Gweru Mayor Josiah Makombe has rejected a $150 000 Mercedes Benz earmarked for him as an official vehicle and also vowed to block plans to buy top-of-the-range vehicles for the city’s top six directors.
By Brenna Matendere
Following an exposé by Southern Eye on Wednesday of the intended purchases of a Mercedes Benz and 4X4 vehicles that were put forward by management as part of the 2019 budget, Makombe convened a hastily arranged Press conference at town house to make the announcements.
“We are not going to buy the vehicles. The directors are entitled to the cars by virtue of their contracts,” he said.
“But I will politely inform them that vehicles will only be bought when we have fulfilled our obligations on service delivery, such as maintenance of street lights, smooth water and sewer services as well as road rehabilitation. These are the immediate priorities my council will put first.”
Makombe publicly rejected plans to buy him a $150 000 Mercedes Benz that had been included in Gweru’s expenditure for next year.
“I will be a fool to accept such an expensive car in view of the pressing matters that we have here at council. Above all, that so called Mercedes will not add any value to my life because I am just a ceremonial mayor,” he said.
“That means I will not drive it personally or even take it home after work. It will just be taking me to council business events and come back to be parked at town house. So, I do not see any reason why I should accept purchase of the Mercedes. Besides, I also have several of my own cars, not one or two, but actually four,” he said.
The mayor said he would be comfortable moving around in pool cars at town house.
The itemised expenditures that had been set for 2019 budget submission were presented to thematic committees and key stakeholders by the finance director, Edgar Mwedzi, on Monday.
The plans were to buy six all-terrain 4×4 vehicles — at $85 000 each — for the five department heads, Mwedzi (Finance), Sam Sekenhamo (Health Services), Shingirayi Tigere (Housing and Community Services) and Robson Manase (Engineering Services) as well as town clerk Elizabeth Gwatipedza and chamber secretary Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe.
Following publication of the intended extravagance, residents took to social media to vent their anger over the planned purchases of the cars, saying it was equivalent to partying amid penury.
The residents also indicated that they would not be motivated to pay their bills due to the extravagance.
Charles Mazorodze, the Gweru Residents Forum chairperson, welcomed the stance by Makombe.
“We welcome the remarks by the mayor withdrawing from the previous indication to purchase the luxurious Mercedes Benz to the tune of $150 000,” he said.
“But as residents we urge him and his fellow councillors to make it a resolution of council so that is binding and not subject to alteration, because a mere pronouncement is not binding in any way. The directors are currently using all-terrain vehicles that were bought less than five years ago, so we feel they are still fine.”