Farai Kuvirimirwa Lifestyle writer
In a country dominated by executives in State-owned enterprises who earn mega-salaries prejudicing service delivery, one man has taken a different stance, earning himself the nickname – Zim’s own Jose Mujica.
Kwekwe mayor Matenda Titos Madzoke has proved that not all officials are greedy and corrupt beyond redemption after turning down a brand new Isuzu KB D-Teq twin cab vehicle that was acquired for him after a council resolution.
The small city intended to splurge $68 000 on a single car for its mayor and paid $38 000 deposit on the truck.
Horrified at the thoughtless extravagance and inability to focus on the real important matters of service delivery, Mr Madzoke ordered the council to cancel the order and instead use the money to buy a garbage removal truck.
So while one car dealer may not be too happy with the parsimonious stance of the mayor, Kwekwe residents do not have to live with the odoriferous results of uncollected refuse.
As if that was not enough to stun the town and the country, Mayor Madzoke further caused a stir when he opted to cycle a mountain bike to work and toured various industrial premises, the central business district meeting residents.
Thus he earned himself the name belonging to Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica.
President Mujica has been described as “the world’s poorest president”, due to his humble lifestyle and donation of around 90 percent of his $12 000 monthly salary to the less privileged.
President Mujica (worth a total of $322 883) declined to live in the opulent presidential palace or use its staff, preferring to stay on a farm owned by his wife to and from where he drives an ageing Volkswagen Beetle.
Mayor Madzoke who only earns a paltry $260 in allowances does not stint on the dedication and time he gives to residents. He could certainly teach almost every other person in public office one or two things about servant leadership.
“It has been a habit in most councils that officials are given expensive cars and nothing is being done on the ground. I always wanted to meet ordinary residents, pedestrians in the city, industrial areas.
“There is no way I can hear their complaints while driving a car around a city whose roads are plagued with potholes which are a result of abundant rains which water-log and damage our roads.
“We can work with what we have and people should desist from accepting anything that is given to them for free and disadvantage the people. I am surprised with people who think I am out of my mind when it is an ordinary thing I am doing,” he said.
Mayor Madzoke said the city employs a total of 769 people and some go for more than three months without being paid.
“People want service, and how can they give me a vehicle when I have not patched a single pothole or repaired a single street light? I told them to use that money to buy a refuse collection vehicle,” he explained his logic.
As if that is not enough, Mayor Madzoke refused to occupy the mayoral mansion he is entitled to use and opted for the house he owned before occupying office.
“I will never occupy the mayoral mansion but use my own house where I have to pay my own rates and I cannot have everything done for me for free. What will I do there?
“The mayoral mansion is currently idle but we are proposing that one of the senior officials occupy it. They have perks and one of them is to have a house provided by the municipality and they can use that one,” said mayor Madzoke. He said his family relies mostly on income generated from his farm and company.
“My farm and private company sustain my livelihood and I employ a total of 32 people.
Mayor Madzoke said he will continue his “unusual” tours in Kwekwe so as to familiarise himself with the day-to-day lives of the people.
He emphasised that he was a pastor, a family man and a farmer whose time is mostly dedicated to serving the people surrounding him. “You are supposed to be humble when you are a mayor and I, being a pastor, I put people first before me. I am a pastor at Christ Apostolic Church and I have my wife with whom I sired three children, but had other marriages before.
“I am a successful farmer with a 50-hectare piece of land where I planted 39 hectares of soya beans and 11 of maize. I also own a company that conducts electrical, refrigeration and plumbing work. On my spare time I go to church, run my business and travel to my farm once every day.
“I am going to farm wheat and barley this winter besides the 55 cows, 48 goats and 100 layers (chickens),” he said.
Mayor Madzoke said after he assumed office, Kwekwe won two awards at the recently held Zimbabwe International Trade Fair where they came out on pole position for the city with best treated water.
The city also scooped a second award for its initiative to repair roads using locally generated resources after Zinara stopped availing the funding for maintenance and tarring of roads.
But unfortunately he seems to be a lone voice. He said councillors in the city would want more than they are currently getting.
And the executive employees do not come cheap either although their case is slightly different as they are full time employees:
“The highest paid in our council is Town Clerk Emmanuel Musara who earned $8 100 before the Government’s announcement of a $6 000 salary ceiling. That has narrowed the gap which existed between his salary and what five other directors earned,” he said.