By Lance Guma
29 January 2010
Over 300 MP’s and Senators will rake in between US$65 and US$300 per day in allowances for participating in a 65 day outreach programme that is meant to collect people’s views on a new constitution. Last week we reported how the process had been suspended because of squabbles over funding and the composition of a team of rapporteurs who will gather public opinion.
It now turns out donors were ready to pull the plug on funding the process after the political parties insisted on increasing the number of MP’s from about 50 to include almost all 300 legislators in the lower and upper houses of Parliament. This meant the bill for the process ballooned overnight, much to the annoyance of the donors. The donors had pledged around US$16 million while the government last year said had set aside US$43 million.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper Douglas Mwonzora a co-chair of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) tried to justify the hike in costs. “Originally not all House of Assembly members and Senators were part of the outreach programme but the management committee decided to include all legislators in order to enhance accessibility in all areas, and all this has the effect of increasing the allocated budget,” Mwonzora said.
The donors who include the United Nations Development Fund also expressed concern at the way money availed for the process has been used so far. During a workshop for members of civil society and political parties hosted in Harare nearly 1000 delegates pitched up instead of 600. ZANU PF youths and war veterans took advantage of the chaos to cash in on allowances. Donors furious at this refused to pay the hotel bill and said they would not cough up the US$40 daily allowances claimed by delegates.
Another revelation was that Parliament wanted to hire the same cars it bought for the MP’s under the Vehicle Loan Scheme and pay a rate of US$1 per kilometer when private car rental firms charged 60 cents per kilometer. An MDC cabinet minister who spoke to Newsreel on Friday denied the stories about MP’s milking the process. The source said ZANU PF was manipulating the media to discourage people from participating in the drafting of a new constitution.
“All COPAC members from the MDC-T or MDC-M are not being given a voice in the state media. They are only given space when the stories are negative. Only Paul Mangwana the other co-chair from ZANU PF is used for ZBC interviews and the like. ZANU PF has hijacked this process and are using their media monopoly to get the discredited Kariba draft - somehow. The media is not investigating these issues but is instead focusing on trivial issues around funding and the like,” the Minister said.
Despite some of these reservations Mwonzora told journalists that the constitution making process was back on track. He said agreement had been reached on the issue of rapporteurs. “We have agreed to have professionals as our rapporteurs to make sure there are limited chances of irregularities,” he said. Mwonzora also said the funding challenges had since been addressed with the UNDP committing itself to the project.