By Joel Mandaza
For the first time in many years Government released the Constituency Development Fund with little persuasion.
This is money given to Parliamentarians to develop their respective constituencies.
Projects which CDF is used on have to be a product of consent born out of consultation.
The money is presided over by a trust comprising of resident representatives, Senator, councillors and the District Administrator.
There are many institutions needed to make a collective decision on the money to ensure it answers the immediate questions in these communities.
But that structure may not be useful because the value of the money disbursed may make it difficult even for the best intentioned individuals to stimulate short term developmental projects.
Previously, the CDF was US$50 000.
This was by any measure a decent amount.
But like everyone knows, the economy took a different complexion since 2017.
All money held and promised has lost value as the economy continues to experience inflationary pressures from all sectors.
Even non-economists can at this point smell an implosion.
Parties in Parliament are interpreting the economic quicksand Zimbabwe finds itself in through two conflicting lenses.
Those from Zanu Pf know this is a crisis but as usual they are singing out of tune to try and calm the nation, in coordinated acts of either naivety or arrogance.
Either way dangerous!
MDC Alliance is carrying the economy narrative by the shoulder, making it a point to heighten the state of the economy in all official communication.
Even when they depart from their values, all opposition cannot be seen siding with the state as the economy burns.
This is why Thokozani Khupe, and other “polladiums” were thoroughly punished by the electorate in the last election.
It is a sad reflection of our politics which has been far divorced from practicable development; this is why there has not been enough noise on the issue of CDF.
Even at an increased amount of ZW$175 000, the money still translates to around US$10 000 which is very little to be felt, especially in large constituencies like Harare South.
Our Parliamentarians should use simple indicators like their own allowances to measure how depreciated the CDF fund is.
If an MP during the US dollar era used to get around US$2000 a month as their fixed earnings, it means they needed 25 months to single-handedly raise the CDF equivalent without spending a cent of that money.
Now they need less than half the time with their current earnings to eclipse that.
Although current Parliamentarians have not been open with their earnings, whispers from the August house suggest they are being remunerated generously.
What this means, is the need to keep MPs salaries proportionate to CDF was not observed.
Members of Parliament were able to push for a salary increase at a scale larger than is set aside for constituency development.
Viewed in perspective, makes one wonder if representing the people is the core business of Parliament or these people are using Parliament to make money far from the prying eyes of the media.
It does not make sense that Member of Parliament in underdeveloped constituencies with no water reticulation, electricity, roads or a school can be calm when the CDF is not indexed to the interbank rate.
A slowly developing constituency handicaps the incumbent legislator in the next election.
There must be a perfect reason why Parliamentarians are not worried about being accountable to those they represent and this applies to people across the divide.
During campaigns they will be promising roses of Sharon right at the centre of Eden to desperate citizens unfortunately holding belief that answers to their socio-economic questions will be formulated by these men and women.
Posters with blatant lies are pasted on trees, defiling what God made in his Glory, to pretend to care.
But when the time comes to operationalise the “people`s servant” concept which almost everyone who ran in the last election paraphrased, is yet to be palpable in our Parliament.
Why were voices louder in the fight for cars, three course meals and gyms than in the fight for an indexed CDF?
Is this how people`s servants serve the people?
CDF has lost more than 2500 percent of its value in the past two years.
There were complaints when the value was still at US$50 000 with some saying it is not enough, imagine what they are saying now that it is now a thin fraction of what it once was.
In its current state, CDF is not useful to the constituencies it is mean to serve.
This is concerning in more ways than the actual buying power of the money itself.
When money is relegated into being a meagre figure little significance, it threatens the principle of accountability.
Inflation on its own is enough justification from anyone clever on why they are failing to put the CDF to good use.
A past phone call with a Parliamentarian revealed this sad fact.
Asking the legislator on why the roads he promised to fix within the first year in office were still untouched, he sternly used the inflation excuse.
Even sarcastically called on those with ideas on how he can perform miracles with such a meagre amount to reach out to him.
The nuance was lost on him, like many of his colleagues.
MPs think if people are asking for development especially in terms of short term community level infrastructure project they are asking them to fork out their money.
The undertone in all questions is, why are they not fighting the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to review the amount dedicated to community development?
Treasury has the moral obligation to view the request with respect for it is adjustments it initiated which triggered the currency chaos we find ourselves in.
If gold miners can lobby with the Treasury until it loosens a few screws on how foreign currency value can be retained through special concessions, why is our Parliament –made up of elected public office holders- reluctant to pursue the same route?
Our communities are being side-lined by both central government and local authorities, Parliament can rise to the occasion if it uses its power in pushing for an upward review of the CDF from the $175 000 to the interbank equivalent
The CDF was one of the country`s greatest victories as far as getting the state to commit to small scale but impactful development.
Those who fought for it must be watching in agony as the values they fought for have since been recalculated at the expense of progress.-