The Herald (Harare)

14 February 2014

Zimbabwe: MDC-T MPs Must Serve People, Country First

editorial

As has become the norm in the last couple of weeks, the nation yesterday woke up to some very shocking news that MDC-T MPs were demanding to be paid obscene perks that would cost Treasury an extra US$89 million annually. The demands come hot on the heels of revelations of "obscene " salaries and allowances that have been paid to parasatal bosses as exposed in the media in recent weeks. While the nation is still coming to terms with the culture of looting in parastatals and other State enterprises, the MPs, who ideally should serve the interests of the electorate and provide oversight on the functions of the parastatals and State enterprises, surprisingly want the same obscene perks that have caused national outcry.

Lest, the MDC-T MPs and other MPs in general have forgotten; their mandate as given to them by the electorate is to serve the people by being in Parliament to represent their interests. They must remember that their priority is to serve the people and not for the country to serve them. By demanding the obscene perks, in the form of ministerial vehicles and other perks, the MPs are showing frightening ignorance of what is expected of people in that office.

Being an MP is not a full-time job; it is not a profession and that is why they do not attend Parliament every day of the month. This is why there are no interviews conducted for one to become an MP, but rather it is by way of elections. MPs are not civil servants and for them to demand perks at par with what parastatal bosses are getting is asking for too much.

It is clearly emerging that when they are campaigning to become MPs, they are not doing so to be the people's representatives but in order for them to earn a living. The electorate should never be hoodwinked by these people into believing they have their interests at heart. Never!

An MP should be someone ready to offer national service to the nation; should be someone ready to mobilise resources to develop his/her constituency and above all, it should be a big sacrifice to serve as an MP. MPs should be motivated by the hunger to serve the people and in so doing make good names for themselves so that even when they seek high office, they have a track record.

Instead of the MPs having the desire to serve the people, they want the State to serve them for being people's representatives. God forbid! The sitting fees and the vehicle loans that the MPs get should never be viewed as perks as these are extended to them as part of efforts to enable them to reach out to their constituencies and as means for them to be effective in carrying out their mandate.

Now judging from the MPs demands, it is clear this is no longer about being effective in conducting their business but just being luxurious. Instead of seeking obscene perks, the MPs should engage in economic activities to sustain themselves just like everyone of us.

We note that some of the MDC-T MPs are lawyers, engineers and teachers by profession; nothing stops them from practising their profession and attending to Parliamentary business and in the process use money from their business to finance luxurious lifestyle.

It must be made very clear that there is no money and luxury in being an MP and that those who aspire to drive the latest Range Rovers and Discovery 4s are in the wrong "profession". They can easily have these road machines if they start their own businesses and leave parliamentary business to those eager to really serve. All along we had been made to believe that the MPs represent the people when in actual fact they want to use the office to further their own interests.

When we assess development in their constituencies, there is absolutely nothing out of this world that some of the MPs have done and even if they were all to resign today no single soul would shed any tear for them. If anything most constituencies have remained the same way they were 10 years ago and others are in worse off condition.

We long for the time when our MPs take a leaf from Rwanda's Muganda programme. Muganda means public works done every last Saturday of the month where MPs, councillors organise with people in their constituencies to cut tall grass, patch potholes and carry out any other public works.

Having said this, what we have deduced from the MDC-T demands is that they are simply blackmailing the Government. They have taken a leaf from the looting taking place in parastatals and other State entities and joined the bandwagon. It is a call from them for Government to show seriousness in tackling corruption and arrest the culture of looting as what is emerging is reflective of general decay of societal mores in the economy.

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