Several opposition parties and civic society leaders have attacked the Zimbabwean government for buying more than 230 new vehicles for traditional chiefs, saying the country should have used the money to purchase drugs for struggling hospitals or engage in other programs.
They noted that the move is designed to influence chiefs to support President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party in the 2018 general elections.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere announced the care deal on Thursday, saying the government purchased 226 vehicles outside the country in order to make it easy for traditional leaders to travel in their areas of jurisdiction.
Kasukukwere, who did not reveal the total cost of the vehicles, noted that 20 of the vehicles are already in the country.
An Isuzu double twin cab listed in South Africa’s Isuzu website costs $365,600 (US$25,670). Observers say if the vehicles were purchased via the website, they cost Zimbabwe $5,801.420.
Chiefs are expected to hold a traditional leaders’ meeting in Bulawayo on Friday.
Chiefs National Council leader Fortune Charumbira dismissed suggestions that the vehicles are designed to influence them to support the ruling party in the forthcoming elections, stressing that the government has a constitution mandate to buy them cars.
Zimbabwe started buying vehicles for chiefs a couple of years ago but critics say the cars are normally bought ahead of crucial elections.
Chiefs have over the years been accused of coercing people in rural areas to vote for the ruling party in council, parliamentary, senatorial and presidential elections.