MPs abandon the people

HARARE - The culture of greed, entitlement and self-indulgence still maintains its grip on the eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe.

Despite public outrage over the spectacular expenses of President Robert Mugabe’s government, on the other hand, legislators from across the political divide continue to show utter disdain for the electorate with their demands for extravagant pay and lavish perks.

The last two weeks in the National Assembly saw a new deluge of revelations highlighting legislators’ focus on their personal welfare.

During the fortnight, they discussed nothing else in Parliament but their welfare.

Notwithstanding the fact there is grinding poverty in the constituencies they represent, with the majority of the electorate struggling to make ends meet, living on less than $1 a day, Zimbabwe’s more than 350 MPs from both the lower and upper houses two weeks ago put aside their usual differences and joined hands to demand the disbursement of their allowances.

The legislators chose to abandon the electorate’s cause to demand that the cash-strapped government pay them regardless.

Finance minister Ignatius Chombo bowed to pressure by legislators to even disburse their allocations going towards their Constituency Development Fund (CDF) after MPs raised fears that they risked being rejected by the people in next year’s elections because they have done nothing for them.

On top of their outstanding allowances, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere has also released some residential stands for the MPs as part of their privileges.

The MPs refused to debate any other issue if they were not addressed about their outstanding allowances putting Chombo under siege while attending a pre-budget meeting in Harare until he reluctantly gave in.

On Tuesday this week, MDC legislator for Musikavanhu Prosper Mutseyami reignited the matter and was informed together with other MPs that allowances have finally been disbursed while CDF has also been disbursed from Treasury.

Mutseyami, the chairperson of the legislators’ welfare committee along with independent Norton legislator Temba Mliswa made it clear that they wanted the CDF so they can quickly put up some development in their constituencies to enhance their chances of re-election next year.

“Today is the 31st of October, 2017 and we were given concrete assurances by the Office of the Speaker and the minister to the effect that by today all Members of Parliament would have received their dues in terms of the challenges that we had with regard to our allowances, our outstanding everything, our welfare and lastly with regard to our CDF,” Mutseyami said.

“ I do not mean to put pressure on you Mr Speaker Sir, but I mean to put pressure on your office so that I kindly await the response concerning our sitting allowances, everything and lastly, our CDF so that we can go into these constituencies and embark on big projects which will be recognised way before 2018 elections”.

On his part, Mliswa complained that the issue of their welfare was taking too long to address demanding that when the payment is done, it should be adjusted upwards in line with inflation.

“We want to know if the $50 000 that we are going to receive is in US dollar or bond notes. Do you know that it is now $25 000 as we speak because of inflation,” Mliswa asked.

“How are we going to attend to such an issue because I believe you did not consider this issue that inflation is now at 50 percent so we were supposed to get $75 000. The amount should be inflation adjusted because at the end we are going to get nothing.”

He further complained that “issues such as the chiefs’ motor vehicles, funding was given”.

The members of the legislature also demanded that they be given diplomatic passports, duty free certificates to enable them to import vehicles ostensibly because members of the executive enjoyed even more benefits and that it was international best practice.

“On the issue of diplomatic passports, the minority have them. The majority does not have yet we have the same constituencies. What monetary issue is involved in the issue of diplomatic passports? You do not want to give us our status.

“We are looked down upon when we go out of the country. We have to queue when we travel with other MPs who have diplomatic passports. Our status is deplorable as we speak. As we look into these things, it would appear you do not want to recognise that Members of Parliament are doing a good job.

“When we go onto the ground there is no development. We are unable to go back to our constituencies.

“The political parties have different factions. There are now people on the ground contesting the forthcoming elections. Some of the MPs are not coming back in 2018 because they will contest in primary elections with candidates who are well funded.

“The reason why a lot of Members of Parliament do not come back is because this Parliament has failed to look into the issue of the members,” Mliswa said.

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