IN the Constitution and everywhere, in legal formality, we are told that the State comprises three arms, namely, the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature, and further, that these branches are equal.
Source: A pampered Executive, coddled Judiciary and pauperised Legislature – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 14, 2017
guest column: LEARNMORE ZUZE
They are described as the greatest legal machinery ever invented to buttress democracy and prevent arbitrariness in governance.
More importantly, it is stressed that these three arms wield power in the same measure and that, in them, the State becomes complete with full checks and balances.
However, happenings in Zimbabwe leave an extremely bitter taste and makes one wonder whether this is true or mere phenomena to be found in legal tomes.
Just the other day in Botswana, I met an acquaintance, a serving MP, who was almost stranded in the country; some personal business had not gone well.
The very appearance of the legislator told a confidence-sapping story; it wasn’t the supposed appearance of an MP to be polite. It betrayed someone living a life close to destitution and in discussion, the man bared it all.
One even needed to convince professional Zimbabweans living in this foreign land that indeed, this son of the soil was indeed a representative in the National Assembly back home.
The situation of Members of Parliament in Zimbabwe is saddening to the core.
They are living like paupers; the situation is even sadder coming to former MPs who have become drains to friends and relatives.
Many have been hauled to courts for failing to pay maintenance or have had properties attached. Yes, they can’t pay maintenance and neither can they sustain themselves.
Serving MPs, time and again, have been chucked out of hotels getting stranded in the capital because Parliament had no coupons for fuel for them to travel back to their constituencies. It has become more common to find MPs selling coupons to try and supplement their meagre earnings.
Compared to their counterparts in the region, Zimbabwean law-makers have become a walking joke; one struggles to sufficiently describe the disparity.
MPs in Zimbabwe earn something close to a thousand dollars and their sitting allowances range between $800 and $1 000. In the majority of cases, these are deducted to offset vehicle loans.
By the way, vehicle loans for MPs currently have been suspended until 2018, throwing this beleaguered arm of government into further disarray. How else do these men and women carry out constituency work in their impoverished state?
Effectively, it can be said that the parliamentarians are living on an income of about a thousand dollars per month, which is totally out of sync with the exigencies of their work.
True, these are representatives or servants of the people, so to speak, but surely there should be some dignity about a legislator.
The same pauperised MPs are expected to offer assistance when funerals occur in their constituencies.
Even school fees for the underprivileged in most Zimbabwean communities have had people seeking the representatives’ help.
It’s unfortunate, but true, that in the Zimbabwean context, parliamentarians are seen as welfare officers instead of the representatives who should be taking troubled areas in constituencies to Parliament.
Surely, these lawmakers are having a tough going. The government has normalised the delay in paying MPs’ allowances, further exacerbating an already terrible situation.
Last time, Treasury only managed to pay outstanding allowances for MPs for the Seventh Parliament during the Eighth Parliament. Most MPs have no other source of income and consequently are bearing the brunt of the cash-squeezed government.
Delivery in constituencies has been severely compromised in the present circumstances. It should be emphasised, nonetheless, that people should stop seeing election as a gateway to profligate lifestyles.
It is a terrible wake-up call to those who took up the elected positions for private gain; the going is tough. Parliament must never be seen in the context of full-time employment at all.
It is most disheartening that, against this background, we have the other two arms of the State leaving in Disneyland. It’s indeed a tale of three arms.
The difference between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature, whether from a monetary or material viewpoint, is as shocking as it is unjust.
Legislators are the poor cousins in the mix. Surely, no sane person would dispute that judges and government ministers should be afforded benefits and that they should be comfortably cushioned from hardships.
They are the face of the Judiciary and government per se and it is important that they are well taken care of.
However, it naturally raises a stink when they have to be pampered against such a backcloth of a pauperised Legislature, where some lawmakers do not even have proper vehicles.
It boggles the mind when MPs have no access to a single vehicle and a single judge has to be lavished with more than three luxurious vehicles.
It was recently reported that Zimbabwe’s senior judicial officers are living in luxury compared to their counterparts at Independence in 1980.
While at Independence judges were allocated one Peugeot 504 motor vehicle and later Mazda 626s, assembled locally then, today, judges upon appointment, are entitled to at least three sleek vehicles, including a Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and a 4×4 double-cab truck, in the face of a struggling Legislature.
The luxury enjoyed by ministers is something that needs no emphasis; needs no introduction.
One does not need rocket science to see the colossal difference between these arms of the State.
One is certainly being hard done by the government. It defeats the whole doctrine of equality of these three arms.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org