THIRTY-EIGHT senior magistrates across the country’s provinces last week received posh vehicles from the government ahead of the next elections.
Four regional magistrates got double cab Ford Rangers while 34 provincial magistrates received sedans.
The total figure of magistrates who are now driving posh cars when added to those who received late last year now stands at 88.
Walter Chikwanha, the Judicial Service Commission secretary, confirmed the development in an interview with The NewsHawks on Thursday.
He said the vehicles are not part of the contract of employment packages for the magistrates but pool cars that they can use in the course of their duties.
“The vehicles are poor cars for the magistrates. They can use them to move from their homes to their stations of work and also to travel to circuit courts,” he said.
Chikwanha said not all magistrates had received the vehicles.
Zimbabwe, according to acting chief magistrate Faith Mushure, has a total of 233 magistrates.
“The plan is to have all magistrates get the vehicles but due to financial constraints, that has been a challenge,” said Chikwanha.
The government has been dolling out various perks to different sectors of society ahead of the next elections, which has raised fears of vote-buying and soliciting for support in the coming polls.
Chiefs and village heads were last week offered payments dubbed Covid-19 allowances backdated to May 2022.
Zimbabwe has approximately 26 000 traditional leaders countrywide.
The scheduled windfall payments to the traditional leaders were announced by the ministry of Local Government and Public Works’ communication and advocacy director Gabriel Masvora in a statement in which he said the payments have since been approved and will be distributed through the Salary Service Bureau.
“The ministry has now approved that village heads receive US$50 per month as the Covid-19 allowance, and it will be backdated to May last year.
“Village heads approached the ministry and argued that they have been playing a major role in the fight against the pandemic, hence they deserved to receive the allowances,” he said.
Masvora said the government has also approved a medical aid facility with the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) for the traditional leaders.
“Government will pay 80% of the cost. Chiefs will contribute US$3, sub-chiefs US$2 and village heads US$1 per month towards the medical aid facility,” he said.
Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who will contest the next elections with arch rival Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, handed over vehicles to 38 newly installed chiefs during the annual chiefs’ conference held in Bulawayo in another apparent vote buying spree.
Recently, civil servants such as teachers, who play a critical role in elections as presiding officers, got a 100% Zimdollar salary increment, according to a statement released by Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga.
Guvamatanga also announced an increase in the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance from US$200 to US$250 across all sectors of civil servants, excluding the health sector.
In the education sector, Guvamatanga announced a US$80 teaching allowance for every teacher, indexed to the interbank rate and paid in the moribund local currency.
There was also an increase in the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance for government pensioners from US$90 to US$100 and a promise of free primary education up to a maximum of three children at government schools for teachers as well as a funded funeral insurance framework for the rest of civil servants. Ministers and their deputies early this year got loans of US$400 000 and US$350 000 respectively while MPs got US$40 000.
A couple of weeks ago, the government parcelled out ambulances emblazoned with big portraits of Mnangagwa, which is again tantamount to vote buying.
Before that, Zanu PF officials had been busy on the campaign trail, dolling out more goodies, with a notable incident being that of an unidentified man who was caught on camera distributing cash in anticipation of votes in Zanu PF’s primary elections.
There has also been distribution of chickens, fertilisers and drilling of boreholes by Zanu PF functionaries in vote-buying tactics. In the rural areas, the ruling party has of late been distributing food in a partisan way to starving villagers which manifests itself in the carrot-and-stick approach where there is both inducement and coercion.