Given the expense of conflict and the shortages besetting most of the population, a new bill recommends limiting ownership of the cars to the President and a handful of other officials.
South Sudan’s National Assembly alone buys 36 V8 Toyota Land Cruisers every new term, costing more than 16 million South Sudanese pounds (5.5 million US$).
The motion was raised by Zakariah Matur Makuer, from Lakes State, who said V8 vehicles are expensive to buy and run, arguing that lots of public funds are spent by our government institutions every time there is a reshuffle.
We are running public institutions, which are supposed to render services to our people.”
Zakariah Matur Makuer
Amid war and reduced non-oil revenues, income has dived, meaning the country cannot continue to spend rapidly at this time of economic crisis, he said.
We are not running private companies or industries – we are running public institutions, which are supposed to render services to our people,” Matur said.
South Sudan’s most popular car is a widely accepted mark of success, partly because V8 Land Cruisers can drive off the beaten track in a country which has only one paved overland road.
Without the vehicle, no new minister or government figure, including Army Generals, are taken seriously.
The Land Cruisers are based on a design from Second World War. Toyota produces a basic version which is believed to be more durable than any vehicle. The V8 comes with two-tone leather trim, sat nav and four-zone air conditioning, but it is a poor choice for South Sudan, if you ask purists among analysts, as its mod-cons break easily and nobody in the bush can fix them.
The policy draft, lauded by around 18 Members of Parliament, argued against the proliferating ownership among those in power.
Only the President, Vice president, Speakers of NLA and Council of States, Chief Justice should be allowed to purchase V8 vehicles and any other bullet proof vehicles,” said Hon. Goc Makuac Mayol, Chairperson of Committees of Economy, Development, adding that other constitutional post holders should use Toyota hard top vehicles.
He said they recommended the establishment of one Juba-based Toyota dealer to supply the government with vehicles.
They also recommended to establish a Centralised Procurement and Disposal of Assets Directorate under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
NLA Minority Leader Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec recommends building roads suitable for less expensive vehicles than the V8 Land Cruiser, arguing that the economic crisis calls for the government to slash expenses.
Western Equatoria State MP Jemma Nunu Kumba cites cases of corruption whereby some former government officials drive away vehicles to retain them, although some others faithfully hand over their cars on being removed from their positions.
Were we fighting to get luxury, or were we fighting to improve our country?”
Daniel Awet Akot
The MPs argued that the States’ Governors and Speakers should consider taking used V8 vehicles.
Were we fighting to get luxury, or were we fighting to improve our country?” asked Former Deputy Speaker Daniel Awet Akot, adding that, if we were educated properly, money would not flow into new cars but rather into roads, education and agriculture.
Awet said he had a guilty conscience” for going home with government vehicles while he was Minister, Governor and Deputy Speaker at the National Assembly.
By limiting expenditure on V8 Land Cruisers the state could save money to spend on roads, schools, health centres and water sanitation across the country.
Restive Jonglei State Assembly Speaker, Peter Deng Aguer, backs the move to restrict purchase of luxury vehicles.
In principles we are supporting this decision because we are not in the parliament to comfort ourselves – we are here to render services to our people. We are all public servants the priority of intervention is community first,” we have to be cost effective,” Speaker Deng said.
Toyota doesn’t run dealerships in South Sudan and Land Cruisers are imported privately from neighbouring countries like Uganda, but they have become a common sight on local streets in recent years.
South Sudan is the number one importer of the V8 vehicles in the region, if not in the world.