Are Zimbabwe’s MPs people’s representatives or just mercenaries?


Former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries boss Callisto Jokonya this week aptly described why Zimbabwe is in such a mess.  “We are our own worst enemies because we let politicians craft the agenda of the nation,” he said.

Jokonya was talking about the country not being ready for elections next year. He was very blunt. No one wants these elections. While most Zimbabweans do not want the elections because the climate is not right and people want wounds to heal, our parliamentarians have very different, selfish, reasons for not wanting the elections. They are only concerned about losing their “jobs”. This is arrogance at its worst. They must not be allowed to get away with it.

It is time that Zimbabweans started looking at who they elect to represent them. Those who seek public office to represent people should have the interests of the people at heart not their own interests, especially if these happen to be monetary or self-enrichment.

We cannot continue to have vindictive politics. Vindictive politics is whereby someone will tell you anything is better than ZANU-PF or anything is better than MDC. This is the kind of arrogance that was displayed by the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda when he told the people of Chivi that if ZANU-PF fielded a baboon, “if you are ZANU-PF you vote for it”.

Sadly this arrogance seems to have spread to the Movement for Democratic Change. People are voting for anyone MDC just to spite Mugabe and we end up with rogues in the House whose only interest is what they can get and not what they can do for the people.

Listening to the complaints by our MPs, one would think they belonged to one party- yet they often do not see eye to eye. The only reason why they are speaking with one voice is that it concerns their salaries and “exit” packages.  To make matters worse, the local media has taken the bite.

The media claims that salary increases that Finance Minister Tendai Biti has promised to the legislators – though he is being blackmailed- are justified because they are the lowest paid in the region. The MPs also say they must be paid salaries for an extra 24 months if their terms are cut short by the holding of elections next year.

If I was working for the print media in Zimbabwe, which has better circulation because people have little access to the internet, I would ask the MPs: What have they done to deserve any salary increase?  I would ask each and every MP to give a detailed account of what he or she has done for his or her constituency to justify a salary increase.

To say they are getting less than their counterparts in the region or that their salaries are way below the cost of living are not valid reasons.  The majority of Zimbabweans are earning salaries below the poverty datum line and their wages are not pegged at those in the region. MPs should not get preferential treatment. Common sense dictates that they should earn less than civil servants because they have other jobs to fall back on.

The argument that they are earning less than their regional counterparts is very shallow to say the least. Why should their salaries be compared to those in the region while those of other workers are not?  Besides, you cannot just compare salaries without comparing economies.

President Robert Mugabe’s annual salary is less than President Barack Obama’s daily salary? Coming closer as the MPs want, Mugabe’s annual salary is almost the same as Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s monthly salary. So where does that leave us?

The complaints and threats by our MPs remind me of what a Nigerian diplomat once said at the height of our fuel crisis. “You Zimbabweans are cry-babies,” he said. “You are whining about the shortage of fuel when you don’t have any oil wells, we have oil wells in Nigeria but we sometimes run out of fuel.”

Our MPs are complaining about poor salaries yet according to The Herald,  Biti not only wants to increases their salaries by up to 200 percent but also wants to issue them new cars. This would mean that some of them would have three cars in three years, the paper said.

Now come on, legislators, how many people in Zimbabwe can afford to buy a car- a four-by-four for that matter- every year?

One wonders whether our legislators are just greedy or desperate?  After all some of them are company directors. They are telling the government industry has not recovered so they cannot afford to increases salaries for their workers, they cannot pay taxes and all sorts of excuses. Where do they expect the government to get money to pay them?

The worst arrogance by our MPs is that they must be compensated if their term is cut short. This argument is coming from people that are supposed to be our law makers. Are they workers or people’s representatives because it is only workers who can claim compensation when they are retrenched?   It is only workers who can claim a pension and other benefits when they are laid off.

As legislators, one assumes that our MPs are quite aware that our constitution says the President can dissolve parliament at any time, and that’s the end of your job. It does not say your term is a guaranteed for five years. It says if everything is normal the term should not exceed five years.

Things are not normal in Zimbabwe. Yes, the country is not ready for elections, but our MPs should not hold the nation to ransom. In fact, they should not get any salary increase until civil servants have been awarded salary increases. But even in the case of civil servants these increments must be justified. They must prove they are doing something to deserve a salary increase.

We must get away from habit of dishing out money as if we have it when the country is struggling to build roads, to provide textbooks to our children, to provide enough drugs to the sick. If any MP is not happy with his or her salary, he or she should resign and look for a proper and better paying job. Being an MP is not a job. It is a service.

This is an issue that our civic organisations should harmer into our politicians instead of dwelling on issues that are really non-issues to the average Zimbabwean. Our readers too, can make a contribution by debating this issue. You can comment on Your Say which has no limited length.  Our comment section only accepts very small contributions.

I also challenge any of our legislators to defend himself or herself.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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