Hard working MPs deserve a pay rise of twice their current earnings.
It’s a pity that debates relating to payments of MPs are clouded with jealousy, ignorance and pure hypocrisy.
It is true that there are MPs who do not deserve any pay from parliament. These include nominated MPs such as Wynter Kabimba and Alexander Chikwanda.
These MPs are actually pests as they get allowances and pay as MPs but they also get payments and salaries as ministers. Such MPs do not represent anyone but they get the same amount of money with MPs who represent people.
But there are real MPs who represent their voters. These are MPs who are in their constituencies most of the times. MPs representing rural constituencies deserve sympathy.
Being an MP for a rural constituency, or slum is not an easy job. It is like being a breadwinner for all the people in constituency or ghetto.
Rightly or wrongly, people in constituencies see MPs as public ATMs. They expect MPs to fund funerals, that is, buy coffin for the deceased and feed mourners at each and every bereaved family. They expect MPs to give them money for transport and buy them seeds to plant. Whatever small problem has befallen a family, voters expect the MP to come in and financially resolve it. To them, an MP has money every time and he or she must release it.
This behaviour is not only restricted to rural constituencies. We have seen embarrassing incidents where MPs are accosted by town dwellers asking for money.
MPs can’t even walk freely in these Lusaka and Copperbelt shopping malls for fear of people begging for money. What is worse is that the beggars are not the ordinary blind and crippled folk but people who work, students and even NGO personnel.
People in constituencies expect MPs to build then boreholes, deep tanks and so on and so forth from their pockets. Where do you think they get that money from? Yet, we all know that most MPs have no alternative incomes. They only depend on the money they get from parliament. Yet they have families to support. The same money they get from parliament, they are forced to share it with voters. If they fail to share, they are voted out. It is little surprise that some MPs decide to stay away from their constituencies.
And then people demand that that MPs must always be in their constituencies or in parliament. What time are they supposed to make the money to distribute?
Take Mr Mutaba Andrew Mwali, the MP for Chifunabuli for example. How do you expect him to travel and meet the people that side if he does not have enough money on him?
Is it not this same country which you have messed up to the extent that headmen there will refuse to meet Mwali next time if he did not give them ‘sitting’ allowances last time?
Can a person manage to give money to all those chiefs and headmen each time he visits? The simplistic answer will be that he should not give them the money. But reality on the ground is different. You don’t give; you lose your seat next polls.
Besides, in most cases, the people who demand money genuinely need it. Can an MP look the other side when a family in his constituency approaches him to take their sick relative to a better hospital 300 kilometres away, and they have no money to pay at the hospital?
It is actually unrealistic to compare MPs pay with those of civil servants. Civil servants get their little money and have no constituency to worry about.
Apart from maybe a neighbour, no one will approach a civil servant asking for financial help. But voters think they are entitled to the MPs pay. This is not to say that civil servants do not deserve better pay from their current ‘droppings’. They deserve much more, but their better pay should not be anchored or even compared to MPs who have different roles and responsibilities.
It is true that the economy is in tatters and demanding more money is selfish. But looking at how the MPs share their pay and what is expected of them, one can easily sympathise. The paradox is that, the worse the economy gets, the more voters demand from MPs.
Like said earlier, those MPs who have no constituencies do not deserve a pay rise. They do not even deserve their current pay. They should be restricted to ministerial payments.
We read somewhere about a silly priest who was saying MPs should emulate president Michael Sata who is preoccupied with developing Zambia.
This is a very sick statement from a sick person.
Is it not Sata who has increased his salary three times in two years? Is it not Sata who is constructing two retirement homes?
MPs deserve more money that Sata because, unlike Sata, they do not get allowances when they go to visit their constituencies.
But for Sata, even when he goes to campaign, he gets an allowance. His pay and other allowances are left intact as he and his family are given free food, free medication and free transport.
In conclusion, we feel that this debate about MPs’ pay is just aimed at diverting attention from real issues.