HARARE - The government has backtracked and is considering buying 100 new vehicles from ailing Zimbabwean automaker Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries.
Initially, the Ford Ranger vehicles were earmarked to be purchased from two private companies owned by one person.
Government, through CMED, which procures and services government vehicles, had floated a tender which had caused consternation in the car trading industry amid concerns the tender was going to benefit only one person.
The story was broken by the Daily News, which also highlighted the appalling state of Willowvale Motor Industries which is government-owned through the Industrial Development Corporation.
The corporation has a 75 percent stake in the car dealer through Motec Holdings Private Limited.
On the local market, the Ford Ranger double cabs cost anything between $50 000 to $60 000.
Parliament’s committee on Industry and Commerce extensively debated the matter last week at the pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls, with chairman Ray Kaukonde confirming that his committee was advocating that the deal be awarded to Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries.
The country’s largest car assembly plant is currently stuttering under the weight of crippling debt and declining sales volumes caused by a spectacular meltdown in its diversified motor industry, putting 210 jobs at risk.
The Daily News understands that the committee has engaged Mike Bimha, the minister of Industry and Commerce to help push the deal since Willowvale was offering the same value and conditions for the tender.
Willowvale executives who attended the Victoria Falls seminar indicated that they had the capacity to procure the vehicles from South African company, SAMCO.
The Daily News has seen a letter from CMED and State Procurement Board to Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries on the special formal tender for the supply and delivery of 100 Ford Ranger double cab vehicles.
Government would spend about $6 million in funds approved by Parliament to buy the 100 commercially available vehicles.
“The committee tackled the issue and we agreed that we support the local motoring industry in particular Willowvale Mazda Industries,” Kaukonde said.
Temba Mliswa, the Zanu PF MP for Hurungwe West, and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions made a strong case last month against buying Western-made vehicles such as the Ford Rangers.
The Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions says the purchase of the foreign vehicles is not in the national interest at a time of unprecedented job losses in the local automotive industry.
Mliswa said the country was suffering from economic sanctions imposed by the West, but was doing business with some of these countries at the expense of local industries.
Contributing to the presidential speech, Mliswa said government was empowering Western countries indirectly by doing business with them through importing vehicles from countries such as Germany at a time local industry was dying.
“With or without sanctions we must be supporting our industries, and not spend money doing business with them,” Mliswa said.
“Why we should buy tractors and vehicles like Ford vehicles from these European countries that have imposed sanctions on us?”