MPs demand Land Cruisers, houses in Harare, improved pay and staff members

HARARE – Members of Parliament have demanded to be issued with Toyota Land Cruiser V8 vehicles, houses in Harare, security and five-digit salaries, accusing Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube of prioritising the other arms of the state.

MPs say ministers and judges are favoured in resource allocation and treated way better than lawmakers.

“It is important that the office of the Member of Parliament is respected,” said Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) contributing to a motion on Thursday to remember the late Zaka East MP Kaston Ringirisai Gumbwanda (Zanu PF), who died suddenly on June 25 this year.

Mliswa said MPs were dying with worrying regularity, adding: “What is important now is to debate on the circumstances that led to the death of Members of Parliament. The source of the death is what we want to talk about.”

He said MPs were separated from their families for weeks on end, issued with “uncomfortable” cars and many would die in debt because their salaries had been eroded by inflation.

“I would like to say that those who are responsible for the welfare of Members of Parliament should make sure that a Member of Parliament is remunerated properly,” said Zaka North MP Robson Mavenyengwa (Zanu PF).

“After completing a term, a Member of Parliament should be remunerated. I remember when I travelled out of the country, a certain Member of Parliament in South Africa was saying that after serving for a term, you are given R5 million and you can retire with a substantial amount. This I believe should be done in Zimbabwe also so that Members of Parliament be cushioned after their tenure because after their tenure there is no hotel accommodation.”

Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC) said MPs were “exposed to humiliation of the highest grade that you can see in any society.”

“Honourable Gumbwanda passed on during the week when Honourable Members started to be turned away from local hotels and they moved from hotel to hotel for accommodation to come and discharge their national duty. Members of Parliament were being turned away because Parliament has not been meeting the expenses that they owe to local hotels,” Sibanda said.

He added: “At times I wonder whether it is worth to carry the so-called title of being an Honourable Member, it is quite dishonourable.  In terms of the law, Parliament is the one that allocates national resources.  Theoretically, Parliament is supposed to allocate resources to the three arms of government. However, if you look at the way that the three arms of government are treated, you will see that there is discrimination. Parliament is treated as if it is the poorer cousin of the three arms of government, regardless of the fact that it is empowered at law to distribute the resources of the nation.”

Judges and ministers “get way beyond what a Member of Parliament can ever dream of getting,” Sibanda said, while MPs earn “far less than US$200.”

“When it comes to tools of trade, at times when Members of Parliament ask for vehicles, it appears as if they are asking for luxury. I travel 2,500km to and from Binga to Harare every week. What that means is that every week my vehicle is clocking a mileage of 2,500km. Every one of us here is aware of the nature of roads that we have in the rural constituencies, and you expect one Ford Ranger vehicle that is purchased by an Honourable Member through whatever scheme, to last for five years when that same vehicle accumulates about 10,000km mileage in a space of four weeks. What it means is that, that vehicle, in a year, it would have gone beyond 130,000km. Therefore, in five years, you are talking of a vehicle that would have clocked about 600 to 700 thousand kilometres. Tell me what type of a vehicle can endure that kind of a mileage,” Sibanda said as one MP shouted ‘Land Cruiser 200 Series’.

MPs had agreed on a budget of US$80,000 for their vehicles – enough to buy a Land Cruiser – but Finance Minister Ncube slashed it to US$50,000.

MPs were effective when they were comfortable, Mliswa said.

“I remember with my dear brother and colleague Honourable Nduna when he was the chairman of the Committee on Mines and we decided to drive in his car, a Land Cruiser; it was a smooth ride. We drove for 12 hours non-stop. He had no driver because the car itself was comfortable. We arrived on time and did things on time. When we had to rest, we would rest. It is the comfort that makes you discharge your duties professionally, not the discomfort,” Mliswa argued.

“We have Members of Parliament addressing their constituencies and then coming to Parliament, no wonder why most of them are asleep half of the time because of the cars which are not comfortable. We are told that we are sleeping. We are not sleeping on duty. They are sleeping because the car which they are driving is not a comfortable car. You have never seen a minister asleep in this Parliament. Today, we are talking about a situation where the ministers are being given (Toyota Land Cruiser V8) L200 series yet we are supposed to have oversight. How can you catch a thief when you are on a bicycle and a thief is in a Mercedes Benz? We are the ones who are supposed to be in the Mercedes Benz to catch the thief on the bike, but it is the reverse.”

MPs were constantly travelling, Mliswa said, and “there must be a time where they rest.”

“The reason why I equally move that the Land Cruiser V8 must be the car, it is the only car which is comfortable if you want to sleep in if they decide to sleep in there because there is no accommodation out there,” Mliswa added.

MPs also demanded houses or apartments where they could live with their families while on parliamentary business, instead of hotels.

“Members of Parliament are not even supposed to be staying in hotels but they are supposed to be having their own apartments, because a Member of Parliament is somebody who must be respected and has their own private life too. Our lives are exposed at these hotels and we no longer have any dignity.  Have you ever seen judges living in hotels? They have security. The job of an MP needs security and we are not being respected,” the Norton legislator argued.

He added: “We need security because no-one is safe here but we are not given security and the judges are given security at their homes. We have not even asked for security. They are given drivers and they are given allowances. Why can’t Members of Parliament be given an allowance to look for a house or a flat to reside in?

“It is important to respect the institution of marriage and because of that, we must be given our own accommodation where the wife is there but you are going on duty, and you are going back to see your families. We must from today, Members of Parliament, push for us to have decent accommodation where you come with your wife and with your husband. You come and discharge your duties here and you go back (to them). The working conditions are terrible.”

The MPs cited the case of Kenya where lawmakers reportedly get paid US$13,000 monthly and have 10 staff members as a model to copy.

The broke government is unlikely to meet the MPs’ demands. Ncube last week said the MPs’ vehicles were already purchased and should be arriving in the country within weeks. – ZimLive