GOVERNMENT will next month splash out a staggering US$4,8 million — about $427,7 billion at the ruling parallel market exchange rate of US$1: $90 000 — to MPs and senators to buy
personal vehicles at a time when forex remains scarce and millions of Zimbabweans are without food.
Official sources said lawmakers in the lower and upper chambers — who now number up to 216 — will each get US$22 000 to import a vehicle under parliament’s car loan facility. This means US$4 752 000 will be spent on vehicle allowances.
The House of Assembly has 150 MPs while the newly-reintroduced Senate has 66 members. The re-introduction of the bi-cameral legislature has stretched already scarce national resources as new members push for perks. Expenditure on the recent Senate election and allowances and other benefits for the senators will further deplete the country’s scarce forex resources.
Zimbabwe is reeling under a serious foreign exchange crisis which has in turn caused shortages of fuel, power, drugs, spares, production inputs, and grain.
The foreign currency shortage was caused by poor export performance, lack of balance of payments support, and drying up of donor aid and direct foreign investment.
“Legislators, both members of the lower house and the upper house, will from next month start to draw down on the facility in which they would be able to access US$22 000 each to import cars,” a source said. “Initially MPs wanted US$46 000 each but the figure was brought down to US$22 000.”
The loans will be secured at a preferential exchange rate of US$1:$26 000 and will be interest-free. The vehicles will be imported duty-free.
However, the legislators want the loan increased because they argue that it was too little to buy suitable off-road vehicles.
“There is no useful car that one can buy with US$22 000 because MPs need all-terrain vehicles that work in all constituencies, especially rural ones,” one MP said.
“The only car one can buy with that amount is a re-conditioned Japanese vehicle, those from Durban (South Africa), which cost between US$3 000 and US$10 000.”
Parliament has been in dire straits due to budgetary constraints. It has during the course of the year failed to pay MPs their allowances.
In October, Speaker John Nkomo and a delegation of MPs failed to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference because parliament was broke and had no usable foreign currency. It could not raise the required US$1 500 travel allowances for each of the MPs.
Nkomo was expected to travel with Zanu PF MPs, Leo Mugabe and Margaret Zinyemba, and opposition MDC legislators Job Sikhala and Gilbert Shoko.