Gravy train de-rails the struggle

Members of Parliament showed a rare sign of unity last week – but for all the wrong reasons. They threatened to withhold the passage of the national budget unless they were paid “outstanding sitting allowances”. They were also reportedly demanding luxury vehicles.

The fact that the MPs had united across party lines and were prepared to hold the budget to ransom raises many questions about their priorities.

They seem to regard their own allowances and benefits as more important than health, education and other programmes that rely on the national budget.

Since the formation of the so- called government of national unity, Parliament has not played a proactive role in democratizing Zimbabwe. It has neither repealed repressive laws like AIPPA and POSA nor brought in new legislation to protect the basic human rights of Zimbabweans.

Observers have noticed that both Zanu (PF) and MDC-T MPs interact and socialize like good friends, despite the fact that Zanu (PF) militia are frequently engaged in violence against the MDC-T.

The only place where there is some evidence of tough and straight talk is when Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai meets President Robert Mugabe during their Monday meetings.

If the MPs can unite to demand outstanding payments they are owed by government, why can’t they unite to repeal AIPPA and POSA?

Why can’t they unite to bring in tougher legislation against politically motivated violence? Why can’t they form a commission of inquiry into Murambatsvina, Gukuranhundi and Chiadzwa atrocities?

It must be stressed that the case of unpaid allowances and benefits is not without merit. If government promised to pay, then it must pay. The problem is misplaced priorities and holding the national budget to ransom.

The MPs could have chosen other methods for seeking redress for their grievances. Does this mean the era of representative democracy is over – if there ever was one?

Representative democracy is the bedrock of modern nation states. MPs are expected to represent the interests of the people who elected them. In Zimbabwe there is glaring evidence that the MPs have not fully and consistently represented their constituencies.

One reason for this may be that MPs are out of touch with their constituencies. It is typical in many African democracies for MPs who represent rural constituencies to live in urban areas. Former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, required that MPs must live in the constituencies they represent. The former Chinese revolutionary leader, Mao Tse Tung, once said a true revolutionary leader lives among the people he leads like fish in the sea.

In our country MPs see political office as an opportunity to make money for themselves and their families. Many do not have viable jobs. They see being an MP as a chance for a stable job for the next four years. Not sure whether they will be reelected, the MPs see the four years between elections as an opportunity to accumulate as much wealth from the State as they can.

There are growing indications that the struggle for democracy and the restoration of the rule of law is now giving way to a class struggle. What was supposed to be a mass struggle against the repressive political elite in Zanu (PF) has now been watered down as more of the leaders are now joining what Bishop Desmond Tutu called the gravy train.

Some people have criticized the so-called government of national unity on the grounds that it is operating in, and perpetuating, a very repressive environment established by the Mugabe regime.

Apart from isolated sparks of economic reawakening, nothing has really changed in Zimbabwe since the formation of the so-called government of national unity. The vast majority of Zimbabweans are still mired in the poverty, unemployment and other miseries of Mugabe’s dictatorship. It seems they don’t even have somebody to fight for them in Parliament.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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