Comment:MPs expose gravy train mentality

ORDINARY folk have always wondered why politicians, once elected, fight tooth and nail to remain in office even when it is clear they have failed in their mandate — to represent the interests of the people. In some instances it takes street protests and bloodshed to remove politicians from positions that they ostensibly held on behalf of the people.

The man in the street could only speculate as to why this was so until Wednesday this week when Zanu PF MPs let the cat out of the bag; they are in it to line their pockets!

The MPs, according to our sister publication NewsDay, have resolved to stall the constitution-making process because they want their daily allowances increased from US$25 to US$75. The story quotes Secretary for the Parliamentary Welfare Committee Kudakwashe Bhasikiti of Zanu PF as boasting that the MPs had told the Constitutional Select Committee “to suspend the whole programme until further notice”. His reason was, “they cannot go ahead when they have no money for our allowances”.

Unlike the police who were demanding an increase in their allowances, MPs have no moral right to try and squeeze everything out of the exchequer when they campaigned under the guise of serving the national interest. The money that the legislators are demanding flies in the face of reason, especially considering that MPs have not raised a whimper on civil servants’ starvation wages. It is clear that the MPs now want to milk the exchequer against the national interest at a time when essential service providers such as hospitals are in need of financial resources.

The actions of the MPs are casting aspersions on the seriousness of the constitution-making process, which they seem to be turning into a self-enriching exercise that will only move forward when the people who drive it feel satisfied with the size of their wallets. Although MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese framed the brouhaha in terms of a Zanu PF bid to ensure that elections are held under the Lancaster House Constitution, concerns remain on the extent to which partisan interests are being allowed to interfere with an important national process.

The delays surrounding the constitution-making process have made Zimbabweans curious about the motives of those disrupting the process.

Even if Zanu PF MPs intend to use this as an excuse to hold elections under the current constitution, they should be reminded that the envisaged benefits of that dispensation will fall away when the results are announced. Otherwise they would not be part of an inclusive government.

The reason why Zimbabweans agreed to let MPs drive the constitution-making process was that there is general consensus that parliament is supposed to act as a non-partisan constituent assembly. As such it is expected that MPs will conduct themselves in ways that reflect the national rather than partisan interests.

MPs need to be reminded by their parties that being in parliament is not an executive appointment in which one amasses as much wealth as possible. It is, in fact, a calling to serve the nation. That calling comes at an expense, and the expense is selflessness.

 

The self-important mentality among MPs should be nipped in the bud because it has become a curse that threatens national processes. MPs who feel that they need to be paid extortionate allowances for contributing to the nation-building process should, in fact, make way for people who want to represent the interests of the people. Alternatively, they should look for high-profile jobs where they can extort their employers.

It is about time that important national matters are given the importance that they deserve. Those seeking to enrich themselves should make way for genuine representatives of the people.

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