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ZIMBABWE’S MPs claim they are resorting to dodgy activities in order to keep up appearances because of pressure from constituents who believe they are wealthy and always approach them for help, Parliament heard on Thursday.

Particularly angered with their plight were first-time MPs who spent large sums of money – in some cases borrowed funds – while campaigning last year only to realise there was no financial return on the “investment”.

The lawmakers were recently handed top of the range vehicles from Parliament in an $11 million scheme funded by a government struggling to pay civil servants.

Despite the posh cars however, the MPs – who have not been receiving their sitting and other allowances – claim to be wallowing in poverty and unable to meet the needs of communities they represent.

Parliament heard Thursday that MPs were struggling to live up to the expectations of constituents who believe they are wealthy and always demand material and financial hand-outs.

Zanu PF’s Mutasa South legislator, Irene Zindi, vented the legislators’ frustrations while debating a motion to force the government to put money into the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

Zindi said MPs were being forced to engage in corruption and other social-vices such as illegal gold smuggling and cross border trading to keep up with their assumed status.

“They (constituents) look at the MP for their financial needs even to the extent of requesting for things which I as an honourable member can’t afford,” she said.

“This results in some MPs engaging in corrupt practices and smuggling of gold among other things so as to satisfy the electorates and assist them.

“It is one of the reasons you would read in papers about Members of Parliament being splashed in front pages of newspapers that MP so and so has been implicated in corruption and other things.”

Innocent Gonese, MDC-T MP for Mutare Central added that first time legislators were stunned to realise that there was no financial return on the huge sums they invested while campaigning.

Said the opposition legislator: “I know that some of the new MPs are wondering – ‘is this what we are getting after investing so much in campaigning?’ They were hoping that there is green grass here.

“But there is nothing greener here Mr Speaker sir, the only thing that looks green here is the carpet and the benches otherwise it is a dry land.

“The electorate have high expectations on us but we don’t have the money. Many people think that when one becomes an MP, he is automatically rich, but I know that first time members are disappointed.”

Parliament is facing serious financial problems and unable to pay members sitting and fuel allowances while hotels in the capital were also now refusing to accommodate them due to non-payment.

The legislators are owed 15 weeks of fuel while sitting allowances from the current and last Parliament have yet to be paid. US$4 million in sitting allowances is owing from the last Parliament in addition to US$1,4 million for the current Parliament.

Source : New Zimbabwe