LEGISLATORS in the National Assembly yesterday went on strike and refused to debate any motion until issues of their welfare, outstanding allowances and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocations are addressed.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Before the first order of the day was read to resume debate, Musikavanhu MP Prosper Mutseyami (MDC-T) had already raised a point of order demanding clarity on their welfare.
The rest of the MPs across the political divide clapped hands, while beating benches and shouting: “We want our money.”
The House was forced to adjourn just before 3pm with not a single issue debated.
It is not clear how much Parliament owes them, as they get $75 sitting allowances based on attendance and a monthly $2 000 fixed salary.
Individual MPs are owed different amounts in allowances and fuel coupons, and since 2011, government has failed to give MPs $50 000 in CDF allocations, as well as laptops and tablets which they were promised.
They have also threatened not to attend today’s pre-budget seminar at a lodge, and to refuse debating the 2018 National Budget if their demands are not met.
“Madam Speaker, you are talking of us attending the pre-budget seminar when there is nothing that has been done about MPs’ welfare. We were also promised iPads before Christmas last year, but now, we are going to another Christmas without iPads,” Mutseyami opened up debate on the issue.
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mabel Chinomona said the issue would be addressed, but warned MPs against publicising their concerns, angering the lawmakers who started beating benches and clapping hands while shouting: “We want our money.”
Zvishavane-Ngezi MP John Holder (Zanu PF) then said: “The matter cannot be swept under the carpet. We are under siege and whenever we speak, we are told to sit down. Why do we need to do certain things in order for us to get what belongs to us?”
An emotionally-charged Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) said MPs were being ordered by the Deputy Speaker to refrain from raising issues of their welfare when Speaker Jacob Mudenda and Senate President Edna Madzongwe were currently out on holiday enjoying Parliament benefits.
“They are enjoying their holidays when no one is fighting for us. MPs end up selling coupons to survive and our dignity is destroyed while ministers get salaries and new cars. Tomorrow, there is a pre-budget seminar and you want us to get food and stay at hotels. We are tired of that. We want our money and allowances,” he said.
Chinomona then picked on Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe (Zanu PF), saying such demonstrations were not expected from ruling party MPs.
But Hurungwe West MP Keith Guzah (Zanu PF) said issues of welfare of MPs cut across the political divide.
Another ruling party legislator, Remigios Matangira (Bindura South), said without their CDF allocations, the current crop of MPs might lose elections because they cannot develop constituencies.
Mutasa South MP Irene Zindi (Zanu PF) said: “Whenever there is a funeral, our constituents expect us to buy coffins and food. My car now needs $6 000 to repair and yet I get $2 000 per month. Parents expect us to pay fees for their children. We are expected to be the custodians of the povo and subsidise government.”
Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) said Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda should summon Finance minister Ignatius Chombo to explain when exactly MPs would be paid.