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The shifting political winds in the country’s main political parties has created so much uncertainty among lawmakers that they are now demanding residential stands from a cash-strapped government, among other things, ahead of the tricky 2018 elections.

There has been a high-turnover of legislators in the legislative assembly since the beginning of the year due to intense power struggles in ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), which has resulted in the term of office for some Senators and Members of Parliament being cut short.

In March, MDC-T recalled 21 legislators from Parliament after they rebelled to form the MDC Renewal Team.

Earlier in the same month, ZANU-PF had recalled two MPs (Temba Mliswa and Didymus Mutasa) from the august House. Soon it will recall three more MPs and two Senators for working against party’s leadership.

All these developments have necessitated by-elections in the respective constituencies.

With turmoil creating havoc in both parties ahead of elections in 2018, the country’s 352 legislators seem to have started preparing for life after the assembly.

The Financial Gazette can reveal that the lawmakers have requested government to assist them in acquiring residential stands, as they scramble to enhance their net-worth in the midst of the chaos rattling their parties.

ZANU-PF chief whip, Joram Gumbo (pictured), confirmed the development, but said it was not yet a done deal.

“It (demand for land) was done by the whole Parliament in the Standing Orders and Rules Committee (SORC). It was not a party issue. It is a request that was made but it is not guaranteed,” he said.

Gumbo said the parties making up the SORC have been informing their MPs and Senators to take up the housing stands if they wanted.

The SORC is responsible for supervising the administration of Parliament.

It also formulates Standing Orders, considers all matters concerning the august House and exercises any other functions that may be conferred or imposed on it by the Constitution or by Standing Orders or any other law. Standing Orders are written rules under which Parliament conducts its business.

The committee is chaired by the speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, who is deputised by Senate President Edna Madzongwe.

It also comprises the deputy speaker, the deputy senate president, the Minister of Finance, the leader of government business in each house, the leader of the opposition in each house, the chief whips of all the political parties represented in each house, the president of the Council of Chiefs and two other ministers appointed by the President.

Contacted for comment, SORC member and MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese declined to shed light on the demands by MPs and Senators. He said: “It is premature for me to comment at this point.”

This is the latest of several schemes orchestrated by those who rub shoulders in the corridors of power to enhance their comfort while the general populace continues to sink deeper into abject poverty.

Extravagance by Zimbabwe’s politicians often reveals itself through their expensive taste for plush properties, top-of-the range cars and other featherbeddings.

On average, a stand costs US$18 000 in the medium density suburbs of Harare.

And if all the 352 legislators sign up for the stands, government would have to fork out more than US$6,3 million to fund the scheme.

With government struggling to fund itself, local authorities may be forced to release land to the lawmakers at ridiculously low prices.

In 2009, for instance, former Mashonaland Central province minister of State, Martin Dinha, reportedly acquired a 3 025 square-metre Bindura council property for a paltry US$0,48.

The Financial Gazette understands that scores of lawmakers who already own mansions across the country are planning to acquire the stands and offload them on the open market at exorbitant prices.

Legislators already enjoy several facilities run by Parliament.

One such facility is the vehicle loan scheme which gives them access to top-of-the-range cars at heavily subsidised interest rates.

Critics have often accused the legislators of abusing their positions to make money for themselves while neglecting their constituencies.

The latest development seem to suggest that the uncertainty in the MDC-T and ZANU-PF has led legislators to think ahead since their stay in Parliament can no longer be guaranteed owing to the uncertainty in their respective parties.

When the new administration came into office after the July 31, 2013 general elections, government was expected to purchase vehicles for members of the expanded legislature, with 270 cars required for the National Assembly and 80 for the expanded Senate, which cost not less than US$8 million.

The figures did not include vehicles for 10 provincial affairs ministers and 25 deputy ministers.

Cabinet ministers, most of whom are likely to benefit from the latest stands scheme, enjoy several perks, which include a latest Mercedes Benz plus another vehicle which comes as a choice between a Prado or Range Rover.

In Zimbabwe, a Mercedes Benz is valued at US$170 000 each while a Prado or a Range Rover averages at about US$110 000 each.

The cash-strapped government recently spla-shed millions of dollars buying latest top-of-the-range vehicles for Cabinet ministers.

At least US$1,4 million was spent on first rate Range Rover Vogue SE vehicles, which were allocated this year to seven Cabinet ministers.

The purchase of the vehicles has been viewed as serious extravagance and gross insensitivity by a financially struggling government that is currently in sixes and sevens as to where it can source money to avert impending hunger after a failed summer cropping season.

With national food reserves having sunk to precarious levels, government estimates that the country immediately requires 700 000 tonnes of maize through imports.

Source : Financial Gazette