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Transport Blues Turn MPs’ Task Into Nightmare

MDC-T Member of Parliament for Zaka Central Harrison Mudzuri takes a deep breath before leaving his rural home at Four Miles in Ward 8 to visit other areas in the sprawling rural constituency using public transport.

With nine wards in the constituency, the thought of travelling over 25km visiting each and every centre updating his people on the developments of the new inclusive government dampens his spirits.

The MP has put on hold some of the duties he is expected to perform in his constituency, among them explaining to the people the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp) launched by the inclusive government in March, and the constitution-making process.

Mudzuri’s biggest challenge is to preach the spirit of national healing in his constituency, which was one of the constituencies worst affected by political violence in the countdown to the June 27 2008 presidential election run-off.

Two MDC-T activists Washington Nyamwa and Chrison Mbano were burnt to death and eight others were left nursing serious injuries when alleged Zanu PF militias torched the party’s offices at Jerera Growth Point in the countdown to the run-off.

One of the survivors, Kudakwashe Tsumele, suffered 80% disability as a result of multiple wounds on his hands, stomach and legs, while Edson Gwenhure’s face and fingers were disfigured and he lost the greater part of his left foot.

In addition, many people in the constituency were left homeless and lost property.

Mudzuri says the affected people were expecting him to give them answers to their problems and an explanation on the inclusive government’s national healing programme.

The former teacher blames his ineffectiveness as a parliamentarian on inadequate resources at his disposal, especially a vehicle to drive around the constituency doing his work.

“At times I am forced to walk an average of 25km visiting a number of wards in my constituency,” Mudzuri said. “Some roads that can take me to these wards have since been abandoned by buses because of their bad state. Sometimes I ask for bicycles from fellow supporters to make the travelling easier.”

The MP said he uses public transport to attend parliamentary sessions in the capital.

“I either hike buses or lifts from Masvingo to Harare to attend parliament,” Mudzuri lamented.  “If push comes to shove, I get lifts from haulage trucks. It is embarrassing to say that you are an MP.”

He said he faced difficulties finding his way to six wards in his constituency.  

“Ward 6 and 7 in an area called Kwanemauko, and Ward 9 at kwaMbuyamaswa primary and secondary schools are difficult to reach on foot,” Mudzuri said. “Other wards are 13, 14, 15 and 18. The only convenient ward for me is 3 because it is along the main road.”

Mudzuri added:  “This has affected my duties. I am not accessible to the people in my constituency as often as I want. I am obliged to find out the problems they are facing and raising them in parliament and giving them a report back. People complain that they don’t know me while others have accused me of turning my back on them.”

Another MDC-T MP in a similar dilemma is Shepherd Madamombe. The lawmaker for Mabvuku-Tafara in the capital is known for crisscrossing the constituency in commuter omnibuses and at times on foot.
Madamombe said: “I have been using public transport ever since and if I am lucky party supporters and well wishers provide me with transport around my constituency.”

The transport blues faced by MPs, especially those who were elected into the august house for the first time last year, has affected their work and the decision by the central bank earlier this month to offer them vehicles was a welcome move.

The central bank reached the decision after the legislators appealed to it to provide the second-hand vehicles until treasury marshals enough foreign currency to buy new ones.

However, the MDC-T leadership decreed that the MPs should not get the cars from the central bank and those who were allocated the vehicles were told to return them on Monday.

Some of the lawmakers from the MDC-T have returned the cars while others are holding on to them.

Madamombe said despite his desperate need for a vehicle to carry out his duties in the constituency, he did collect one from the central bank because he was loyal to the MDC-T and its leadership.

“It is difficult at times to cover all the areas and be there for people when they want me to because of lack of transport,” he said. “It is worse in emergency situations.”

 Last week, the chairman of a 14-member committee dealing with the welfare of MPs,  Makhosini Hlongwane, said backbenchers were in a desperate situation since their election in March last year.

Hlongwane, a Zanu PF MP, said: “Matters affecting our honourable MPs have not been addressed for too long. Since March 2008, we have had a deplorable situation where members of parliament have been travelling in haulage trucks and public transport, buses, kombis and sometimes ambulances to attend parliamentary business. That is not good.

“Can you imagine an honourable member of parliament carrying copies of the Hansard in a haulage truck? In some cases we have members of parliament smuggling bread into hotels because they cannot afford lunch and dinner in hotels, which would have been booked for them by Parliament (most hotels only provide bed and breakfast). That is deplorable.”

The MDC-T said it was aware of the need for MPs to have instruments of delivery such as offices, computers and vehicles but that the issue of their vehicles should be handled through the Vehicle Loan Scheme put in place by Parliament and the government of Zimbabwe.

“We have not heard that parliament is no longer handling this scheme to the extent that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe could once again become a central player in dishing out and distributing largesse when the government is now agreed that the central bank should not engage in quasi-fiscal activities,” the MDC-T said.

“It is disturbing to note that the RBZ continues to be abused and to abuse itself by continuing to engage itself in quasi-fiscal operations when such operations should migrate to the government through the Ministry of Finance. Engaging in distribution of capital products is in itself a quasi-fiscal activity.”

RBZ governor Gideon Gono on Monday announced that all members of parliament should return the vehicles.

According to reports, as many as 25 MDC-T MPs had defied their leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s order to return vehicles which include 18 Isuzu KB300s, five Isuzu KB250s, 10 Mazda 2500s, five Mazda BT50s, two Mitsubishi Colts, two Mitsubishi L200s, two Toyota Vigos, one Nissan HB and five Nissan Wolfs.


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