HOW many people, upon landing a lucrative job, would turn down a brand new US$68 000 Double Cab Toyota D4D offered by the employer?
By BLESSED MHLANGA
The majority of us would welcome such a top-of-the-range vehicle, which would naturally earn us a few glances from curious admirers, but for Matenda Madzoke, the mayor of Kwekwe, the vehicle was a sheer waste of ratepayers’ money.
In a rare show of humility, Madzoke refused to accept the official mayoral vehicle and instead opted to have the money, which had already been paid to acquire it, purchase two refuse collection trucks.
Council had already deposited US$30 000 with Croco Motors and was awaiting delivery of the brand new wheels, but the city could not persuade him to ride in wheels that mark one’s status in the society.
Madzoke would have been allowed to own it as part of his package after five years of service at the helm of Kwekwe City Council, like what happened with his predecessors.
“I am no better than anyone in this great city and therefore should not pamper myself with the money earned by the sweat of Kwekwe residents when refuse is piling in their homes, potholes are opening up everywhere and the city is struggling to pay workers,” said Madzoke.
Elected councillor on a Zanu PF ticket, Madzoke stands out in his party for refusing to be pampered using hard-pressed ratepayers’ money at the expense of service delivery in a country where political players are known for their penchant for expensive cars and luxury.
A reverend at Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide Revelation, Madzoke, who owns his own fleet of cars but sometimes chooses to ride to his office and around town on a bicycle, said teachings from his church were also instrumental in the decision not to accept the car.
“I can say the teachings from my church were influential in the decision I made, apart from the fact that I am not a politician but a civic leader who has a heart to serve the people ahead of my own interests.
“Our church has unique teaching because we are taught to serve the people first before we take care of our own interests and you would agree with me that getting myself a top-of-the-range vehicle at this time would be against this teaching,” he said.
Madzoke has also clashed with council management who have been looking to spend nearly US$200 000 on luxury vehicles for top management.
An initial attempt to purchase a US$120 000 worth Toyota Prado for the Town Clerk Emanuel Musara had to be shelved after a tender for its purchase had already been flighted.
Now Musara is pushing to get a US$68 000 Chevrolet, while the other four mangers are also in the hunt.
Council has refused to endorse a resolution for the purchase of the vehicles, saying they are too expensive for the cash-strapped local authority which is now owed US$20 million by government and ratepayers.
“You will see that the nation is facing serious economic challenges and Kwekwe is not an exception and it will be insensitive for us to dole out such huge amounts of money on management when we are failing to provide the basic service delivery for the ratepayers,” said Madzoke.
Despite leading a council with seven Zanu PF councillors and an equal number from the MDC-T, Madzoke has won the support of MDC-T councillors who believe he is miles ahead of former mayors.
“He allows debate to flow smoothly and when he sits in the mayor’s chair, you won’t know if he his Zanu PF or MDC. Madzoke has managed to keep us focused on the growth of Kwekwe and its people instead of getting involved in petty political fights,” said MDC-T councillor Weston Masiya.
The mayor said his job is made easier because he is not a politician but just a civic leader whose main role is to facilitate development of Kwekwe on behalf of its owners.
“I am grateful that the councillors easily bought my vision, it might be true that we were sponsored by our political parties into office but we are here to serve the people, not parties. Kwekwe is our subject, it is not owned by councillors or their political parties but by residents, some who don’t even care about the political parties that gave birth to us and they should be protected and served,” he said.
Married to Clara Madzoke née Green since 1990, the couple is blessed with 12 children, four boys and eight girls. Madzoke, who still looks youthful, says he might not be running for office again.
“I think I will just have to do my best now and leave it for others to take their place in the development of this town,” he said.
Madzoke may quit the mayoral office when his terms expires, but he will surely go down in history as the mayor who stood his ground against looting of the few resources available in the city and for striving to make council accountable to the ratepayers.
Madzoke, an electrical engineer by profession, owns and runs one of Kwekwe’s leading electrical companies called Birdale Electrical Services and is also involved in farming.
“These two businesses are the ones which ensure I manage to take care of my family and therefore I don’t look at council to earn a living,” he said.
When he is not riding his bicycle, Madzoke goes around in a double cab Isuzu KB280D while his other posh cars are normally used by his wife.
“I believe I should treat my wife like a queen, she is the pillar of my strength and most of the times she takes a leading role to ensure I dispatch my civic duties effectively. she is gifted.”
As his parting shot, Madzoke told The Standard that he had realised that children in most council schools in Kwekwe were suffering from hunger and some were fainting during class.
“I am going to have a meeting with farmers in this city so that we can feed these children, the situation is pathetic and my hope is that as farmers, we will be able to help ensure they get porridge when they come to school in the morning,” he said.