TENSIONS boiled over at a Zanu PF parliamentary caucus meeting on Wednesday morning as MPs confronted Finance minister Mthuli Ncube over the parlous state of the economy and their welfare issues.
This comes as MPs are also calling for a 250% increase in Constituency Development Fund allocations, saying the RTGS$50 000 which they are receiving each was insufficient to allow them to undertake development projects in their constituencies.
Ahead of Ncube’s Wednesday address to parliament on the economy, Zanu PF summoned its MPs to a caucus meeting at the party headquarters in Harare to whip them into line after it reportedly gathered information that they intended to tackle him head-on over the spiralling economy and their welfare before the nation.
Ncube’s presentation in parliament was broadcast live on state television, ZBC.
In the tense caucus meeting, agitated parliamentarians accused Ncube of sabotaging the party through his damaging policies and not taking their welfare issues seriously.
Ncube was also asked to field questions to MPs in the meeting, but left early leaving Zanu PF deputy chief whip Obedingwa Mguni on the firing line.
Zanu PF MPs who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent in off-the-record briefings this week said there was a tense atmosphere in the caucus meeting as MPs attacked Ncube and openly denounced him.
Sources said the meeting started with the Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi, MP for Gutu South, outlining the agenda — which was to discuss how they should conduct themselves during the state-of-the-economy address.
Ncube was then invited to speak to the MPs, they said.
In his address, which was repeatedly interrupted as he was also later in the day in parliament, Ncube said government did not have the means to fund MPs’ lavish lifestyles.
“Basically, we zeroed in on our welfare issues; for instance we were previously promised Toyota Landcruiser vehicles, but Ncube told us that government for now can only afford Toyota Hilux trucks. Alternatively he offered us vehicle loans amounting to RTGS$40 000.
“In the last parliament, we got US$35 000 and the MPs felt that Ncube was being dismissive. What sort of a car can you buy now with RTGS$40 000? We demanded that he should at least raise it to at least RTGS$200 000, but he refused.
So people started making all sorts of accusations and hurling insults at him,” one of the MPs who attended the meeting said.
“There was also the issue of our sitting allowances. As you may be aware, we get RTGS$100 per sitting, which is now very insignificant. So the MPs put it to him that since he is the one who devalued the currency, he should own up and make sure our allowances are reviewed upwards. Again he did not budge. This greatly angered some of us.”
Another source said: “The meeting turned chaotic as MPs confronted Ncube.
Some accused him of being a sellout and a traitor who had introduced policies that will cost the party in the next elections. He didn’t take that particular criticism lightly.”
According to sources, chaos intensified when Ncube stood up and put on a brave face as he took the marauding MPs head-on.
“Instead of retreating, he stood up and launched counter-accusations against MPs and started banging tables in a fit of rage. He insisted that the policies would work if they had the support of the party.
“This further infuriated the MPs and the scene became dramatic as some started walking out, while others kept on locked in heated exchanges him. In the end, Togarepi calmed down the situation and ended the meeting,” the source said.
Later in the day, Ncube kept the National Assembly in wait for about half an hour, raising fears that he might have developed cold feet to avoid facing the combined wrath of Zanu PF and opposition parties.
But when he finally made his way into the House, Zanu PF MPs maintained their cool throughout his presentation, which had to be cut midway through in accordance with the Standing Rules and Orders which prohibit parliament business from proceeding beyond 7:55pm unless prior special leave is sought.
Togarepi yesterday declined to comment on the issue.
“Parliament’s administration is dealing with those issues through the Ministry of Finance. Both parties are guided by decisions already made on the adjustments to their allowance,” he said.
Ncube could not be reached for comment as his mobile number went unanswered.
— Zimbabwe Independent