Recent press reports regarding MPs’ so-called salary demands have prompted me to write this article in order for the general public to judge their elected representatives correctly.
However, if the general public is to judge us wrongly, they must do so with the correct facts before them.
Firstly, there is what we call the three pillars of the state – namely the Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament.
These are institutions which should be completely independent of each other playing their different roles as clearly required by our country’s Constitution.
Parliament is responsible for overseeing the actions of the Executive on behalf of the general public.
Parliament can only play this role effectively if the following minimum conditions are in place;
MPs must clearly understand the role of Parliament;
MPs must be independent;
MPs must not be partisan when it comes to issues of national interest;
MPs must guard against being deceived by party politics at the expense of the national good;
The role of Parliament as an independent institution must be accepted and respected for good corporate governance, transparency and accountability;
Above all, MPs must not be impoverished by way of subsidising the state as is the case at the moment; and
When a minister is sworn in, he/she is allocated a Mercedes Benz or off-road 4X4 motor vehicle. Ministers also qualify to benefit under the Parliamentary Vehicle Scheme by virtue of them being MPs.
Nine times out of 10 a minister gets another vehicle from his/her ministry.
These vehicles are fully expensed except those for parliamentarians.
Judges are also given fully expensed Mercedes Benz cars. Should their vehicles break down, the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) provides another car.
With ministers, when their vehicles clock 250 000km, a second vehicle is bought for them and they are offered to buy the first car at book value, which we all know is virtually for nothing.
What about your MPs?
When your MPs are sworn in, they are given a loan of $30 000 to buy a vehicle. In most cases, Treasury will delay release of this money thereby inconveniencing the poor MP.
This car must be used during the MPs’ five-year term and it is not fully/or half expensed. The MP must bear all other expenses from his/her paltry salary of $300 per month.
For starters, the MPs’ credit worthiness does not make him/her qualify for the
$30 000 loans. He/she cannot afford to pay back the loan with a $300 salary.
Furthermore, your MPs are not paid a travel and subsistence or sitting allowance, nor are they paid for the wear and tear of their vehicles for coming to Parliament.
They only benefit from diesel calculated on the basis of the distance that the MP travels from his/her constituency.
We all know that the best and recognised method is using the AA rates. Parliament is however not using this method.
Our request for a $3 000 monthly salary is therefore meant to cover the above.
The total cost to the fiscus for MPs’ monthly salary of $3 000 and ministers at $5 000 is only $12 million per year less.
If you subtract 40% PAYE, this leaves the actual cost at $7 million.
This figure can never be described as unreasonable under the pretext that Zimbabwe is poor.
What is poor is the management of our resources, especially our God-given mineral resources. Zimbabweans must never be hoodwinked into believing that the country is poor.
Zimbabweans must not accept to take ownership of poverty. MPs have advocated for better salaries for civil servants and a hardship allowance for civil servants working in rural areas. Therefore they can never be said to be selfish.
The MPs’ demands must be seriously addressed if we are to deal with the scourge of corruption in this country. MPs are fully aware that Parliament is not there to enrich them.
But the point for the public to understand is that MPs should not subsidise the state.
Headlines in newspapers that MPs are demanding $200 000 are misleading, misguided and mischievous. There is currently a Constituency Development Fund (CDF) of $50 000 per constituency for capital projects. What MPs requested is for this fund to be increased to $200 000 per constituency for meaningful impact and development potential.
The CDF has nothing to do with MPs’ income. Its main purpose is to decentralise the capital budget of government to the constituency level. It is therefore a fund designed to cater for capital projects on behalf of government.
It is administered by MPs and elected councillors. If one looks at the National Budget and its limited focus on capital expenditure, the CDF substitutes for the Public Investment Programme (PSIP) at constituency level.
This programme has enabled government to foster a fair and equitable programme to distribute national capital to its people.
The role of the media is that of educating, correctly informing the public and not to misinform the public by preferring headlines which are mischievous for purposes of selling their newspapers.
There are so many pertinent issues the MPs have raised on behalf of the electorate. Yet, the media has not bothered to publicise these issues.
Let me join hands with those who have called for responsible journalism.
Paddy Zhanda is Zanu PF MP for Goromonzi North and chairperson of the Parliamentary Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion Portfolio Committee