Battle for benefits: MPs flex muscles, force Finance Minister Ncube to bow to lavish demands!

Cde Mthuli Ncube

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has been compelled to increase the budget allocation for Parliament in order to appease legislators who threatened to reject his “anti-poor” budget.

Members of Parliament demanded luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles, accommodations for their spouses, substantial perks, additional benefits, and salaries for their staff.

During the budget debate last week, MPs expressed dissatisfaction with their welfare, claiming it was inferior to their counterparts in the Southern African Development Community region. They argued that they had become a laughing stock in their constituencies, which prompted their demands.

Responding to the MPs’ grievances, Ncube announced on Thursday that he would increase the budget allocation for Parliament by an additional ZWL$225 billion, bringing it to a total of ZWL$700 billion. He also proposed an increase in the budget for the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which allows MPs to undertake development projects in their respective constituencies.

In addressing the issue of vehicles, Ncube stated that ZWL$132 billion had been budgeted, equivalent to approximately US$60,000 per vehicle at the current exchange rate. However, he acknowledged that the main concern was increasing the overall budget for Parliament.

Ncube also assured legislators that the facility for importing their vehicles, including those from the previous Ninth Parliament, was still available. He mentioned that those who were unable to import their cars before the dissolution of Parliament would be allowed to do so under an extended Statutory Instrument.

Regarding the welfare of MPs, Ncube proposed the establishment of a committee to develop a comprehensive package to enhance their living standards. He suggested the identification of land and the construction of accommodation for MPs, with the government providing support for the initiative.

The Finance Minister’s decision to cater to the demands of MPs came after they threatened to block his budget. They argued that the US$60,000 provided for vehicle purchases was insufficient to meet their preferences.

In December, MPs received US$40,000 housing loans, which sparked widespread debate and mixed opinions across the country. The loans caused divisions within opposition circles, particularly the Citizens Coalition for Change, as its leader Nelson Chamisa criticized MPs from his party for accepting what he deemed a bribe from the Zanu PF-led government.

The government offered a US$40,000 loan to each sitting MP, with Cabinet ministers and their deputies receiving higher amounts of US$500,000 and US$350,000, respectively.

As Ncube succumbs to the demands of MPs, the move highlights the delicate balance between addressing their grievances and managing public sentiment, particularly in a country where economic challenges persist. The decision to allocate additional funds to Parliament may ease tensions for now, but it also raises questions about prioritization and the equitable distribution of resources in Zimbabwe.

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