The festive season is here

‘Tis the season to be jolly. Ilizwi263’s wise uncle, Thabani Mpofu, reflects on the adventures of his youth.

Party over here - courtesy of Nehanda Radio

Party over here – courtesy of Nehanda Radio

Years ago, in the early nineties (when I was a lot less wise than I am now) I used to declare the festive season officially open on the 1st of December. This declaration was of some significance. It meant that I had the licence (which I obtained from myself) to drink immoderately throughout the ‘festive season’ which lasted until my pockets (and those of my friends) ran dry or the 2nd of January, whichever occurred first. Needless to say, the former usually occurred first.

Booze till I’m broke

Those who knew me very well can testify to the harmful effects of this self inflicted policy. My meagre finances took a pounding and I was always teetering on the brink of complete ruin and reduced to living a life of a near pauper. Still, every year I implemented the festive season policy with zeal.
I have since discontinued this policy (though I must confess that on occasion I might consume a fair amount of alcohol).

Government festive season

It would appear to me that the Public Service has declared its own festive season. This declaration (which it obtained from itself) allows it to purchase luxurious motor vehicles despite the unhealthy state of its finances, which are only worsened by the recall of several MPs in both Zanu (PF) and the opposition parties. The election of new MPs means more new motor cars.
Unlike my festive season which lasted only a month at a time, the Public Service one has lasted for years and shows no sign of ending any time soon. In the early nineties, the flashiest cars were driven by persons employed in the private sector with civil servants being reduced to driving modest vehicles and second-hand cars. Nowadays, the opposite is true. Senior civil servants (and they are not few) drive the latest brand spanking new luxury vehicles with the rest of us having to settle for second-hand cars and Japanese imports.

Bling-bling government

Whilst the Government has spent large amounts of money on brand new Jeep Grand Cherokees, Isuzus, Ford Rangers, Nissan Navaras, Land Rovers, Range Rovers and of course Mercedes Benzes, our hospitals and rural schools continue to be starved of finances.
Consider for a moment David Parirenyatwa’s much publicised visit to Harare Hospital at the start of his term as health minister. Parirenyatewa publicly declared that he was aghast at the poor state of the hospital. I did not accompany the Minister there but I can bet my bottom dollar that he arrived there in his brand new ministerial Mercedes Benz E350. He would have been accompanied there by at least one senior civil servant driving a new Jeep Grand Cherokee. At least three or four other civil servants would have been driving Isuzus and Navaras.

Festive season but at what cost?

Let us just examine the cost of these new cars. A brand new Mercedes Benz E350 costs about $120 000. A Jeep Grand Cherokee will set you back about $116 000. Double Cab Isuzus and Nissan Navaras cost more than $45 000 each. The ministerial entourage to Harare Hospital was most likely driving cars worth more than a quarter of a million US dollars.
I have not done any assessment on what needs to be done at Harare Hospital but it is not unreasonable to suggest that $250 000 would go a long way towards fixing the hospital . Instead, the money was deployed to acquire new vehicles for our civil servants.

Party won’t stop

It is unlikely that the Government will discontinue the policy of purchasing expensive cars for its senior employees anytime soon. The ‘festive season’ is in full swing. The spending binge is not about to stop. And essential services will continue to suffer.
I think that if the Government discontinued its ‘festive season’ policy, as I did years ago, it would rehabilitate its finances and reputation as effectively as I did.
In the meantime, I officially declare the festive season open. But I will be more responsible than I was in the nineties.