TRANSPORT and Infrastructural Development minister Felix Mhona has been sucked into a driver’s licence scam where villagers from his constituency were reportedly overcharged to obtain provisional driver’s licences.
Mhona, a Zanu PF aspiring candidate for the Chikomba East constituency, set up mobile Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) depots in his constituency to facilitate the acquisition of provisional driver’s licences for up to 500 youth as he solicits for votes ahead of August 23 elections.
On Friday, more than 60 youths in Headman Chandiwana’s area sat for the provisional driver’s licence test at Masasa shopping centre.
They were ordered to pay the fees exclusively in United States dollars, at US$20 instead of $37 800 in local currency.
After paying US$20, the driver’s licence seekers were given receipts acknowledging payment for $37 800, which they questioned as they realised that they had paid more than three times the legal fee.
The $37 800 was equivalent to US$6 according to the official exchange rate of the day.
Before sitting for the provisional driver’s licence test, the candidates were ordered to pay U$10, which was not receipted for compulsory oral driving lessons that were provided by the government-run Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED), one day before they sat for the test.
Asked for comment, Mhona told NewsDay that the youth were happy about the programme.
“Ummm, what I know is that people of Chikomba district are so excited about this lifetime programme, the rest confirm with your source,” he said.
A co-ordinator in Mhona’s office in Chikomba, Lovemore Masunungure, said the driver’s licence seekers had to pay the inflated fee of US$20 because the tests had been pre-booked.
He said there was a “third party” who had done the bookings on behalf of the youth a month before they took the tests.
He, however, failed to explain why the candidates had to pay the US$20 on the day of the test if they had been pre-booked.
“The programme, which is targeting over 500 youths, is pre-booked and the pre-booking was done over a month ago when the rate was around 1:1 400 and the person who pre-booked has lost because of the rate. We still expect more and more to come so as to minimise the loss to the benefactor,” Masunungure said.
“The pre-booking was necessary because VID, as an institution, does not have a facility to collect money out there in the outlying areas.
“So in a nutshell, in RTGS terms, the students would have paid less in US dollars, but we had a challenge in that there was someone who assisted us to pre-book for the targeted number of students and we were trying to cover the shortfall. The person incurred losses due to the sudden movements in the exchange rate.”