NEWS of the Zimbabwean MPs that were stranded in China following a shopping junket provided cannon fodder for jokes among citizens last week.
by Paidamoyo Muzulu
Many joked about their “innocence” after being overwhelmed by the bright lights of Beijing. They could not resist the temptation to ride on a high speed train. The hunt for bargain commodities, most likely for resale back home to supplement their little incomes, was something they could not just pass up.
However, after the hearty laughter about the missing MPs, there are serious issues about the conduct of public representatives that need to be interrogated.
The trip could have been any other trip, unknown and unreported had they not missed the flight back to Harare on the scheduled departure date.
Friends of China leader and Zanu PF MP Mandi Chimene organised the ill-fated all-parties trip to the Far East. Chimene maintains that everything was done above board and she claims the trip was meant to expose less travelled MPs to foreign countries.
However, she says that things went wrong when Zaka Central MP Paradza Chakona (Zanu PF) led a rebellion as soon as they landed in Beijing. She argues Chakona arranged a new trip to Guangdong province, some 2 000 kilometres from Beijing, resulting in some of the MPs missing their flight.
Chakona in his defence argues the trip was not simply an exposure and shopping junket but was also meant to give MPs a chance to explore business opportunities.
However, the harsh exchanges among the parliamentarians have exposed unwanted traits that the electorate should thoroughly debate about their leaders:
Some MPs are crooks
It has emerged that some of the MPs travelled using discounted tickets meant for the disabled. The anomaly was discovered when the remaining MPs failed to transfer or amend their tickets. This clearly exposed dishonesty on the part of the legislators.
Buy Zimbabwe is a mere posturing
The trip exposed the double-speak from our leaders who more often than not and at every given opportunity urge citizens to buy local goods to spur economic growth, yet they shop in foreign capitals. The incident of missing the plane was primarily caused by the MPs seeking cheaper goods in Guangdong province. It remains a moot question whether the goods were for personal use or for resale back home?
MPs are not time-conscious
The majority of our politicians do not appreciate doing things on time. At home they have the temerity to have their constituency wait for them for hours, hungry and thirsty, waiting to be addressed at rallies. And when the MPs do eventually arrive, they give no apology to the people. This is perhaps the same mentality they took, expecting the plane to wait for them.
MPs enjoy jaunts and money more than anything else once they are elected.
Seeking political office in Zimbabwe has become a career for some politicians. They will stop at nothing to become the people’s representative. Since independence in 1980, cases of politically-motivated violence in the country are very common in every election. The media has dubbed getting into parliament — riding on the gravy train — an apt label indeed.
The foreign travel and subsistence bill in our national budget has always been bigger than the funding alocated to education and health. For the avoidance of doubt, I mean the actual amount of money given to buy books, research and teaching material not that of salaries and administration.
MPs are now known for demanding brand new expensive vehicles and weekly fuel coupons more than they care for quality debate in the august house. Some are still to present their maiden speeches in the House almost a year after being voted into office.
Another thing, it is very clear MPs fear (not respect) President Robert Mugabe much more than the electorate that voted them into parliament.
This can be exemplified by the conduct of the MPs upon their return to Zimbabwe. The leader of the group that remained behind, Chakona issued an apology to the President through the media.
“I want to apologise to the President [Robert Mugabe], government and the country at large for this episode that happened. What we want to do is to apologise for putting the name of Parliament into disrepute,” Chakona said.
It however, remains a fact that the war of attrition between the MPs in question and the organisers of the trip is still far from over.
Harare Metropolitan Senator Rorana Muchihwa (MDC-T) threatened to beat up Chimene at Parliament accusing her of dumping them in China.
“You are rubbish. You rubbish person. If I had met her outside this building, I was going to deal with her,” Muchihwa shouted at Chimene.
Analysts argue this incident could have been avoided had the right calibre of representatives in the house been chosen.
Blogger Takura Zhangazha wrote: “The key lessons to be drawn for the legislators and also those that aspire to leadership in whatever form, are that we must learn to believe in our own country. Not by way of sloganeering but by way of behaving with the modest dignity that leadership positions require”.