‘No money for chiefs’ 4x4s’

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Government has not made any funding available for chiefs to buy all-terrain vehicles this year at a time traditional leaders have heightened calls for a slice of State funds for their upkeep.

Addressing a Chiefs’ Council conference in Bulawayo last week, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo said: “We have failed to secure funding from the Treasury for the vehicle scheme for chiefs for this year.”

Chiefs have since last year been demanding 4×4 vehicles like Toyota Land Cruisers, saying the vehicles befit their status.

Chombo appealed to President Robert Mugabe to press the Finance Ministry to release funding for the vehicles for chiefs that he said deserve to be pampered for the role they play in the country.

President of the Chiefs’ Council Fortune Charumbira also said traditional leaders had not been paid their $300 monthly allowances for the past three months.

“We have also not been paid since December. How do chiefs survive without their allowances? We need those allowances.

“We could have easily gone on strike, but we are not trade unionists and we appeal to the government to look at this issue seriously,” Charumbira said.

Traditional leaders demanded an array of “perks” including diplomatic passports, control of the Constituency Development Funds that are given to parliamentarians to develop their constituencies, guns, boosters, electricity, cellphones, and money for booking at hotels when they travel outside their areas of jurisdiction.

Some chiefs have been instrumental in Mugabe’s victory in previous elections as they coerced their subjects to support him, threatening villagers with expulsion and violence.

In past general elections, Zanu PF doled out incentives, which critics have described as vote-buying.