Members of Parliament should be more concerned with serving their constituents rather than being preoccupied with diplomatic passports

Members of Parliament should be more concerned with serving their constituents rather than being preoccupied with diplomatic passports

Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker, Sir

Ordinary people have every right to think that the demand for diplomatic passports has nothing to do with increased efficiency by legislators but prestige and glamour.

Parliamentarians never cease to amaze.

They sometimes ignorantly find gratification in hitting headlines for self-serving agendas while their constituents are failing to make a living from their enterprises.

If MPs are not crying for an upward review of their allowances, top of the range vehicles, they are demanding that they be issued with diplomatic passports.

They want diplomatic passports to supposedly ensure that they efficiently carry out their duties when outside the country on Government assignments.

Mr Speaker Sir, there are more questions than answers.

Out of the almost 300 backbenchers, how many of them travel outside the country on official Government business during their tenure?

Why are the MPs more interested in travelling outside the country than their constituencies?

People should be forgiven for asking if their representatives want diplomatic passports to work in their areas.

Fact is MPs’ primary mandate is to serve their constituents here.

They certainly do not need diplomatic passports to travel to and from their constituencies.

Yet it’s also a fact that there are MPs who belong to such international parliamentary organisations like the Pan African Parliament and the African, Caribbean and Pacific and European Union Parliamentary Assembly.

Others have also been to regional countries to observe elections.

But in all fairness, the number of those who have carried out these international assignments is insignificant to warrant giving almost 300 MPs diplomatic passports.

It is clear that their demand for diplomatic passports is a result of comparing themselves to some of their regional and international counterparts who have been issued with these much sought-after travel documents.

Instead of MPs concerning themselves with the impending hunger due to low rains received last season albeit Government has committed to supplement food supplies, our representatives are busy thinking about satisfying their egos.

At a time when the majority of school- children are being sent away from school for failure to pay school fees despite a Government directive against such actions, some of our MPs seem unconcerned about such things as long as they face no hassles at the airports.

Some roads in rural constituencies are in a deplorable state forcing public transport operators to pull out of such routes, leaving villagers who are the electorate stranded.

It is possible that some of the MPs have not been to their constituencies because of the poor state of roads.

Incredibly, the same MPs are now kicking and screaming for diplomatic passports so that they can “efficiently carry out their duties when outside the country”.

My foot!

Why would MPs be preoccupied with foreign trips instead of serving their local constituents?

At a time when the capital city has been turned into an eyesore by street vendors and the majority of Zimbabweans are finding it difficult to eke a living out of their enterprises, their representatives find it appropriate to make such outrageous luxury demands that serve no purpose beyond satisfying personal egos.

What a shame!

Besides, how often do they go out of the country on Government business to the extent that they should deserve diplomatic passports that are exclusively for officials who must travel internationally on official state business?

After all, in the event that they are issued with those diplomatic passports, the next demand will be for their families to be given similar privi- leges.

Then the number of diplomatic passport holders will be increased manifold which can lead to abuse of the same.

Once MPs are given diplomatic passports, what stops traditional leaders from requesting or demanding the same?

At the end of the day, the value of Zimbabwe’s diplomatic passport will be undermined because of the large number of people holding the document when they are not diplomats.

It is only a few months ago when a group of MPs embarrassed the country when they went on that regrettable China trip.

People would be justifiably suspicious that some of their representatives want to abuse the facility and hide behind diplomatic immunity.

Yes, thinking that MPs would abuse the diplomatic passports is an insult to the dignity of Parliament but previous experience has shown that some of them are dishonourable.

For instance, there are several reports of our legislators harassing Government and Parliament staff demanding VIP treatment when on international assignments.

There are others whose names send shivers among the civil society organisations because of their outrageous demands when they are taken on regional and international workshops.

We hear of MPs demanding to be driven around in top-of-the-range vehicles and booked into five-star hotels and to be given per diems using more than international rates on the pretext that those civil society organisations would are given a lot of money by their international donors.

Given such experiences, Mr Speaker Sir, my humble submission is; what stops the same legislators from abusing the diplomatic passport to evade paying customs duty on their return from private trips?

Ordinary people have every right to think that the demand for diplomatic passports has nothing to do with increased efficiency by legislators but prestige and glamour.

After this demand, who knows, maybe they will demand diplomatic number plates for their cars so that they speed around and are not be stopped at police roadblocks.

After all, there is diplomatic etiquette that beneficiaries must appreciate and adhere to so that the dignity of the Zimbabwean State can be preserved.

But how many of them are ready to abide by that?

 Feedback: lloyd.gumbo@zimpapers.co.zw