THE clandestine purchase of 50 top of the range vehicles by Harare City Council (HCC) worth over $2 million using part of the $144,4 million loan facility secured from China at a time service delivery has plummeted is deplorable.
Zimbabweans wonder how Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo can then defend such an act of insensitivity by public officials.
Whether the council officials who benefited from the largesse are involved in the water project or not, is neither here nor there – this is corruption at its worst, and council must be censured for this.
It is no secret that HCC has failed to provide clean water in Harare because of clandestine deals its top officials use to line up their pockets.
As a result of the poor provision of service to the majority, President Robert Mugabe recently appointed a Cabinet taskforce to deal with the critical water situation prevailing not only in Harare but across all major cities, districts and town centres.
Why HCC purchased 50 vehicles when the project reportedly required only eight is anybody’s guess.
Given that the Chinese loan is shrouded in controversy with reports that council inflated the figures to cater for “kickbacks to various” unidentified stakeholders, it is imperative an investigation be instituted into the whole loan fiasco.
The timing of vehicles scandal is a way by HCC to divert public attention from poor service delivery and justify the unjustifiable especially when it is understood that the water project required only between $80-$100 million instead of the $144,2 million that the HCC got.
It is regrettable that the vehicle scandal is happening at a time the municipality has not yet recovered from Chombo’s directive to slash all debts for urban voters to coerce them to vote for the ruling Zanu PF party during last year’s elections.
It is incumbent on HCC to explain the anxiety caused by the mix up as there is every indication that the millions of dollars extended by the Chinese are being abused rather than used for the intended purposes of paying for repairs to the capital’s water and sewage system.
One wonders whether the “misuse” of the Chinese loan was in compliant with the terms of the contract. There is also strong suspicion over the possibility of “duplication” of budget items.
It is time Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni explained this irregular purchase of the luxurious vehicles when service delivery is at its lowest ebb. Manyenyeni and town clerk Tendai Mahachi must also come clean on how many vehicles are budgeted for this year; and how many have been bought?
We urge government to institute an investigation into how the Chinese loan has been used so far to establish whether it was used for the benefit of the public or not.
Government cannot afford to ignore the extent of the rot at Town House as residents and ratepayers continue to bear the brunt of poor leadership in the capital.