SPEAKER of Parliament John Nkomo and a delegation of MPs failed to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend an Inter-Praliamentary Union (IPU) conference last week due to lack of foreign currency
Official sources said Nkomo’s team could not travel to the meeting last Friday because “parliament is broke” and has no usable foreign currency.
The delegation was expected to comprise, in addition to Nkomo, President Robert Mugabe’s nephew and Zanu PF MP, Leo Mugabe, Margaret Zinyemba (Zanu PF), Job Sikhala (MDC), and Gilbert Shoko (MDC).
Sources said parliament, which has exhausted its budget, could not raise the required US$1 500 travel allowances for each of the delegates.
“The delegation was supposed to leave on Friday morning for Geneva (and be away) until October 22,” a source said. “Everything was ready, including air tickets and travel arrangements, but parliament failed to raise US$7 500 for allowances.
“Parliament is bankrupt,” the source said. “MPs haven’t been paid their sitting allowances for last month as a result. This illustrates how bad the current economic crisis is.”
However, another source said the trip could have been called off for political reasons. The source said the trip was cancelled because the government was anxious to avoid a debate on its human rights record.
The IPU, an international organisation of parliaments which provides a forum for political multilateral negotiations, had tabled Zimbabwe’s human rights abuses on the agenda for debate.
“The real reason why the trip was cancelled is government didn’t want Zanu PF MPs grilled over their party’s appalling human rights record,” the source said.
“Authorities also wanted to prevent MDC legislators from speaking out on the human rights situation in the country.”
Zimbabwe has been widely condemned for gross human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention of MPs. Dozens of MDC MPs have been arrested many times. So have journalists and civic activists.
Sikhala alone has been arrested on various offences over 20 times. On one occasion he was tortured while in police custody. He had to seek medical treatement abroad after his release. Mugabe promised General Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003 that Sikhala’s torture was being investigated but nothing has been done. – Staff Writer.