Super-luxury car for Mugabe

2002-04-24 09:49

Pretoria - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will be protected against any projectile or hand grenade when travelling in his new official car.

The car, together with the new luxury vehicles for his vice-presidents and speaker and the 19 new armour-plated cavalcade vehicles, will cost the government about R52 million.

Mugabe's luxury Mercedes-Benz S600 Pullmann arrived in Zimbabwe via South Africa, after it was custom built to his specifications in Germany.

According to the Zimbabwe Standard, the vice-presidents and speaker will have to be satisfied with Mercedes-Benz S320 models.

The cost of Mugabe's vehicle is difficult to calculate. A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Shirle Greig, said on Tuesday it was a personal transaction of which the details were extremely confidential.

She confirmed the car had arrived in South Africa by ship and was taken to Harare on a special truck. The German company, Cloer, armour-plated the vehicle to the highest possible specifications, a B7 Dragunov standard.

According to Grieg, the Zimbabwean government negotiated directly with Cloer for the luxury vehicles.

Mugabe's car's floor, roof, windows and petrol tank have been specially reinforced, as the most vulnerable parts of the vehicle.

A quick calculation shows that the car - at 3 850kg - weighs more than double the weight of a large sedan.

According to the information on Cloer's website, the car will do only 200km on a full tank, which means that Mugabe will have to take a petrol tanker along if he wants to travel long distance.

Between 35 and 40 litre/100km means the car's fuel consumption is twice that of a loaded, large 4x4 vehicle.

Order was placed last year

Depending on Mugabe's specifications for the car, it may have anything from a DVD and CD player, Internet access, a telephone to special, heated (or ventilated) leather seats and walnut finishes.

The tyres on the vehicle can travel a further 50km if punctured by bullets. The driver can address people outside the vehicle without turning down a window.

According to the Zimbabwe Standard, the Mugabe government placed the order and possibly paid for the vehicles last year. According to experts, such an order would not have been accepted without guarantees or cash payments.

The vehicles were ordered before the European Union instituted sanctions, prohibiting this sort of trade, against Mugabe and his cabinet earlier this year.

When Mugabe's car was delivered last week, it apparently was taken immediately to the nearest garage to check for listening devices.