Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
TSHOLOTSHO Rural District Council has bought a state-of-the-range Toyota Twin Cab vehicle at a time when the local authority has had a number of buildings razed by infernos due to the unavailability of a fire tender. It has also emerged that Council removed from its list of priorities, the purchase of a fire tender and an ambulance.
While the Deputy Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Honourable Marian Chombo said the vehicle was for the council chairperson, Tsholotsho RDC chairperson Councillor Esau Siwela refuted that and said the vehicle was for the chief executive officer.
In the last seven years, property worth thousands of US dollars was destroyed by fires at Tsholotsho Business Centre, with the local authority sending an SOS to the Bulawayo City Council, 115km away for fire tenders which would arrive more than three hours later with massive damage already done.
In 2015, a local businessman and Tsholotsho Football Club owner, Mandla Manyathela, lost property worth more than US$300 000 after his supermarket and butchery were gutted by fire.
Five years later, Family Choice Supermarket was also razed and in March this year, a Better Schools Programme of Zimbabwe building had its entire roof and property inside completely destroyed following an electrical fault induced fire.
The purchase of the vehicle was revealed by Deputy Minister Chombo while on a visit to Chief Sigola’s homestead in Umzingwane district, Matabeleland South province on Tuesday.
She said corruption in local authorities was of serious concern to the Government and had seen her Ministry firing at least one official every other month.
Deputy Minister Chombo was particularly incensed by the purchase of the GD6 at a time the council was failing to provide local chiefs, custodians of the land, with fuel in order for them to properly execute their duties.
“The issue of traditional leaders is so dear to my heart. I was in Tsholotsho with Chiefs Tategulu, Mathuphula and Dlodlo, and the issues they raised pained me.
Some of them walked very long distances yet they have vehicles but their plight was on fuel, their cars are not serviced and yet outside the Tsholotsho Council offices, there was a brand-new Toyota GD6 vehicle with its interior still covered in plastic and this state-of-the-art vehicle was for the council chairperson,” said Deputy Minister Chombo.
While council claims that the vehicle was part of a resolution by the Association of Rural District Councils in Zimbabwe, the president of the association, Alderman David Mutasa said it was not cast in stone that councils must adhere to those resolutions.
He said they want council chairpersons to receive vehicles for effective execution of their mandate but that must be based on affordability.
“We never made such a resolution, yes, we advocated for chairpersons to have vehicles but we were clear that it should be based on affordability and must not blur service delivery,” said Ald Mutasa who is also the president of the Zimbabwe Local Government Association.
Contacted for comment, Clr Siwela said it was not true that the vehicle was his before going on to threaten to deal with this reporter’s family.
“If you write that the council chair said the vehicle is for the CEO it’s okay but what concerns me is that you guys always come to Tsholotsho and write your own things. If it means your family or whoever is working in Tsholotsho I will deal with that, I am a man too,” he said.