New Zimbabwe (London)

22 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Pay Cap - Why $6,000, MPs Ask Chinamasa

LEGISLATORS from Zanu PF and the MDC-T, who have led the current Parliamentary debate against corruption, have clashed over Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa's decision to evade the august house when he decreed a blanket salary cap of $6,000 for all CEOs running State entities.

MDC-T legislator for Mbizo Settlement Chikwinya told a panel discussion at SAPES Trust Thursday evening that Chinamasa should not have rushed to unilaterally declare a cap on salaries before hearing the views of MPs.

But firebrand Zanu PF legislator for Hurungwe West, Themba Mliswa, quickly defended Chinamasa, insisting the minister was acting within his mandate adding that Parliament could only play an oversight function over his efforts.

In his remarks, Chikwinya said he had since confronted Chinamasa over his decision to sidestep the legislature which, he insisted, popularised what has now become a vibrant national debate against corruption.

"We think as Parliament, we were left out," said Chikwinya who last week was cautioned by Parliamentary Speaker against making "unsubstantiated" claims that ZIMRA boss Gershem Pasi was earning over $300,000 per month.

"Today l confronted Minister Chinamasa who apologised to say he was of the opinion that Parliament is not sitting. He appreciates that Parliament should have been given the opportunity to, first of all debate because this is a matter which Parliament is seized with.

" ... and in respect with the Constitutional provisions, especially as alluded to in Section 119, Sub-section 2, Parliament was supposed to be given the opportunity to actually make its submissions.

"We also represent, by the way, the very same CEOs, so we were supposed to hear their concerns for us to strike a balance."

Chikwinya further questioned the wisdom of pegging the salaries to $6,000 and demanded to know how Chinamasa had settled for that figure.

He asked: "Why $6,000? What is the justification for $6,000?"

Mliswa however, said Chinamasa was responding to an emergency and did not have the luxury to allow national coffers to "bleed" while he waited to consult Parliament.

"I think it's pretty clear that when one is bleeding, you stop the bleeding first ... so that the doctor then assesses 'do we need to operate or not'," he said.

"So allow the bleeding had to be stopped. But that's not the end result because bleeding has not stopped. Those parastatals, as they are, they have collapsed. They are dysfunctional. So that move must be applauded."

Besides their differences on Chinamasa, the two young MPs have in recent weeks earned the admiration of Zimbabweans by speaking passionately against corruption.

Chikwinya meanwhile, called on President Robert Mugabe to impose a blanket amnesty on public officials who volunteer to surrender their loot in exeicise, he said, should be akin to a truth and reconciliation commission.

He also said Mugabe must demonstrate his statesmanship by sacrificing top lieutenants who have looted the national coffers, through prosecution.

Mliswa reiterated calls he made in Parliament some two weeks ago for transport minister Obert Mpofu to be questioned on the source of funds that allowed him to buy a bank.

The Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chair also called on Public Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) board chair Luxon Zembe to relinquish his post saying he had already been tainted by being part of the team that awarded former PSMAS boss Cuthbert Dube a monthly salary of $230,000.

"Honestly, I talk about morals and values amongst our people and Luxon Zembe is not doing himself a favour," said Mliswa.

"Here is a guy who was part of the board that sanctioned that salary but he still wants to be chairman of the board and you let him think Zimbabweans are stupid! He is somebody we respect and, with a little dignity left of him, he must step down."

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