Shall I use the Merc or the 4×4 today?

Government defends its luxury gifts for judges



How do you justify splashing out US$800,000 on plasma TVs, Mercs and generators for the judges in a country suffering from chronic food shortages? This was the government’s challenge this week.

Senior judges of the High Court and Labour Court were pampered with new 32-inch plasma TV sets and satellite dishes last month. The Chief Justice and Judge President did even better, each receiving 42-inch high-definition (HD) plasma screens.

A total of 16 new Mercedes-Benz E280 cars, worth an estimated US$40,000 each, were also handed out, and judges received generators to cushion them against frequent power cuts caused by Zimbabwe’s failing infrastructure.

To spare judges the pain of driving their Mercs over rough ground to get to their farms, they were also given utility vehicles, including Toyota and Isuzu trucks. In many cases, the farms themselves – grabbed from white farmers – had also been a gift from Mugabe to ensure loyalty to the military junta.

The perks, handed out by Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, sparked outrage in a country reeling from chronic shortages of food and other essentials.

Critics also said the central bank had no business making donations to the judiciary, as this was outside its scope of monetary policy formulation and regulation.

Gono defended the move, saying the donation was lawful under the Reserve Bank Act.

This week, Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs David Mangota said: “The ingenuity of some members of our society is quite amazing. Where judges, who constitute one of the three arms of the state, are under-provided, people readily criticise government for not looking after the judiciary.

“Where it, through the central bank, improves judges’ conditions of service, the same people are once again quick to fault-find and criticise government for looking after the welfare of its judges,” he added.

Senior army commanders who spearheaded the brutal crackdown against MDC supporters have also been rewarded with all-terrain luxury vehicles. Members of the Joint Operations Command have each been given twin-cab Toyota Hilux Vigos, worth around US$30,000.

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