2 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Mystery Shrouds MPs' Loans Write-Off

MYSTERY surrounds a US$9 million car loan that was advanced to legislators but has reportedly been written-off after the parliamentarians failed to repay.

Finance minister, Tendai Biti, professed ignorance on the loan facility saying the government had not advanced any loans to the legislators.

"I only saw that in the newspapers," he said.

"I do not know anything about that."

Biti had been quoted in the state media saying the loans, US$30 000 to each legislator, had been written-off, while the parliamentarians had also been given a bonus last year, which they were not entitled to.

MDC-T parliamentary chief whip, Innocent Gonese, however, defended the loan cancellation, saying legislators worked under very difficult situations, which most people did not appreciate .

He said Members of Parliament were owed several thousands in outstanding allowances and this made it difficult to pay back any loans they received.

"We have to look at both sides of the coin. treasury is not up to date with our sitting allowances," Gonese said.

"We were last paid allowances in January 2012 and that makes life as a legislator difficult."

He said MPs needed to be capacitated and equated to their colleagues in Kenya and Zambia who were paid handsomely.

"When we came in in 2009, we were being given an allowance of US$100. how do we repay loans on that?" Gonese asked.

He said to make matters worse, the parliament had adjourned until next February, meaning that legislators would not receive their fuel allocation, yet they were still supposed to conduct constituency work during that time.

"We are in a peculiar situation and people have to appreciate that. As it is, we have to pay for posters and PA (public address) systems when we call for meetings and all this money has to come from our pockets," Gonese continued.

Public Affairs and Parliamentary Support Trust (PAPST) executive director, Michael Mataure, said critics should look at a more holistic picture before blaming the government.

"You have to ask if their monthly and sitting allowances are being paid. if not, maybe this offsets any loan amount that they are supposed to pay," he said.

Mataure said since treasury was responsible for the allowances, yet it was not paying, there was no way legislators could repay the loans.

He said in future, there should be a separation between the institution that granted loans and the one that paid allowances, to avoid such controversies.

Decision exposes legislators' greed: Ndlovu

Sifiso Ndlovu, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) chief executive officers, said the loans write-off exposed the legislators' greed.

"This is an issue of greedy legislators, who have no concern for their followers," he said.

"They say they have no money for other things yet they have money to spoil themselves."

Ndlovu said legislators from Zanu PF and both formations of the MDC were of the same mould, accusing them of being after self-aggrandisement.

He said the writing-off of the loans could have been a means by treasury to induce parliamentarians to vote in favour of the budget, which they had been opposed to.

Ndlovu said in future, Zimbabweans should vote for people with integrity who will stand up to such "injustices".

Zimta has for the past three years been clamouring for better salaries for teachers, with the association blaming legislators for their largesse, yet the rest of the country suffers.

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