ZIMBABWE – Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma says the obscene benefits being demanded by MDC-T legislators are not feasible and will only be achievable with “miracle money”.
Ordinary Zimbabweans yesterday also castigated MDC-T over the demands, saying the legislators should concentrate on debates that benefit the nation rather than ways of improving their lifestyles.
MDC-T’s parliamentary caucus recently wrote to the National Assembly seeking a raft of shocking benefits that would cost Treasury an extra US$89 million annually.
The demands include, among other things, nearly tripling sitting allowances from US$75 per sitting to US$200, executive vehicles, tollgate exemptions, weekly fuel coupons worth 100 litres each, and accommodation allowances for legislators who represent constituencies in Harare where Parliament sits. Mr Zvoma told The Herald yesterday that Treasury was already failing to sustain the current benefits for legislators.
“I have seen the copy of the demands and as the accounting officer of Parliament, the demands are not sustainable,” he said. “For them to jump to US$200 at a time the economy for the last five or six years has been failing to pay the benefits is obscene.
“It will only happen if there is miracle money but remember we do not get our allocation from miracle money but from what is available from Treasury.”
Mr Zvoma said Parliament’s budget over the past years has been between US$7 million and US$14 million.
“This year, for the whole Parliament, we got US$21 million and new demands exceeding US$80 million will be impossible,” he said.
“Our consultations with Treasury have shown that chances of that happening in the 21st century is very distant. Maybe they will be successful if they try in the 22nd century.”
The MDC-T caucus met on February 5 and demanded that legislators get vehicles similar to those allocated to deputy ministers, such as the Land Rover Discovery 4, with an option for MPs to buy them at book value at the end of their terms. The party also wants legislators to buy an additional vehicle of their own choice duty-free and to be exempted from paying toll fees.
It proposed that MPs get further fuel for constituency and/or provincial work over and above 100 litres every week. Currently, MPs get a US$75 sitting allowance that is only accessed by those who attend parliamentary sessions.
They also receive travelling and subsistence allowances whenever they are on parliamentary business, and have a loan facility to buy vehicles.
The party received a backlash from people with some saying there was nothing special about legislators that warranted those benefits. “Many of them are just MPs in name and only spend entire terms having said nothing in Parliament,” said Mr George Tiki of Glen Norah.
“It just shows these people are not engaging their faculties sufficiently for them to come up with such a proposal. They should in fact come up with a proposal that helps the country to grow the economy.”
Others said those who wanted hefty perks should seek employment elsewhere. “They should have mercy on our fiscus,” said Mr Blessing Runesu. “There are hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who are prepared to do these jobs more efficiently at a fraction of the cost. They should stop milking the country.
“Why should they be worried about not paying just a dollar for the upgrade and development of the roads they use every day. Dhora retoll gate ndiro ringarwadza. They are leaders and they do not want to contribute a few dollars for the development of the country.”
Mrs Patience Maduwa of Warren Park said it was time for Government to stop the “consumption attitude” of legislators. “It is time to meet needs of poor children, hospital patients and disabled people,” she said. “Being an MP does not exempt one from realities of life. It is time for economic solidarity where we all share the burden of a recovering economy. Do not milk your cows whilst they are still grazing. It pains to reward someone who has done little to further the economy of the nation.
“People should not think that going to Parliament means enriching themselves. Their thinking is from another planet.”