SW Radio Africa (London)

Zimbabwe: Parliament Adjourns Until End January Due to Lack of Funds

As Zimbabwe awaits the announcement of the 2014 budget it has emerged that parliament has been adjourned until January 29th, due to lack of funds.

A Mail & Guardian report Friday said the state, 'withdrew the funding for the legislature' forcing parliament to send the MPs and senators on leave.

However it is not the first time for parliament to be adjourned due to financial problems. Parliament was adjourned at the end of September to November 5th in a bid to minimize expenditure. It was adjourned again from November 7th to 16th but the adjournment from last week to the end of January is the longest.

The latest development means that the MPs will not be able to contribute meaningfully to the national budget due to be announced next Thursday by finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa. Traditionally parliamentarians make initial contributions towards the budget before they debate it on presentation day.

The Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, is quoted as saying the date to which parliament was adjourned is 'flexible' and legislators will be recalled for a special session on the budget, but debates on the budget will only take place in 2014.

Zvoma said at the time parliament was adjourned indications were that the budget would be presented in 2014.

The report quoted the MDC's parliamentary leader, Thokozani Khuphe, admitting that 'things are bad' as MPs were only getting fuel coupons while some hotels were now reluctant to do business with parliament. Khuphe said Zvoma admitted to her that parliament had no money.

According to the report parliament is still struggling to settle hotel bills of more than $750,000 and owes legislators previous parliamentary allowances, ranging between $10,000 to $20,000 each.

The Ex-Legislators Forum, an association of former parliamentarians, is said to be negotiating with Parliament over the payment.

A parliament source told the M &G that if both the lower house and the senate sit they need a combined $200,000 a week in sitting allowances and accommodation. Parliament has 275 MPs and 80 senators and each parliamentarian gets $75 a sitting.

A ZANU PF legislator is quoted as saying the situation the current Parliament finds itself in could be the 'worst in the history of Zimbabwe.' The parliamentarian added that legislators were so demoralized that by the time of the adjournment some of them were no longer attending parliament as only the rich ones could afford to do so.

MDC Chief Whip Innocent Gonese told SW Radio Africa that if the special session for the budget is called, as Zvoma said, that would naturally supersede the current adjournment. Gonese confirmed that 'every parliamentarian is owed a considerable sum of money' by the government.

Details of the non-payment of MP's allowances come after the ruling ZANU PF party hosted its own fund raising dinner in Mutare a fortnight ago, where the most expensive dinner table was going for $25,000. The proceeds from the fundraising dinner went towards the party's annual conference which opened in Chinhoyi Friday.

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