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Why Zimbabwe MPs don’t think straight

By Daniel Chigundu
Nkayi South legislator Abednico Bhebhe says Parliament of Zimbabwe has been failing to make quality laws because legislators are not thinking straight due to poverty.
Despite being poorly remunerated legislators in Zimbabwe have gone for many months without receiving their sitting allowances and fuel allocation.
Speaking in the National Assembly during a debate on the adoption of a Code of Conduct and Ethics for public officials, Honourable Bhebhe said legislators in Zimbabwe are so poor that they smuggle loaves of bread and wild fruits into their hotel rooms, adding that this affects their thinking when it comes to making laws.
“We are Members of Parliament that are equally charged and we are equal to the executive, we are equal to the judiciary, we should get our own allocation that is equal to the amount of work that we are supposed to do because if we continue this way as a Parliament, Mr Speaker, this is why we cannot actually pass quality laws at times.
“This is why we make such mistakes and agree to the declaration of assets, then we turn around and say no because we are so poor that when we debate here we are not thinking properly.  We are so poor and thinking of our poverty then we make such kind of fundamental mistakes,” he said.
The Nkayi South legislator added that the Code of Ethics for legislators must first deal with the issues of welfare of MPs, adding that he never anticipated that he would one struggle to buy food when he comes for Parliament business.
“I remember when I started being a Member of Parliament in 2000, you know what?  I was surprised I did not know that one day I would smuggle a loaf of bread in a hotel because I could not afford to buy myself supper.  I did not believe that one day I was going to be smuggling fruits from my constituency in my bag when I am supposed to be a Member of Parliament.
“It is because of poverty.  So, therefore, our code of ethics should deal with the issues of poverty first.  When we come here, we should not come here as paupers because if we come as paupers, we are going to come up with legislation that is actually equal to the pauper itself.
“So, we need to be very careful, Mr Speaker, when we come up with these kinds of things,” he said.
According to Zvishavane-Ngezi legislator John Holder Zimbabwean MPs are the lowest paid on the continent, getting US$75 per day while their counterparts in Zambia get US$445 per day.
Meanwhile, Buhera West legislator Oliver Mandipaka has called on the relevant authorities to consider increasing the perks for legislators, adding that what they are currently getting is not commensurate with the work they are doing and their status in the communities.

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