Leonard Ncube Bulawayo Bureau
MDC-Alliance Members of Parliament’s hypocrisy has been exposed after they turned out in full force for the ongoing pre-National Budget seminar in Victoria Falls. The MPs, who have previously boycotted important parliamentary sessions such as the official opening of Parliament and presentation of the State of the Nation Address by President Mnangagwa in the legislative assembly could not this time around resist the lucrative allowances, hence they made a beeline for the resort town.
The MPs arrived in Victoria Falls on Wednesday for the pre-Budget seminar and will leave on Monday.
On Thursday, one of the session chairpersons had to announce that allowances were going to be paid based on each member’s attendance of sessions, as many of the MPs were going in and out of the conference room, thereby missing proceedings.
Reserve Bank Governor Dr John Mangudya also joked that many of the MPs had travelled to Victoria Falls because of the allowances, although the joke drew the ire of the members who demanded withdrawal of his statement.
The Governor did not withdraw as he continued with his speech. Even the opposition parties’ sympathisers have seen through the MDC-Alliance MPs hypocrisy.
On Twitter yesterday, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono had an exchange with the party’s secretary-general, Mr Chalton Hwende, over the matter.
“Dear @hwendec. There is NO plausible excuse for the MDC MPs to have flown to Victoria Falls, stayed in 5 star hotels & get allowances from the starving taxpayers. Your presence there will change NOTHING. This is when you should show principle over expediency. Why not do it in HRE,” wrote Chin’ono.
He later said he had talked to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)official who said the agency had provided funding for the seminar.
Chin’ono said a room in Victoria Falls costs US$250 and a plane ticket goes for US$300, which multiplied by 350 MPs will gobble US$192 500 for just one day.
“We don’t know how much they are getting in allowances for days. US$192 500 for hotels & flights would have run Harare Hospital for three months without any shortages!” added Chin’ono. Mr Hwende tried to wriggle off the hook by saying the pre-Budget seminars were always held out of Harare and opposition MPs could not boycott the Budget process because they must fight and ensure that it’s pro-poor.
He said the decision to go to Victoria Falls was made by Parliament and the Ministry of Finance and if it had been in the opposition party’s control, the seminar would have been held at a cheaper location.
Chin’ono shot back: “It doesn’t matter! The decision to have ED address a SONA was also made by the same Parliament and funded by the same Ministry of Finance, but you choose to stay away! Why is it you only stay away where there is no financial gain, but where there are incentives you go?”
Another observer, Dr Pedzisayi Ruhanya, criticised the “extractive and accumulative behaviour of some MDC MPs and their rebellious discourse and discussions over their allowances.”
He said the opposition MPs: “talk about REFORM; reforming their stomachs, egos. Cry my beloved Zimbabwe.”
In an interview, MDC-Alliance Chief Whip Mr Prosper Mutseyami said costs associated with holding the seminar were the same regardless of the venue.
“Even if we had held it in Harare, members from other provinces would have travelled, hence in any case coming to Victoria Falls saves transport costs for those from this part of the country,” he said.
“In Harare, we would have still stayed in hotels and held it in conference rooms and costs will have been the same. This is a national event with many interested stakeholders. We appreciate the concern about costs, but we have a budget which is critical to everyone.”
Zanu-PF Chief Whip Cde Pupurai Togarepi said the opposition MPs were hypocrites.
“I have always said these are hypocrites handled by foreign agents,” he said. “They are not driven by national interests, but they are just soldiers of fortune. They salivate when they see money forgetting that it’s coming from the Government of President ED Mnangagwa.
“They are just pretenders and the people of Zimbabwe should see them through their mercenary-like behaviour. You can be sure that it’s not going to be business as usual. Any such behaviour will be dealt with according to the Standing Rules and Orders governing the decorum expected of Members of Parliament.”