HARARE, October, 22, 2015-Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, is using his personal vehicle for council business as council management and the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing drag their feet sourcing an official vehicle for him.
Manyenyeni has not been allocated a vehicle since he assumed office in 2013.
Council sources said Manyenyeni is aggrieved by the issue and has claimed that the delay was meant to punish him for turning down an expensive mayoral vehicle he was offered when he became the capital’s principal city father.
Manyenyeni turned down a US$200 000 S350 Mercedes Benz in 2013, arguing that his priorities lay in improving service delivery.
Ironically, service delivery in the city has worsened since then.
The Harare mayor has meanwhile, been occasionally driving an old and faulty Mercedes Benz ML, which was also being used by the deceased deputy mayor, Thomas Muzuva.
Sources said the move to turn down the car did not go down well with the then minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo, who thought it was meant to spite him.
At law, any council expenditure exceeding US$30 000 is subject to ministerial approval.
Chombo had reportedly approved the purchase of the fuel guzzling S350 Merc on the basis that a mayor was equal in status to a minister.
Cabinet ministers are allocated either the S350 Mercedes Benz or the E-class model and an all-terrain vehicle, preferably a Range Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser that cost around US$200 000 each.
Although Manyenyeni has not sought to go public about his grievances, some councillors told the this paper this week that he had since late last year been pushing hard for a new vehicle with little success after being frustrated by the old car he is currently using which frequently breaks down.
Last week, he reportedly had a breakdown during a visit to Mt Hampden, a settlement outside Harare, where he had gone to inspect the damage to residential properties that had been destroyed by a fire.
Manyenyeni has also had to drive himself in his personal car to attend State and other council functions because municipal drivers cannot drive his personal vehicle due to the insurance and risk issues involved.
Last month, the mayor reportedly was given a lift by the director of water engineering, Christopher Zvobgo, to the National Heroes’ Acre for the burial of the late Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
“I think he is beginning to rue his decision to turn down the Merc now that he has gone through such things,” said one councillor.
In fact, information gathered by the Financial Gazette suggests that some of the city fathers sympathetic to Manyenyeni are planning to move a motion to discuss the issue at a full council meeting to be held at Town House Thursday.
Some councillors are, however, understood to be against the idea.
“We are saying the mayor of a city as big as Harare is a VIP 24 hours a day. That vehicle is long overdue. The office of the mayor is not an illegal structure and therefore it should be respected,” said one councillor.
But another councillor vowed to oppose the motion if it was brought to council’s attention.
“There are many pressing issues in the city that call for our attention. We understand that the mayor turned down the car on the basis that he was worried more about service delivery and that is all we should spend time on,” said the councillor.
In an interview on Monday, Manyenyeni said his concern was to protect council’s image.
“I am not worried by that. I am using my personal car. I can drive myself but what I do not want is to downgrade the city,” he said.
After engaging Chombo many times over the issue, with the minister appearing not to be bothered, sources said Manyenyeni found renewed hope in Saviour Kasukuwere who replaced Chombo as Local Government Minister and has since made fresh overtures.
“He recently sent a request for an US$80 000 Chrysler, but has not had any response from the ministry,” said a source at Town House.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, George Mlilo, dismissed Manyenyeni as a dishonest man.
“He is not being honest. We have a prescribed vehicle for the mayor, which should not take us time to secure, but then he opted for a strange vehicle which we are not familiar with. For this reason, we have to thoroughly look at the pros and cons of such a move, lest we open floodgates for mayors and we could start to see some funny cars coming up,” Mlilo said.
The Harare City Council’s modus operandi has been to buy a new vehicle for the mayor for use during his/her five year term of office and already, Manyenyeni has spent two years without an official vehicle.