When MPs represent themselves
By Conrad Nyamutata
Last week, Members of Parliament were moaning about non-payment of allowances.
“We are so poor, it is embarrassing”, was the headline to the story.
The MPs want the government to put money into the Community Development Fund (CDF); they are being forced to live on corrupt activities, they say.
Like every “worker” — I use the word advisedly — MPs deserve their dues of course. And CDF funds are indeed essential to the development of constituencies.
But how many of the MPs are honest “workers” for the constituents?
However, some unscientific survey concluded that of the 300 respondents, a tenth did not know how the CDF had been used; two-thirds said it had not been used for anything constructive.
There were allegations of abuse of the fund and a few arrests made but the government blamed insufficient funding for its failure to complete investigations.
The full extent of the suspected pilferage was not established.
While the MPs have not received allowances, they would know that thousands of ordinary people do not have any income or decent source of it either.
Generally, the political class tends to detach itself from the common man, whose relevance only emerges during elections.
Perhaps it is this disjuncture that leads to ill-thought legislation that disregards effects on the ordinary people.
A good number of MPs across the political divide, retained over the years, are responsible for passing laws that have had negative effects on the economy.
It may not be the sole cause, but the Indigenisation Act passed by some of these MPs has inescapably visited negative economic consequences on the country.
The same MPs let Francis Nhema, the Indigenisation minister, get away with a wishy-washy explanation of the status of this deleterious law when he appeared before them.
Lamentably, we still have an inhospitable economic and social environment.
Repressive laws, still unaligned to the new Constitution, do not attract capital that would generate employment and revenue to pay for many demands, including allowances for our MPs.
Some of the demands of MPs are quite unrealistic, nay outrageous.
It would seem some, on occasion, stand for themselves at the expense of the people.
For example, the MPs enjoy a car loan facility for Ford Rangers through an $11 million deal financed by government.
And yet, Zanu PF MP Temba Mliswa had the temerity to describe the Ford Rangers as “sub-standard,” adding the legislators deserved better. This is a good example of an MP “representing” himself or his colleagues, and not the people.
How does a brand new Ford Ranger become “sub-standard”? Or do we simply have sub-standard MPs?
This is a case of living beyond our means.
Many would argue the MPs did not even deserve that type of expensive vehicle; $11 million is far too much an expense for a country that is virtually on its knees.
Only weeks after taking delivery of the cars, six MPs have already wrecked them.
Also last week, we learnt that 27 of these “poor” MPs, part of a 60-member delegation, were stranded in China after they organised a shopping jaunt to Beijing.
The MPs missed their flight after taking a bullet train to another city to buy goods.
They can afford these trips. Back home, the ordinary constituent cannot buy basics like bread from a local supermarket.
It was laughable to read that the MPs said they went through “hell”, reduced to destitution with no food and nowhere to take a decent bath.
Perhaps this spoilt lot claims “poverty” when they are, in fact, cushioned from it, because many back home experience the same “hell” every day without a whimper.
The whole nation has, for so many years, endured the indignities that come with unemployment, poor wages, and regular water and electricity cuts.
If the MPs are so poor, as they claim, and embarrassed, they must speak for a whole nation not just themselves.