PARLIAMENT has resolved to summon Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to explain the deepening accommodation crisis being faced by MPs which has adversely affected the operations of the third arm of government barely five months after Zanu PF legislators met President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga at State House over the same matter.
The government has since last year failed to provide accommodation for MPs who come from out of Harare after having fallen out with hotels in the capital city over non-payment of Bills.
This has resulted in MPs failing to attend proceedings physically at Parliament, thereby affecting business of the august House, including debates on proposed bills. MPs have failed to contribute meaningfully on virtual platforms because of power outages and poor network connectivity.
On Tuesday, Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure expressed his concerns over the deepening crisis and called Ncube out.
“I am appealing to the minister of Finance to come to the House and speak on the problems that this House is facing, leading it to be empty. If you look at the Bills that the President said should be dealt with, it cannot be done if the MPs cannot come to this House because of some problems we are facing,” Madzimure said.
“If we pass the Bill with such numbers like we have today, we are bound to be called by the Constitutional Court. We cannot force MPs to go on Zoom because of network problems. We have a number of constituencies that do not have network.
“For instance, honourable Nyabani who just won, it is difficult for him to get network in his constituency, so he has to drive to and fro Mount Darwin to go on Zoom, but he will not have fuel coupons to do that. With this situation, I am appealing for Parliament to adjourn until the minister of Finance has the funds to pay for MPs’ accommodation.”
Madzimure said Ncube was not prioritising key issues. “There was a better arrangement that had been suggested that if government cannot afford to pay hotels, they should look for houses to rent and they get cash for that,” Madzimure said.
“It is amazing that money for buying expensive cars and food we are getting, but when it comes to our accommodation, we are facing a lot of challenges. Everyone who has served as an MP becomes a pauper as soon as they relinquish their posts.
“I want the minister of Finance to come and issue a statement pertaining to when he is going to fund Parliament. If it is not possible to get money for the legislature whilst the other arms of state are getting money, ministers are going on their trips and not one is cancelled.
However, Parliament is not being funded. This can only be so if we agree that we do not have parliamentary democracy in Zimbabwe. As it is, we cannot even finish one Bill. I think, Madam Speaker Ma’am, when you got in here you were also amazed by the emptiness of the House,” he said.
Deputy Speaker Tsitsi Gezi concurred with Madzimure: “Your request will be forwarded to the minister of Finance so that he can come and give a statement pertaining to the accommodation for Members of Parliament,” she said.
At that stage, Kuwadzana East MP Chalton Hwende rose on a point of order.
“I feel that as leaders of this institution you are not taking this issue seriously because two weeks ago you gave a ruling that you were going to phone President Mnangagwa to give direction. If the minister of Finance can lie that he is going to give finances to Parliament and he has not done so up to now and Parliament cannot force the minister to honour his pledge, what about the people in the rural areas?” he asked.
“The plight of MPs is that if government cannot afford to pay for their accommodation, let us go on recess until such time that the money is there. If MPs contribute on Zoom, you tell them to come into the House. Network is problematic even here in Harare. We need correct and reliable responses.”
Other MPs reiterated that Ncube is not taking Parliament seriously after he failed to honour his promise to give MPs money to look for alternative accommodation so that they also take care of their aides who accompany them to Parliament from out of Harare.
“It is correct that MPs should be given accommodation as they do their business,” finally ruled Gezi, promising to liaise with Speaker Jacob Mudenda so that Ncube is summoned.
In October last year, disgruntled Zanu PF MPs met President Mnangagwa and Chiwenga at State House, where they complained bitterly about their incapacitation due to erratic payment of salaries, allowances and the non-provision of fuel which they said was hindering their work and hampering visibility in their constituencies.
The legislators also complained bitterly over Ncube’s perceived hostility towards them.
The MPs made it clear to Mnangagwa and his deputy that they had visited the two Zanu PF leaders not as a form of revolt but to tell him that they were incapacitated and financially paralysed, such that they could not effectively work for the President in their constituencies.
During the meeting, the Zanu PF MPs told their two leaders that due to non-payment of salaries and allowances, they were unable to conduct projects back home in their constituencies so as to prop up the image of the party and President ahead of next year’s general elections.
The NewsHawks gathered that after the meeting, Ncube was ordered to pay MPs. He acted swiftly and some legislators received their money that very day.