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Cash-strapped Chitungwiza municipality to splash US$500 000 on cars

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The financially-hamstrung Chitungwiza Municipality will splash out nearly US$500 000 on top-of-the-range vehicles for its top managers at a time when it is failing to pay employees.

The vehicles range from relatively modest Toyota Hilux twin-cabs to the more luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser VX.

The purchases also come as the municipality is failing to pay off a US$281 000 debt for the repair of construction equipment, which has seen 10 earthmovers being held in lieu of payment since 2007.

Last week, it also emerged that the municipality was only billing about 50 000 out of 200 000 households because the rest are not captured in the local authority’s database.

According to a recent set of full council minutes, it was agreed that the municipality should buy town clerk Mr Godfrey Tanyanyiwa a Toyota Land Cruiser VX.

Mr Tanyanyiwa has been using his own vehicle because his council truck was given to former chamber secretary Mr Amos Matanhike when he left the municipality.

Current chamber secretary Ms Omega Mugumbate and director of housing and community services Ms Jemina Gumbo will get Toyota Fortuners.

Director of finance Mr Joshua Manyepa and director of works Engineer Alfonce Tinofa will get Toyota Hilux twin-cabs, with director of health services Dr Mike Simoyi getting a Toyota Prado.

According to the minutes, the Town Clerks’ Forum, an association that represents the interests of town clerks, agreed that vehicles for the accounting officers must be of an executive make.

Councillor Peter Keri said it was unwise to buy executive cars ahead of service delivery vehicles.

He also said management should first offset salary backlogs before splashing huge amounts of money on luxury vehicles.

The municipality owes its employees US$2,6 million in unpaid salaries and allowances.

However, it was agreed to prioritise Mr Tanya-nyiwa’s vehicle together with seven service delivery vehicles.

"That the town clerk’s vehicle, a Toyota Land

Cruiser VX, be bought. That council buys seven utility single-cab vehicles from Nissan Zimbabwe," reads part of the resolutions.

Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo has previously said local authorities should live within their means.

The types of vehicles that Chitungwiza wants to buy are similar to those that Harare, with a better financial base, buys for its senior executives.

Chitungwiza is failing to collect revenue from residents with only 50 000 out of 200 000 households in the town getting council bills.

An engineering firm that serviced Chitungwiza’s plant and equipment in 2007 has for three years held onto 10 earthmovers pending payment of US$281 000.

Council claims the development has stalled servicing of residential stands in Nyatsime and other areas.

Mr Felex Munyaradzi’s Delatfin Investments has vowed not to release the equipment until the payment is made.

They are holding on to a D6D bulldozer, D7R bulldozer, D4H bulldozer, three front-end loaders and four tipper trucks.

In 2007 the parties entered a one-month agreement covering June 1 to June 30.

Delatfin was to repair four earthmovers and the firm would get its payment through hiring the same equipment for use at approved official council rates.

The equipment was to be used for roadworks and other construction.

But the parties had a misunderstanding over payment with Delatfin complaining that when some Zimbabwean dollars were deposited into the company account, they had lost value due to hyperinflation.

Chitungwiza has filed a High Court application demanding release of the equipment.

In an affidavit, Mr Tanyanyiwa submitted that Delatfin signed an agreement indicating payment would be in the form of hire of the equipment.

He said Delatfin was paid by December 2007 but claimed the money had lost value.

He stated that in February 2008, another proposal for Delatfin to be paid more Zimbabwean dollars was agreed upon by both parties.

But Delatfin, according to Mr Tanyanyiwa, turned down the offer.

Mr Tanyanyiwa said: "Council needs equipment for its capital projects such as servicing the huge Nyatsime residential area, which progress has been stalled due to the unavailability of the equipment.

"It is also needed to remove human waste sludge in the affected areas."

In Delatfin’s heads of argument, the company says the contract relied upon by council expired before they started working on the equipment.

The company says they then agreed on payment in hard currency of US$281 840, which was not done.

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