MPs row over Constituency Development Fund distribution

Edna Madzongwe

The proposed distribution of the Constituency Development Fund continues to divide legislators as Senators protested last week demanding that the money be shared equally between them and their counterparts in the National Assembly.

Senators protested in the Upper House saying they were entitled to get the money arguing that it was not enough for them to be regarded as ex-officio members even though they had voting rights.

The haggling over CDF came to the fore after Senate president, Edna Madzongwe announced that Senators and Proportional Representative legislators would attend CDF committee meetings as ex-officio members by virtue of them being Members of Parliament.

“In other words, they hold membership to such committees by right of their offices and promotions, eminent positions. Senators and PR Members are therefore members of all CDF Committees falling under their jurisdiction in terms of Article 9 (2) and (3) of the CDF Constitution. They have full voting rights as Members and are accorded the same participatory rights as other members of the CDF,” said Madzongwe.

The announcement attracted grumbles from Senators. Matabeleland South Senator Sithembile Mlotshwa (MDC-T) said it was a contradiction to say one was an ex-officio member but had voting rights saying that will not be possible.

Senator Tambudzani Mohadi (Zanu-PF) concurred with Sen Mlotshwa.

“It is really disappointing because the last meeting we had at the Standing Rules and Orders, this issue was deliberated on and it was explained. Finally, it was agreed that an MP is an MP, whether they are a proportional Member or a Senator, they remain an MP. As a result, we have more than 350 MPs here who are liable to get the CDF and the same issue was discussed when we were in Victoria Falls. It was agreed upon that the issue is over,” said Sen Mohadi.

“I read that Constitution, it says that Senators and Proportional Representation are ex-officio members. An ex-officio member, from the little knowledge that I have is just an ex-officio member. You do not have the voting right and you do not have any say on that. They can even do it alone without us and we cannot report anywhere.”

Efforts by Cde Madzongwe to further explain that Senators had voting rights failed to persuade Sen Mohadi.

“Anyway, I just rest my case but I am not happy,” said Sen Mohadi.

Cde Madzongwe further explained that the money for CDF would be controlled by Parliament and Senators could assert their rights but that explanation found no takers.

“The money was not deposited into anyone’s account. It was deposited into the CDF account because they were supposed to open an account, but it created problems in terms of that,” said Sen Mlotshwa.

“There is nothing new because even in the Seventh Parliament, CDF accounts were required and they were controlled by (Ministry of Legal and) Parliamentary Affairs. The attitudes and actions that are going to be in the constituencies – you know the Chairpersons of the CDFs are going to develop wings, I tell you. It will be difficult when the ex-officio part is not explained in the document.”