Zimbabwe’s poorly paid male legislators have become so broke that they now have parliament’s fuel coupons left at their disposal to pass to lovers as girlfriend allowance.
The coupons are allocated to the MPs to enable them to travel from their different homes throughout the country to parliament in Harare.
Speaking while debating Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s supplementary budget Thursday, Nkayi South MP Stars Mathe said female MPs were also targets for love proposal by hotel staff seeking to profit from the legislators’ endless nightmares when they constantly have to beg for accommodation while in Harare for parliament business.
Zimbabwean MPs earn less than US$200 in monthly wages.
Last week, they put Ncube under siege, demanding the treasury chief to increase parliament’s vote before asking them to pass the budget.
But in their demands for an increase, MPs inadvertently revealed some of their sordid acts, with Mathe among those who let the proverbial cat out of the bag.
“I wanted to come after 2023 but I asked myself what will be the benefit of coming here because I will be always spending my own money. It is also painful Chairperson because male Members of Parliament have nothing to give their girlfriends except the coupon. That is the only thing they have.
“They give these coupons because they are not accounted for at home. The salary is so insignificant that the Member of Parliament will go around saying I have a coupon,” she said.
The love story around MPs’ desperation does not end with coupons.
Mathe said female MPs suffer the discomfort of being targets for love advances by some hotel staff.
“Now coming to the issue of accommodation for Members of Parliament, this is so sad because we have to negotiate in order to get accommodation especially us as female Members of Parliament will end up being proposed love by receptionists at hotels because we always negotiate with them. Chairperson, we need our dignity as Members of Parliament,” she said.
MPs protested being offered US$200 when their peers in other countries earned a minimum of US$1,000.
Hatfield legislator Tapiwa Mashakada said the least paid parliamentarian at the Pan-African Parliament from countries like Zambia, Malawi earned US$1,000.
“Countries like Kenya, the MP gets about US$13 thousand, Tanzania US$8,000, South Africa US$10,000, Ghana US$12,000.
“I can go on and on doing this benchmarking but when you talk of Zimbabwe, you get US$100 or US$200.
“It reduces the honourability of the MP to nothing. The dignity of the MP is at stake. We are supposed to carry the flag of the country but the MP’s salary is pathetic.”
To ease their cash troubles, some said they were now forced to trade fuel coupons.
Makoni Central MP David Tekeshe also said tax rebates offered to MPs to import vehicles duty free were being abused by cash strapped MPs.
“How is it possible to say US$65,000 duty free, how can I buy a car worth US$60,000 when I am paid US$200?” he said.
“You are now encouraging corruption. Where are people getting that kind of an amount? People are now selling their certificates for US$10,000 so that they get something.”
Musikavanhu MP, Joshua Murire also said MPs sell the tax rebate.
Southerton legislator Peter Moyo said “government is teaching us to be crooks”.
MPs also begged Ncube to instead hand them the monies often paid to hotels on their behalf and let them find alternative accommodation among friends and relatives in Harare.
Moyo said Harare MPs suffered the worst as they were not getting hotel and related allowances offered to their colleagues who live outside Harare.
“There is no allowance that you are giving us by using our homes where we pay electricity and water charges. We also want an allowance for that,” he said.
The MP also demanded Z$1 million to be allocated to each lawmaker for the next six months saying the current MPs’ re-election hopes would vanish if their financial woes persisted.
The opposition lawmaker said their Zanu PF counterparts have an unfair competing advantage as they run mines obtained from their association with the party.