MPs Sleep Rough, Hitch Hike As Government Broke (allAfrica.com)

LEGISLATORS whose constituencies are outside Harare are sometimes resorting to hitch-hiking to the capital and often put up with friends when they travel to attend Parliament’s business, it has emerged.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, MPs told NewZimbabwe.com all was not well with the august house as Treasury has been inconsistent in providing the legislators with the necessary resources such as fuel coupons for travel to Harare, where Parliamentary business is conducted.
“We sometimes contribute towards buying fuel for a single car which would quite often take up to six MPs as we try to make ends meet,” said one legislator from Matebeleland.
According to the lawmaker, MPs would usually be booked on the national airliner, Air Zimbabwe but this is usually an unreliable option as the planes would normally be fully booked.
Legislators from places such as Bulawayo are entitled to 120 litres of fuel for travel to and from Harare during a single parliamentary call, but the allocations are intermittent as treasury struggles to keep government business up and running.
Another legislator said they are usually accommodated in substandard hotels especially during periods when there are activities such as church conventions as was the case with the Jehova’s Witness mass worship last year when hotels preferred the travelling parishioners who pay in cash.
Government is unpopular with most hoteliers for its erratic payments which have often seen MPs evicted from their hotel accommodation for non-payment.
“Things are so bad. Most people believe MPs get a lot in terms of salaries and benefits but honestly, there is nothing,” said the legislator.
He continued: “An MP’s salary is so little that you would not believe it is meant for a Member of Parliament. We get as little as $1,000 in terms of monthly salaries and an additional $800 in terms of responsibility allowances per MP.
“The responsibility allowance is for the small tasks that we do in our constituencies such as contributing towards the burial of someone in the constituency or simply helping a child who would be desperate for school fees. And as an MP, you just can’t avoid those responsibilities sometimes.”
Speaker not aware
Attempts to seek comment from Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa were fruitless as his phone has been unreachable in the past two days.
But Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda denied MPs were having it rough saying none among his flock had raised the issues with him.
“I am not aware of that and nobody has approached me as an MP to say they are hitch hiking,” Mudenda said.
He however, admitted that fuel allocations to legislators was sometimes erratic.
“Yes it’s the responsibility of Parliament to make sure that there have got sufficient fuel although sometimes there are delays…but those are few cases,” he said.
The Zanu PF official denied MPs sometimes have to sleep in substandard hotels, insisting “again this has not been brought to my attention”.
Despite the denials, NewZimbabwe.com has often witnessed MPs housed in poor hotels and hitch hiking to their constituencies.
MPs sometimes resort to picking up hitchhikers on parliamentary cars to raise fuel to their bases.
Zimbabwe’s lower and upper houses have a combined total of 350 MPs which observers say is oversized considering the country’s population and the size of the economy.
Said political commentator Chiichiri Muzita in a recent article: “I have always been perplexed by the need to group the country’s 1,200 wards into 210 parliamentary constituencies which then make up the House of Assembly.
“Could someone please shed some light on what the point of that exercise is? If these 1,200 wards already make up 59 districts then common sense dictates that 59 representatives from each of the 59 districts should make up the House of Assembly?”
Independent assessment released in 2013 revealed that each MP in South Africa represents 130,000 people while the Zimbabwean MP stands for just 40,000.
The ratios of an MP to the populace in Angola, Mozambique and Zambia, at the time, stood at 1:81,818; 1:96,000 and 1:81,250 respectively.
India has a ratio of 1:1 518 987. China, the largest country in the world with a population of over 1,3 billion and a Gross Domestic Product of over US$1,7 trillion, has the largest parliamentary body in the world which stands at 2 987 MPs. The ratio, however, is 1:468 697.
As of June 2013, Zimbabwe’s parliament owed sitting and former MPs in excess US$1,4 million in outstanding sitting allowances.
Source: Business