FEMALE legislators from the two MDC formations yesterday walked out of a meeting to elect members of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus after trading heavy insults with their Zanu PF counterparts.
By Herbert Moyo
This comes amid reports that all the 355 legislators are still to be paid their travel and sitting allowances two months into the eighth parliament which was sworn in on September 3.
The meeting to elect seven women to the caucus positions started well with a consensus that the ruling Zanu PF would get four posts and two would go to the MDC-T.
But the situation degenerated into chaos as the parties haggled over the remaining post which MDC-T argued should be given to the MDC led by Welshman Ncube.
Zanu PF refused, insisting it should be given to the disabled, sparking what some legislators described as a “vulgar name-calling war”.
The MD-T’s Dorcas Sibanda was reportedly heckled by her Zanu PF counterparts as she tried to bring the MPs to order and at that point the MDCs walked out leaving Zanu PF to conduct the elections alone.
“Zanu PF was unreasonable by refusing to give just one position to the MDC,” said an MDC-T MP from Harare. “The caucus is supposed to unite women across party lines but they were so intransigent. They have become so intolerant and they are flexing their parliamentary majority and bullying alternative voices.”
Zanu PF won the July 31 harmonised elections, obtaining a more than two-thirds majority.
Meanwhile, a huge cash outlay is required to pay the legislature which was enlarged through new constitutional provisions which added women MPS and others on proportional representation bringing the total to 355 legislators. The 275 National Assembly legislators and 80 senators gobble up at least US$200 000 per week in sitting allowances and accommodation when both houses sit. Each parliamentarian gets US$75 per sitting while committee sittings attract the same payment.
“We have not been paid any allowances since the swearing in of the eighth parliament,” said one legislator who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We are still owed allowances for the previous parliament which ended in June.”
Legislators last year endured the embarrassment of being barred from checking in at Crowne Plaza Hotel and Holiday Inn in Harare over non-payment of accommodation bills.