By Judith Sibanda
Victoria Falls residents have raised a furore over plans by the local authority to purchase top-of-the-range vehicles for top ranking council officials at a time when the council is faced with financial challenges.
CITE understands the local municipality is looking to buy three V6 Toyota Fortuner vehicles for the town mayor Councillor Somvelo Dhlamini, housing director Brian Nyamande and the town`s head of engineering services, Engineer Sharleen Sibanda.
The vehicle costs around USD$50 000 each.
The proposal to purchase the car was announced last month.
Cllr Dhlamini is currently using a similar vehicle which was bought in 2017 but the vehicle is expected to be handed over to the former mayor Sifiso Mpofu, as a golden handshake.
Residents told council officials during the recently held supplementary budget consultative meetings that the decision was ill-advised and at a time when the council has indicated that its coffers are running dry.
“You are here to demand that we pay water in foreign currency or at the prevailing rate and that has left us puzzled because you are in the process of purchasing three vehicles for yourselves and these politicians,” said Trymore Ndolo, an activist.
“This is not how funds must be used; your duty is to provide quality services not to fulfil your needs and self-gain. The Toyota Fortuner that Dhlamini is using was bought in 2017 and you’re reporting that it is too old and must be given to the former mayor, we are saying that must not happen and we will ensure that it will not work.”
Another resident Kelvin Moyo added: “That vehicle has low mileage and Dhlamini must know that he is just a ceremonial mayor nothing else. His post does not keep him out of town for long and Victoria Falls is a small town, that a car cannot be damaged easily.
“In 2017, we were told that it was going to be on the road for 15 years and now, 3 years down the line it’s being disposed of and handed over to someone else. It is not fair and we shall never agree to that.”
Khethiwe Dube said if the council was going to ignore residents` objections they brace themselves for massive protests and report the matter to the local government minister, claiming it was in violation of the urban councils’ act.
Some residents also called on council management to stay at council-owned houses, instead of renting expensive accommodation.
“For years, the finance director Neville Ndlovu has been renting a flat belonging to Shearwater and that is very expensive,” said one resident.
“Council has three houses in the low density that belonged to former housing director and town treasurer and all those houses are vacant and they are habitable, but they don’t want to stay there.
“This economic situation is not certain and no one knows when things are going to normalise and as such council must do away with their luxurious spending.”
Residents also accused the council of being corrupt and milking the council coffers dry.
In response, the finance director said the local authority was on a massive cost reduction drive to mitigate the economic situation.
He said they have currently frozen some posts in order to downsize on salaries.
The local authority has tabled an RTGS$56 million supplementary arguing that it’s approved RTGS$27 million 2019 budget had been eroded by the galloping inflation.