Why younger MPs are silent


Although some of the sitting Members of Parliament are not happy with the way things are they are quiet because they are more concerned about their future, a political analyst says.

“They have to stick it out even though they see there is no future. The only future they know is what they are in now, that is the ZANU-PF gravy train.

“Even though they can see it s moving towards the falls they don’t have the courage to get off because they ask: Get off to what?”

According to the analyst most of the young MPs just wanted to complete their term in office so that they can qualify for a pension. An MP has to serve a full five years to qualify for a pension.

A casual analysis of the present Parliament shows that, besides President Robert Mugabe who no longer sits in the house and already qualifies for a presidential pension, 22 MPs have been in office since 1980 although some of them have been in and out, especially those who once belonged to the now defunct ZAPU. Another 15 or so have been in Parliament since 1985 and a further 30 or so have been in since 1990.

Out of the 150- member house, this means at least 80 have not yet served their five-year terms and would therefore not qualify for a pension if anything was to happen to them before 2000. This, perhaps, explains why most of the younger MPs who came in in 1995 and were widely expected to inject new blood into the party have been so silent, only making noises now and again but quickly backing down when brought before the party caucus.

With the battering Zimbabwe has been receiving over the past 18 months, some observers say, President Mugabe, if he had the backing of his backbenchers, could have called early elections to prove that he was still popular contrary to reports that were being widely circulated.

This was a trick former Rhodesia leader Ian Smith used extensively to get rid of opponents or dissidents who broke away from his party. Every time he wanted to make bold moves that required a majority vote from his party, or some people split from the party, he called early elections which his party won, neutralising the opposition.

Observers say President Mugabe could have done the same because nothing can stop him in terms of the constitution.

“He would be within the constitutional provisions to call early elections if he was really anxious to demonstrate that he is still popular, that there is no alternative to him and that the people agree with his policies and like him. But this would be unprecedented because in the past Parliament has gone for almost the full five years as required by the constitution,” one observer said.

“But ZANU-PF has been known to do unusual things so he could, but the point is that he will not. He would be an idiot really to call early elections or to dissolve Parliament at this stage. There is too much at stake.

“He could actually be proved to be wrong to think that he is still popular. My own reading of the situation is that civil society is actually more popular. I am not saying opposition parties but civil society civic groups such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zimrights and other organisations which are not part of the State.

“We are including organisations such as the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, the Commercial Farmers Union, the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, business enterprises and church organisations.

“Current sitting MPs might oppose it as well. A politician must sit for a minimum of five years in Parliament to qualify for a pension, so a lot of those who came in in 1995 would not have qualified and they would be very seriously aggrieved.

´They would see the dissolution of Parliament and early elections as prejudicing them in terms of income and in terms of tenure of office. Although I don t think any of them would have the courage to do so, they could actually sue the government.

´They would have a point to sustain in a court of law that they were prejudiced, they were on a contractual agreement with the people of Zimbabwe to be legislators for five years with the understanding that at the end of their service they would be pensioned off. Some of them could even claim that they left remunerative employment in order to serve the nation.”

But analysts say it is not only the pensions that are at stake. Some MPs genuinely believe they still have a chance to rise within the government.

“Those who are already in Parliament are anxious not to rock the boat so that at least they can qualify for a pension but also so that they qualify for appointments as ministers, deputy ministers, for ambassadorial posts and so forth.”

The question is, with elections less than a year away, how many will be able to fulfil their dreams? Some observers say it is too early to write ZANU-PF off especially with the confusion that is reigning in the opposition parties. Some, particularly those sympathetic to ZANU-PF argue that what the country needs is not a change of government, but a new leadership and a stronger opposition.

They argue that a change of government without an effective opposition will see the new leadership turn into autocrats.


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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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