By Alex Bell
15 February 2013
The latest demands made by MPs, who wanted compensation for constitution education work in their constituencies, have been slammed by Zimbabweans as “organised corruption.”
The MPs were tasked by the parliamentary team responsible for the new constitution, COPAC, to undertake education exercises in the areas they represent. But during a meeting called by COPAC to brief the MPs on what was required of them, the MPs demanded to be paid for the work.
When COPAC representatives told the legislators that there was no money to pay them, there was an uproar and MPs walked out of the workshop in protest.
Chairman of the COPAC subcommittee on finance, ZANU PF MP Walter Chidakwa, later announced that MPs would not be paid because COPAC did not have money and was still struggling to settle some other bills.
“We are printing 100,000 copies of the draft constitution and we need to pay those who will translate the draft into various languages. We are looking for money from donors, but the money will not provide for publicity campaigns involving MPs,” Chidakwa said.
These demands have further angered many Zimbabweans, especially since it came so close on the heels of demands for lucrative ‘exit packages’ that MPs said they wanted when the coalition government comes to an end.
There have been many similar demands made by the MPs over the past four years. Last September they demanded almost US$8 million from COPAC after reportedly being ‘underpaid’ for the constitution outreach work they performed.
MPs have also previously demanded laptops, top of the range vehicles and increases on both their salaries and sitting allowances. Last year MPs also approached the Harare City Council asking for residential stands in low density areas.
Social commentator Precious Shumba told SW Radio Africa on Friday that the latest demands from MPs were “shocking but not unexpected,” adding that the legislators “have been looking after their own interests for years.”
“These demands represent their character. The majority know they won’t be re-elected because they have not served the electorate, yet they have been pursuing personal interests. They abandoned their constituents during the tenure of the unity government,” Shumba said.
He added: “It is important that electorate begin to see the MPs for who they really are.”
Activist Phillip Pasirayi also criticised the MPs for their role in “organised, official corruption,” telling SW Radio Africa that the only common ground in the coalition government has been the role of MPs in enriching themselves.
“They have been preoccupied in addressing the personal question. There has been huge looting going in at different levels of government,” Pasirayi said.
He added: “We are very concerned and it’s clear the parliamentarians and public officials are not concerned about the ordinary person. They are only concerned about lining their pockets,” Pasirayi said.