SOME legislators have turned to fuel coupons allocated to them by Parliament as a source of income generation which they are selling to fuel vendors who mill around various service stations dotted around Harare, investigations have revealed.
Members of Parliament said they have gone for almost 11 months without receiving sitting allowances, a development legislators said has made their circumstances dire. The lawmakers are entitled to a $75 sitting allowance per every sitting in addition to a monthly allowance of $700.
They, however, feel, without the sitting allowance, the monthly stipend is not adequate to cater for their needs.
Sunday News gathered that some legislators have resorted to selling their fuel coupons on the black market for a living. Legislators get an average of about 200 litres fuel allocation each week in the form of coupons, to allow them to attend Parliament from their respective constituencies.
The fuel allocations, however, vary depending on where each legislator will be coming from, with some MPs who come from as far as Beitbridge, Hwange and Chiredzi getting as much as 300 litres of fuel for each week. In a month, some legislators may pocket around 1 200 litres of fuel each, while their counterparts from Harare and other nearby areas average about 800 litres each.
The legislators sell 25-litre fuel coupons for about $23 which fuel vendors will then sell for about $25 to beat pump prices at registered fuel outlets. On average the MPs pocket between $700 and $1 000 a month after “redeeming” their fuel coupons, money which they claim enables them to fend for their families as well as respond to some of the needs of their constituencies.
Investigations have shown that some legislators, instead of using their official vehicles, now prefer cheaper public transport to travel from their constituencies to attend Parliament in order to save fuel coupons for resale.
Some MPs who spoke to Sunday News confirmed the selling of fuel coupons on the black market, which they, however, said has been keeping them going, in light of Parliament’s failure to pay them their dues.
Tsholotsho South legislator Zenzo Sibanda said some legislators who did not have any other sources of income had no option but to sell coupons for survival.
“That is very true my friend. Some MPs don’t have anything to do in life and rely on what they get from Parliament. Such MPs are the ones who are selling fuel coupons and you can only understand them. Our economy is struggling and some of us end up dealing in fuel coupons to sustain themselves. There is a misconception that MPs are living large. We are actually struggling and surviving on shoe-string budgets. It’s not easy being an MP and I often wonder why some people jostle for these positions,” he said.
Sibanda said in the absence of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) some MPs were now selling coupons to sustain development projects in their constituencies. His sentiments were backed by Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba who justified the selling of fuel coupons by legislators whom he claimed ranked as some of the poorest people in the country.
Chinotimba said there was nothing wrong with MPS selling fuel coupons allocated to them, as they were free to do as they pleased with what they are given.
“If I give you a pair of shoes, you may go ahead and sell them because they are yours and I gave them to you. I can’t then come and ask why you sold the shoes. MPs are free to sell their fuel allocations because they have a lot of obligations in their constituencies. We are among some of the poorest people in the country. We get $700 which is not enough to cater for our needs and those of the constituency. We have a lot of obligations in our constituencies, some which we end up undertaking using our own personal funds,” he said.
MDC-T MP for Mkoba constituency Mr Amos Chibaya said the practice of selling fuel coupons was prevalent among MPs of the 8th Parliament who were not part of the 6th and 7th Parliaments. However, newly-elected Mpopoma-Pelandaba MP Joseph Tshuma said he had gone for a sustained period without receiving his fuel allocation since being elected in Parliament in June this year and has been using his personal funds to travel to Harare for Parliament business. He, however, expressed no qualms about not getting his dues, saying he was serving his constituency and the nation, a sentiment that was echoed by his Mberengwa North counterpart Tafanana Zhou.
Efforts to get a comment from the Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda were fruitless as at the time of going to print, he had not responded to questions emailed to him on Wednesday. When Sunday News followed up on the questions, Mr Chokuda acknowledged receipt and promised to respond by close of business on Friday.
Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda could also not be reached for comment.Sundaynews