The statements have been labelled such various names as the “V8 debate”, “the tools of trade plea” and the “integrity and diplomatic passport matter”. Whichever label one chooses to consort with, the plain fact is that the discourse has become rather heated in recent days and very misunderstood. Following my aforementioned statements, there have been such allegations against my person in that I am “a greedy person devoid of national interest”.
The discussion around statements that I made in pursuit of the welfare of the general and not specific collective members of parliament have invited much discourse.
Given the current state of the economy and the hardships that we are faced with as a nation, I do understand where the sentiments are emanating from. This is moreso where personal comparisons have unfortunately been drawn. However, whilst understandable, the conclusions that have been inferred are incorrect and I must hasten to contextualise the statements.
In contextualising the statements, I may get personal. Please bear with me, there is a point at which I will eventually arrive at in all this. In my personal capacity, I own several of my own motor vehicles including Land Cruisers and a Mercedes Benz amongst other cars. By so doing as you may appreciate, I have subsequently come to appreciate the safe, tough durability and on/off road capacity of a Land Cruiser. When I then mention this particular brand of vehicle I do speak from personal experience. I have noted the discourse regarding the option of a Honda Fit as a suitable vehicle for legislators. Whilst it is a hardy, fuel saving option, the question would be – how do they fare off road? It is undoubtedly common cause that the Honda Fit cannot even be raised in this conversation due to its inadequacy for the task.
The issue of buying local has also been brought up but unfortunately due to the prevailing circumstances of our economy, the question is from where would one purchase a local motor vehicle model? Remember the Fotons etc are imported too.
It is imperative that I make the reminder at this juncture that I am the very same MP who has NEVER received a Parliamentary car during all my terms (5 years so far) as an MP. In fact I had even previously opted to convert my motor vehicle allocation to be an ambulance to serve the Hurungwe West Constituency instead. Unfortunately, the proposal was not authorised due to the rules and processes for such parliamentary acquisitions but however my gesture was sincere. Furthermore, my critics must remain mindful that I am the same MP, much to the chagrin of Croco Motors, who stood alone and advocated for Parliament & the Government to buy vehicles locally. Therefore when I make a proposal or back such motions people must not be hasty in labeling me negatively but to actually understand and weigh the import of my statements. It is here that the context is important.
As I alluded to, I am already in possession of more than one such “V8”. I am however subsequently lobbying on behalf of my fellow members who do not have such motor vehicle and whom it is my wish that they too realise the same advantage that I have experienced. By nature if you know me, I am not arrogant – I actually empathize with my fellow Parliamentarians who are not as privileged as I am. It is also important to me that I do not be seen to be looking down my nose at my legislative peers who may not be in the same affable position as I and conceitedly tell them “to get into business”. I believe the capacitation issues are far more reaching than just a naive directive of telling the legislature to “get into business“.
My view is that People Representation should not be equated to destitution but also neither should it be equated to self aggrandisement. Overheads are incurred as with any other enterprise and being an MP is no exception, it is a cost centre. In fact, even more so during these economically challenging times where even the most basic constituency requirements that naturally should be catered for by the government are not being catered for and the deficit needs to be addressed.
The Executive and Judiciary receive a Discovery Autobiography (off road), Mercedes Benz and a Ford Ranger. Ministers receive the same three vehicles against MPs who receive one for the full five year term. As I see it, one, good, safe, tough and durable land cruiser is therefore sufficient for all if we refer to austerity, I’ll leave you to draw any further conclusions.
The very same people that complain that their MPs are not visible should be mindful of the restrictions faced by their MPs. The areas that their MPs need to cover in the effective delivery of their mandate cannot be covered by public transport as has been suggested in some quarters. It becomes imperative that the motor vehicles issue be addressed.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter, what calibre of representation do people expect to have? Interestingly I have noted comments raised that MPs should be people who have personal financial capacity and who are able to debate and effectively represent their Constituent’s needs in Parliament. This issue is a point of some difficulty for me as I must ask – well who voted for people without their choice of credentials in the first place? I will let it be known and stated for the record that I was attacked for bringing up what was deemed to be a “preposterous” suggestion during election campaigning when I said aspiring MPs should have degrees and their own auditable proof of wealth and capacity in order to be allowed to run for a seat. I have always thought that such criteria would significantly curtail corruption and would promote a servant leadership credo in the legislature. If the collective grouping of MPs was to this standard, the categorisation of MPs into a different standard of resourcing would be done away with. Currently it is not because there is a patronising and condescending attitude that is displayed to the especially less well to do legislature. One does not query the rewards to the Executive and the Judiciary but such query is made to the legislature. A standard criteria would perhaps make their rewards and benefits allocation more palatable to the people and therefore even the conjecture made of V8s would not be as contentious as displayed in the discourse of recent days.
My ethos is that I strive to work hard for my constituency and ultimately my nation. Throughout my various tenure, I have endeavored to be consistent in the delivery of my work and in remaining an active member of the August House. I have been privileged to have the ability to attend to numerous matters, activities and events in my constituency and yet still be present in Parliament to participate actively because I have the “tools of my trade” at my disposal. And this is all in a day’s work. My privilege stems from individual financial capacity and also from being able to travel the breadth and width of my constituency and beyond with my safe, reliable and durable cars. Something I believe all legislature would be welcome to and when compared to the other arms , the legislature should too be privy to.
Being an MP inadvertently exposes one to different types of persons. There is every possibility that there will be exposure to unsavoury characters and the propensity to falter is much greater when one is financially and staturely weak. It is therefore imperative for those in a position of oversight to be comfortable though not extravagant and well catered for to mitigate such temptations where they exist.
Legislators, in accordance with their terms and conditions of service, must be afforded a vehicle as part of their package. Whilst we may draw comparison to the Magufuli-led Government in respect of vehicle allowance, how do their salaries and other perks compare to ours? MPs are not afforded such perks as loans or bonds to purchase property amongst others. It may be discovered that the publicity of motor vehicle cuts was a small sacrifice which overshadowed other silent perks, salaries and benefits…. Nonetheless, coming back home, if we as a people wish to have MPs that are capable and prepared to legislate to the best of their abilities, those MPs must be remunerated accordingly. The Executive and Judiciary are arms of the State that have fully benefitted in this regard. Legislation has been neglected.
Whilst in such an ignored background, Legislators have nonetheless, worked diligently whilst poorly resourced much like the efforts of doctors, nurses, teachers etc. However for the plight of such dedicated professionals such as the aforementioned group to be alleviated does it not make economic sense to cater for the smaller number of legislators who will in turn advocate for larger scale improvements to the economy as a whole? It is hypocritical of people like Coltart to speak negatively of MP’s packages when he himself was a recipient during his tenure.
Coming from a background of neglect makes sudden rectification to normal appear absurd and the question may be whether it would be more prudent to do it in stages taking into consideration the current state of the economy vis a vis the needs. Ultimately however a state of equilibrium must be achieved.
In Zimbabwe constituency requirements are so profound and juggling those needs with Parliamentary representation naturally makes being an MP a full time job. It would be folly to dedicate less than full time to working in one’s constituency. The idea of performance based perks has been mooted but the measuring yardstick for performance or lack thereof has not been resolved. The tools of trade then come in – how does one judge one who does not have adequate resources?
Whilst one may scoff at the suggestion of “golf and ice cream” the items are merely examples to describe the importance of wellness. Wellness refers to “diverse and interconnected dimensions of physical, mental, and social well-being that extends beyond the traditional definition of health. It includes choices and activities aimed at achieving physical vitality, mental alacrity, social satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and personal fulfilment”. With the weight of constituency and national interests squarely placed upon the shoulders of a Legislator, the aspect of wellness in the form of recreational activities and a balanced, nutritious meal become critical. Globally, more and more people are becoming more aware of wellness as an important factor to promote optimal work performance. All sports according to one’s preference should subsequently be encouraged, even something as simple as a 30 minute walk every day. Balanced meals that include healthy options further contribute to one’s overall state of health and well-being. Medical practitioners the world over recommend wellness awareness.
I am aware of the imminent backlash that will certainly be created by the aforementioned wellness submissions as parallels are again drawn, I am not insensitive, however they are made in an effort to contribute to the holistic goal of wellness for all by creating a national enabling environment for economic recovery through the role of oversight for transparency and accountability; it has to start somewhere. Whilst we talk of austerity measures, maybe critical analysis must be placed on which sectors should be prioritised for funding and/or cuts, if indeed the function of Legislation is deemed to be an unnecessary arm of the State then the process to amend the Constitution should be enacted accordingly, however until such time, the roles and responsibilities of a Legislator should be commensurately accommodated and I will diligently continue to advocate for the improved welfare of Members of Parliament.
To conclude my contextualisation, I gather from the discourse that the message has not been wrong. Moreover, the message is consistent with the position I have always taken in public servitude. Perhaps the question that should be asked is whether or not the timing of such a discussion is prudent given the current national crisis. My view is that there is never as good a time as the present to bring to the fore difficult topics.
Hon. Temba P. Mliswa (MP): Norton
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