Ministers not living in luxury: Tsvangirai

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has rejected suggestions that he has lost the political will to fight the extravagance rearing its ugly head among MDC members in the GNU.

Morgan Tsvangirai
Morgan Tsvangirai

"There is a wrong perception in this country that ministers, especially those from the MDC, are now living in luxury," Tsvangirai said. "Do you want ministers to go around doing government business on bicycles?

"I think we need to be fair in our criticism on excesses or indulgence of that nature. If we were to compare with other governments, you would see that our own ministers do not have welfare facilities like education for their families, which they are entitled to."

These were his first comments since fresh allegations were made about the scale of extravagance by the GNU, which claims it has blown a modest $1.5million on luxury vehicles for ministers and other top government officials. Critics say the expenditure is closer to $20million.

Lobbyists and observers have criticised the government for its "extravagant" spending on the luxury cars, when millions in the country need food aid.

Every minister has a spanking new Land Rover Discovery 4.

Critics say Tsvangirai's arrogant support for conspicuous consumption makes a mockery of poverty alleviation efforts, besides creating resentment in society.

"I think that it is misplaced and arrogant for the PM to make such a statement," said university student leader Collen Chibango.

"Everyone knows ministers are MPs, and already have two official cars – one ministerial and one as an MP. Why would they need more? Especially in the prevailing economic environment. No one is saying they should ride bicycles to work. This is just a case of misplaced priorities and defending unnecessary spending at the expense of the public."

The Coalition for the People's Charter said it was outraged by Tsvangirai's support for wasteful expenditure. They say there is a very thin line between wasteful expenditure and grand corruption and because of this senior MDC officials were now being perceived as corrupt.

Civil society has advised that Zimbabwe should copy the example of Rwanda, which has severely restricted the use of luxury cars by public officials.

Tsvangirai campaigned on a promise to stamp out the corruption and extravagance that had become the hallmark of Zanu (PF) rule. But critics say his deputies are now scoffing in the feeding trough with their Zanu (PF) colleagues.

Political analyst Blessing Vava said there was no disputing that ministers were entitled to vehicles, but there was no reason for one minister to get four official vehicles.

"Its very disappointing that the Prime Minister would utter such a statement, no one said they should not drive cars," Vava said. "To my understanding, legislators and senators were beneficiaries of the Mazda BT50 vehicles scheme. They also benefitted from Isuzu vehicles from Gideon Gono. Ministers also got a Mercedes Benz each – so in total they have four cars, plus the luxurious (Land Rover) Discovery.”

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