
Last month, Zanu-PF Members of Parliament resolved to forgo luxury vehicles and other privileges to allow Government to direct resources towards more pressing national needs.