PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government yesterday suspended plans to buy new vehicles for the new Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament and channelled the money towards fighting the cholera epidemic, which has claimed 32 lives and infected over 7 000 people in and outside Harare in the past two weeks.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, who yesterday launched a health crowd-funding campaign to raise almost $64 million to fight the cholera outbreak, confirmed the new austerity measures, saying government had decided to prioritise citizens’ health above bureaucrats’ luxury perks.
“That is exactly what we have done. This $15 million that the government has paid is exactly that. We have had to suspend certain things to make sure that we deal with this endemic immediately. That is exactly what we have done,” Ncube told journalists at the health crowdfund launch.
“Of course, there is still a gap, but it is not an immediate gap (but), it’s a long-term gap in the sense that we need further investment in the (health) sector. For that again there will be a further outlay of government resources plus resources from partners and we are already talking to them about contributing to the $35 million long-term funding.”
Cabinet ministers are entitled to top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz sedans, Range Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers.
Deputy ministers are entitled to the
latest all-terrain Mazda BT50s as well as Mercedes-Benz sedans.
Mnangagwa’s government has 20 Cabinet ministers, 13 deputies, 10 Provincial Affairs ministers and two Ministers of State in Vice-Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi’s offices.
Government is expected to shell out over $20 million to buy new vehicles for the 350 legislators.
Ncube defended his decision to crowdfund for the health sector, saying the practice was common in most developed countries, and assured contributors that their money would be properly accounted for.
He said more needed to be done in terms of creating immediate and long-term solutions to the cholera scourge.
The new Treasury boss said they had since raised $29 million in pledges, with government contributing about
$15,7 million towards the cause.
Several corporates donated various amounts and materials to fight cholera, among them Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, National Foods, OK Zimbabwe, Delta Corporation, Spar Zimbabwe, Zimplats, Ecobank, Environmental Management Agency, Southern Region Trading, Rainbow Tourism Group, Grain Millers Association, Premier Service Medical Investments, Pharmaceuticals Society and TelOne, among others.
Ncube said his Health counterpart Obadiah Moyo had assured him that enough measures had been put in place to curb further spread of the “medieval” waterborne disease, with the number of new infections sharply dropping from about 500 to 100 per day.
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said some of the measures include discouraging handshakes.
“We need to change our habits. I know it’s very rude when someone extends their hand and you don’t shake them, it might be very unfair,” he said.
“Therefore, we have changed the way we greet so that we don’t really clutch each other’s hand.”