Auxilia Katongomara, Chronicle Reporter
LEGISLATORS have said the Government has taken too long to buy them service vehicles with the issue being among the most topical during the ongoing 2019 Parliamentary pre-budget seminar in Bulawayo.
Government in October announced that it would defer the purchase of new vehicles for MPs as part of austerity measures being spearheaded by Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube.
The country has about 350 legislators combining the National Assembly and the Senate and they are all entitled to vehicles which they are supposed to use in servicing their constituencies.
Government is expected to shell out more than $20 million to buy new vehicles for the 350 legislators.
In his presentation, the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development, Cde Felix Mhona (Zanu-PF), emphasised that MPs needed vehicles.
“Honourable Speaker Sir, purchasing of vehicles for our honourable members is not a luxury, these are our tools of the trade. So we are saying honourable members must be given their tools,” he said drawing applause from legislators across the political divide.
Mutare Central MP, Mr Innocent Gonese, said they were entitled to their vehicles.
“I believe that when we look at the question of vehicles, MPs are entitled to vehicles and let’s submit that apart from those five appointed outside Parliament, my view is let’s have a one vehicle policy, one durable vehicle for all members.
“This will bring to an end the business of having those in the Executive having a Parliamentary vehicle as well as two other vehicles and those two other vehicles are the ones which are ultra-luxurious like your Range Rover Vogue or Range Rover Autobiography,” he said.
In a rare show of unity between MPs from both the ruling Zanu-PF party and main opposition MDC, the legislators said their vehicles were also a top priority in the budget and the Finance Minister has to expedite their purchase.
They said they preferred off road vehicles which would enable them to navigate the rough terrain in their constituencies.
Responding to the legislators, Prof Ncube said he understands that MPs need to be given their vehicles.
“I am on the side of making sure that you get your vehicles, but we have been debating as to whether we give you a 100 percent loan, partial loan or zero loans so we have that action on the table but either way vehicles are on the way,” he said.
Reserve Bank Governor Dr John Mangudya told the legislators the demand for foreign currency was crippling the economy and even legislators’ vehicles required foreign currency.
“If the expenditure is coming, it also has to be funded. Right now you are asking about your vehicles, those vehicles are imported also and they need foreign currency. This country does not make vehicles.
“I agree that these are your tools of trade; very good tools of the trade but those tools of the trade shall end up in my office looking for foreign currency. If the Minister says let’s look for foreign currency, I will look for it and buy your vehicles,” said Dr Mangudya.