HARARE – Zanu PF MPs pressed finance minister Mthuli Ncube to raise their salaries and commit to give them houses and Toyota Land Cruisers before passing his budget on Thursday.
Comparing themselves to ministers, MPs complained that the US$60,000 budget for each MP’s vehicle was too little.
CCC MPs missed the sitting which passed the Z$59 trillion budget after they were expelled for singing and heckling Mabvuku Tafara MP Scott Sakupwanya, who became a lawmaker after a CCC candidate was banned by a court from standing.
Murewa South MP Noah Mangondo said: “If you look at it, a minister has cabinet allowance, housing allowance, salary, workers who are paid by the government, telephone bills, fuel and everything. What about an MP?
“Vehicles that were discussed here, my constituency Murehwa South, from one end to the other, I travel 60km on a dirt road, with no gravel. I was issued with a Toyota GD6 vehicle by my party, it is now a wreck, just in a space of four months. GD6 is not useful to me, I need a Toyota Land Cruiser for me to be able to move from one point to another…
“We need to sit down to discuss this issue. If there is need to have a committee of MPs who can present our issues and not to be given small amounts which do not help us; it is not acceptable.”
Shurugwi South MP Wilson Mhuri added: “The motor vehicles that we use are not in good condition since most of our vehicles broke down during campaigns. What motor vehicle does he (Ncube) have in mind?
“I am not looking down upon the vehicle scheme, but vehicles for US$60,000 are not befitting of the stature of an Honourable Member of Parliament.”
Insiza South MP Spare Sithole demanded that MPs who were in the ninth parliament should get the difference between the value of cars they were told they could import, and what they were eventually permitted.
He said: “In the previous Parliament, the 5th session, you promised us vehicles which were at US$80,000 but at the end of the session you said the vehicles were now US$50,000 so there was a difference of US$30,000 which we thought we would be given as cash.
“So as we are passing this budget, are we going to be given that difference?”
Edmore Samambwa, MP for Zhombe, asked if the new MPs would also get US$40,000 loans like their predecessors.
“We also want to know before we pass this budget that, is duty free still applicable in the 10th parliament as it was in the previous parliament? We also want to know if Members of the 9th parliament got US$40,000 loans, are we also going to get them?”
Ompile Marupi, MP for Gwanda South, added: “Why is there a selective application in terms of loan amounts? For example, ministers get US$500,000, deputy ministers get US$350,000 and the Member of Parliament gets US$40,000?”
Ncube told the MPs he had increased the budget for parliament by Z$225 billion to bring it to Z$700 billion in response to some of the concerns by MPs.
He added: “There was a question specifically about vehicles, we have budgeted Z$132 billion at the current exchange rate, it converts to about US$60,000 per vehicle… This is the duty-free prices and not the full price, which is probably about US$100,000 or so. Again, I think this is quite okay.
“Overally, when we did the increase by Z$225 billion to Z$700 billion, the percentage increase is actually 47 percent. We all feel that this will go a long way in addressing the budgetary demands and imperatives for parliament.
“We cannot afford the US$30,000 (difference in vehicle prices from last parliament). We extended US$40,000 loans to members of the 9th parliament for accommodation or purchase of a vehicle and then we also extended duty free status for a second vehicle. So, within government we feel that we will be unable, budget-wise, to support US$30,000 pay back for the previous parliament.”
The MPs also pressed Ncube on funding the construction of constituency offices and staffing them, as well as raising their salaries to meet regional standards, with Zaka South MP Clemence Chiduwa saying they were currently earning US$300 per month.
Said Mangondo (Murewa South): “Ministers have an Act which provides for special packages. One of the provisions is that whenever the salaries of civil servants and allowances are reviewed, automatically theirs are reviewed. The judiciary in terms of the judges, have the Judicial Service Commission which looks at the welfare of judges. MPs don’t have any Act. They cannot bargain.
“There are a lot of things – if you look at a director in the civil service, they have got perks which an MP does not have, yet the MP oversees more than 35,000 constituents. This is where our problem emanates from.
“Even when we look at this parliament, there are no offices for MPs. In other parliaments, MPs have offices at parliament and they have their staff there. In our constituencies, the issue of constituency information centres no longer exist. We don’t have staff, even computers. The best way is to look for a framework that Parliament has its budget that looks at what is happening in other countries and bring it home.
“Being an MP is a full-time job. We come here on Monday up to Thursday, we do not have time to augment our salaries, but when it comes to benefits, we are not considered.”
Masvingo South MP Tanatswa Mukomberi said MPs were so poor very few could afford decent clothes.
“In our Standing Rules, we are all supposed to be formerly dressed. As MPs, we should not put on a worn-out suit, we cannot put on a suit similar to that of a herd boy,” he said.
“An MP needs a good quality suit and they need dry cleaning. The suit might cost up to US$300 before even buying shoes. Some members might end up absconding from attending parliament business because they don’t have the required attire. The suits that we are wearing now were bought using some other sources before we came here. At times you wonder whether you made a wrong choice to represent the people of your area.”
Sithole (Insiza South) said: “May we also have a benchmarking analysis like in South Africa in terms of Honourable Members’ remuneration? May we also be given the privilege of bringing our spouses so that we stay together in the hotels?”
Mberengwa East MP Tasara Hungwe said: “We want to know the amount that we are going to receive as increment on our salaries in US dollars even if we are to receive at interbank rate.”
Zhombe MP Edmore Samambwa said MPs “have become a laughing stock in the villages because our salaries are the same as those being paid to ZESA interns.”
In response to the MPs, Ncube said: “On the issue of remuneration of MPs, parliament and treasury are working together to review the framework and improve the salaries of MPs… The target salary for parliament is US$2,000. We said this about two years ago and we are working towards that target. I am hopeful that we will get there.”
Midlands proportional representative Tsitsi Zhou said lawmakers should also get loans to buy houses to ease their accommodation woes.
” We are being offered poor services (by hotels) to the extent that at one point, I was bitten by mosquitos. May the minister have a dialogue with the central bank so that we get loans to buy houses for our accommodation instead of being accommodated in hotels? At a decent accommodation, we can cook healthy food and we are also able to provide ourselves self-service,” she said.
Bindura South MP Remigious Matangira said: “When we go back for elections for re-election, some of us are not going to be coming back. If they do not come back to parliament, then they deserve a roof over their heads.”
Ncube said they would find the best model to deal with the issue of accommodation for MPs.
“We can identify land and once that land has been identified, we take some amount and deposit with the building society and build accommodation for Members of Parliament. They are given a key and they use that during the duration of parliament. That is what South Africa does. That is the arrangement,” Ncube said.
“These are just ideas which are emerging now. I am not proposing, but I am merely responding to say, I am hearing some ideas. There may be better ideas with backbenchers and that is fine. That is what should come to the welfare committee for discussion so that we all agree on the best model and government stands ready to support. I agree with you that we need to do something with accommodation.”