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MPs: Whose interests are they serving?

The budget allocation for Parliament is now pegged at ZWL$700 billion in the wake of a top up which is to the tune of ZWL$225 billion.

THIS writer was shocked to learn about Finance minister Mthuli Ncube giving in to the demands of the Zimbabwean MPs regarding the need for an upward variation for the budget for Parliament (NewsDay, December 20 2023).

The budget allocation for Parliament is now pegged at ZWL$700 billion in the wake of a top up which is to the tune of ZWL$225 billion.

Among other demands that the MPs had put on the table for the Finance minister’s consumption are top-of-the-range Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles, hotel stay for their spouses, huge perks, additional benefits and payment of salaries for their workers.

It is human tendency to run fast when lost, and it is the object of this opinion piece to submit that our MPs are lost, especially where the demand for the Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles is concerned.

MPs are already demonstrating an appetite of an ocean by asking for Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles in an economy that is highly informalised and unbanked.

They are already showing that being in Parliament presents an opportunity for serving their strategic interests, and not the interests of people who elected them into office.

For example, demanding a Toyota Land Cruiser because of bad roads especially in rural areas is not an elixir to a problem that is also affecting everyday people in their constituencies.

The MPs are either missing or dismissing the bigger picture here because a Toyota Land Cruiser would still not outlast the MPs’ five-year mandate in Parliament because of the roads that are pretty bad.

The MPs should rather be asking for funds to fix the bad roads. Fixing the poor roads, for this writer, is the bigger picture because the lifespan of all vehicles that will be using rural roads on a regular basis will be prolonged.

MPs are just obsessed with self-preservation because in the same rural constituencies where they are crying out for Toyota Land Cruisers, there are hardworking and well-meaning people who have all sorts of vehicles with low clearance like the common pii-pii cars (Honda Fit, Toyota Passo, Toyota Wish etc).

They are called pii-pii cars because they are commonly used for ferrying people from one place to another (rural to town, town to rural) and it’s the constant hooting they do that have earned them the label pii-pii cars.

Besides the pii-pii cars, there are also other people with own private cars who use the same roads that the MPs are saying to be hard to navigate.

It is my submission that MPs should think and see beyond their noses by appreciating and understanding that bad roads in Zimbabwe have immensely contributed to disasters (road accidents) and are to that effect a cause for concern for every Zimbabwean.

The MPs should, therefore, be engaging the Finance minister in terms of the bigger picture, and seeing the bigger picture would persuade them to motivate their arguments towards resource mobilisation for fixing our road networks.

It can only be as wrong as wrong can be for public policymakers to just think about their own welfare at the cost of the needs and rights of the people they represent in Parliament. Representative democracy has experienced a stillbirth here.

MPs are accountability watchdogs, and to that effect this writer would want to advise the Zimbabwean MPs to call the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) to order because history has it that the disbursements of funds to local authorities has been associated with leakages.

The MPs should be concerned about ensuring that there is transparency and accountability at Zinara and that funds are distributed through interactive justice with all concerned stakeholders.

There have been narratives of Zinara having imported 40 snow graders in 2012 (Audit report of the Auditor-General, 2014).

This is a case of misplaced priorities. The funds that were used to procure 40 snow graders would have gone a long way towards rehabilitating rural district roads, especially in outlying areas like Gokwe North, Binga and Malipati in Chiredzi South because Zimbabwe does not need snow graders.

Snow in Zimbabwe is as scarce as the teeth of a hen. It is, therefore, as clear as day that snow graders for Zimbabwe are like what pork is to Muslims.

There have been accusations of corruption at Zinara. What has the responsible parliamentary portfolio or thematic committee done about that?

Misuse of funds by Zinara is the real issue that in the long run would lead to solving the issue of road infrastructure in Zimbabwe and they are issues that should make our MPs lose sleep in trying to come up with sound public policies that prevent leakages at both public and private institutions.

A Toyota Land Cruiser is not the panacea to bad roads. Taking the route of the Toyota Land Cruisers for the purpose of visiting constituencies will not solve the problem of the impassable roads for every constituency member.

MPs should be paragons of virtue and should be national leaders who should be concerned about distributive justice. MPs who feel, think and behave as if everything begins and ends with their tastes are deliberately choosing not to listen to the mantra, “Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo” (literally meaning rallying around the flag of your own country).

Selfish tastes, especially of leaders, will not build Zimbabwe. Rather, they create animosity within constituencies.

Roads in rural Gokwe, Zhombe, Malipati, Sanyati and Binga are impassable as we speak.

Every person living in any of the areas cited above also wants to enjoy a decent life that helps him or her to connect with his or her social networks through the roads, but that cannot be possible because the roads are just very bad.

Zimbabwean MPs have amply demonstrated that Parliament is an opportune environment to eat while they still can, the concerns of the masses out in the rural areas are indeed non-issues for them.

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