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FULL TEXT: Hon. Mliswa debate on Parly Budget

we only have a one-course meal at Parliament

Courtesy of Parliament Hansard

Honourable Temba Mliswa (Norton):  Thank you, Chairman.  I do not blame the Hon. Minister Ndlovu for wanting to debate the budget because she is in the Executive.  She is not a Member of Parliament.  She has two cars; she has bodyguards and many allowances I really understand.

We now go back to the three pillars of the state and we ask ourselves we are supposed to be equal.  The Members of Parliament are entitled to one car for five years.  Ministers are entitled to two cars plus those of the subsidiary that they have.  They have allowances.  They have everything that they want.  This is one pillar of the state which is the executive.  We have got the judiciary as well, the judges, magistrates…

THE CHAIRPERSON: Hon. Mliswa, would you be guided to concentrate your debate on the….

Honourable Temba Mliswa (Norton):  The issue is that we are trying to understand the relevance of Parliament but you cannot talk about the relevance of Parliament without talking about the three pillars of the state and then say, what role does Parliament pay?  The Executive has got a role that they play but we are supposed to be equal. This is the point.  But if we look at it, we are not equal in any way because others are capacitated more than the others, yet this Parliament here is the one that is responsible for oversight over everyone but it is paid less.

How then do we expect this country to move forward when we have those who are supposed to be exercising oversight are less capacitated?  Because of that, the relevance of Vote 2 being there is that Parliament having the role of oversight must be able to do it in a manner where they are not compromised.  Members of Parliament here are looked down upon because of the welfare issue more than anybody else.

We are all Members of Parliament with the Ministers who are also appointed by the President but the moment that they are appointed to the Executive, we are different because of what they have.  Members of Parliament spend more time in the Ministers’ offices begging for coupons because Ministers have a full book of coupons per month/week.  If you look at it, how then do you expect Members of Parliament to also exercise their role?  So, you have a situation where you will have one of the cousins who is poor and as a result, they also get allowances on the cars that they have.  If I am not mistaken, I think they get cars every two years and they buy those cars at book value.  A Range Rover costing $120 000, they get it for around $6 000 book value.

If you want to see the difference, go to any Minister’s house today and see how many cars are parked there. This is out of order yet in terms of performance as Ministers, they have failed to move this country forward.  So, it is only important that we are all equal and being equal is also about the resource which is given to us.

The Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development is very much aware that the budget that he is going to allocate to the Members of Parliament they have oversight over it and for them to be effectively capacitated; we talk about the researchers and the Clerks in Parliament.

We have a situation where one Clerk serves three Committees and one researcher serves three Committees.  So, how then do you expect us to be able to be discharging our duties in a professional manner when we are handicapped in terms of research and human capital? That is glaring and we do not have the time because we are not full time and we do not have the time to be doing research.  The research for us is done by the Parliament staff which is critical in ensuring that this Parliament is mandated to do its job accordingly.

I want to talk about the aspect of the community information centres and the constituencies as well.  There is no way that you expect a constituency to function without being resourced and it is that one car again that goes around.  The cars that we get are not too hard for the terrain.  We are talking about a land cruiser which is the only car which is able to make sure that these Members here are able to do a job because the Toyotas that you give us are not able to do the job.  You need a 4X4 Land Cruiser, V8 with chrome – those new ones.  Those are the ones that we want.

Members of Parliament who are seated here, the only thing that they own is a car and if they are not given a car which has value and which gets them to do the job, they will not be able to do their jobs.  We can no longer have a situation where when a Member of Parliament ceases to be a Member of Parliament, he or she is a destitute.  It is sad.

This is the only Parliament in the world where you regret not being a Member of Parliament. If you want to see how poor they are out there, the pension is not good enough, the allowances are not good enough yet they would have served this country. This is the time this year this budget must address the welfare of the Members of Parliament.  As Members of Parliament, we have been labelled in a bad way because of our welfare.  People look at our welfare and already they judge us and say Members of Parliament are not able to do A, B, C, D because of our welfare and that perception can only go away if this issue is addressed.

I want to talk about the role of the Members of Parliament on the ICT.  Today we are in the ICT world – Ipads are not here, they do not have the computers yet we are expected to follow. You can see even at times Parliament does not even give us this Order Paper on time but, if we all have Ipads, we are able to take notes.  This is the world that we are faced with at the end of the day and it is important that Parliament is capacitated in that way.

I want to also talk about the sitting allowances.  They mean absolutely nothing.  The Committee that I chair can sit from 8 to 8 in the evening working for this country but what they get is a pittance $75, not US dollar.  Bond cash is better than RTGS and these are people who are working tirelessly for this country in those Committees.  Those Committees have a risk on their own because you are exposing people who have money and who have the ability to even put a mafia together for you but what do we get – $75.  That has to be reviewed because you want Members of Parliament to be able to execute their duties in a professional manner and that can only happen when they are sitting there and they are able to be given an allowance which is conducive.  We meet on Mondays where the kitchen is closed and they are hungry – they do not eat.

You expect people to work yet they do not even get lunch when they are here and this budget must address the welfare of the players from even eating well.

We are talking about wanting to be a world-class Parliament but we only have a one-course meal and the dessert is an apple/banana yet when we go out to other areas we get trifle, a nice fruit salad, custard, ice cream and all that.  But, look at what we get here – a mere banana and apple.  There is no soup.  The diet of Members of Parliament is important.  Nutrition is important because when Members do not eat well, they do not function well.  So, it is important that the nutrition of the Members of Parliament is maintained in order that they are able to discharge their duties.

Mr Chairman, the Hon. Minister must understand that there is a program called wellness.  Wellness is the wellbeing of the Members of Parliament.  They do not even have a gym where they can go to.  They do not even have a sports club where they can go to and recreation is important for the mind.  They are stressed in here.  We have Members of Parliament dying because of blood pressure and stress that you know.  So, how many more are going to die before we rescue the situation?  We must have a recreation club where we play golf or choose any sport that we want to partake in.  We must be able to have world-class gyms where we are able to train because when you are strong physically, mentally, it equally helps you.

So, this is the world class Parliament that we are talking about.  I want to talk about the issue of fuel coupons given to Members.  Already, Parliament has actually cut down what Members are supposed to get.  What we used to get in the Eighth Parliament is not what we get now.  So, now you are saying to yourself, even the coupons that we got in the Eighth Parliament were not enough.  Members of Parliament are people with integrity and dignity.  Trust them and give them a whole book and let them have a book and not be scrounging around for coupons.  We queue up like little children for coupons which are not even enough.

So, when are we going to have integrity and dignity left for the Members of Parliament?  Members of Parliament, because their welfare is not enough and end up selling fuel coupons.  We are known for selling fuel coupons.  Whenever it is a Thursday, all the service stations know that Members of Parliament are coming to sell fuel coupons because of the welfare that we have.  It is a situation which is unattainable and a situation which cannot be allowed to happen.  The role of Parliamentarians cannot be underestimated.

Deputy Chairperson of Committees: Hon. Member, you are reminded of your time.

Honourable Temba Mliswa (Norton): Ok, I am going to summarise now. I talk about the allowances that we get when we leave this country.  The allowances that we get are US$50 leaving Zimbabwe.  It is not enough.  The foreign currency that we get is not enough at all and it has to be looked into and the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development must be able to also increase that allowance we get when we leave the country.  Parliament must be able to give us a credit card which you use and you account for it because when I do not have my money, it is parliamentary work that I am doing.  There must be a credit card which is given to Members of Parliament when they travel and what they must do is to account for it when they come back, not a situation where the money that we get is not enough even for you want to buy meals when you leave the country.  It does not represent the country well.

Lastly, Mr Chairman, Members of Parliament cannot be divided.  They are all entitled to diplomatic passports and it is important that that money also goes towards Members of Parliament being given diplomatic passports.  We cannot be divided. If I have a diplomatic passport and when I am travelling with my team, they do not have a diplomatic passport, they use the other route.  How can we be divided over a mere issue that just needs a capital injection?  So, may I propose again that the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development ensures that Members of Parliament are all issued with diplomatic passports so that we are the same and no different.  Thank you.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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