By BRANFON JOSPHAT
ANALYSTS say the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) needs to handle the issue of its legislators taking the controversial US$40 000 housing loans from Parliament with care if it is to avoid further destabilising the fledgling party ahead of next year’s crunch elections.
This comes as many of the party’s legislators have defied their leader Nelson Chamisa, pictured, ’s directive not to take the much-debated loans — arguing that it was immoral for them to do so given the current levels of poverty and economic hardships in the country.
But CCC insiders who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said party legislators were emphatic that they would take the money — because there was no difference between this and other parliamentary facilities like car loans, which Chamisa himself had received while he was still a member of the august House.
“We have made it clear to the president (Chamisa) and his representatives that we will accept the loans. There is no going back on this.
“This is not corruption because it’s just like the car loans that MPs receive from Parliament.
“There is, therefore, no need whatsoever to make a big political issue out of this and to punish MPs over what has been normal practice for many years,” one legislator told the Daily News.
Another MP said Chamisa would face a rebellion from his lieutenants if he “keeps on harping about this issue when he himself has benefited from these facilities”.
“All MPs are not happy with what Nero is trying to do. He is ill-informed because this is a loan that has nothing to do with the party.
“He cannot block people from getting these loans because … legislators openly lobbied the government to improve their welfare.
“In addition, some of us campaigned using our resources. We are also human beings.
“We have got families who want to survive. We will take the money despite Nero’s directive,” the legislator said.
“This is not Zanu PF’s money and at the end of the day we are going to repay it. While some people are even pushing for all MPs to give 10 percent of the money to the party, this is a loan we are going to repay and we thus cannot donate it to the party,” another MP said.
On Thursday, Chamisa accused CCC MPs of breaking the party’s ethos and the pledge to advocate citizens’ interests, adding that they risked being punished for this.
“I have told them that if you (MPs) don’t act accordingly, you know what it means. The citizens are waiting for you and they are going to punish you and punish you heavily.
“I don’t agree with it. I don’t encourage it. I don’t support it. I don’t believe that people must be talking about their welfare when the nation is struggling the way we are struggling,” he said then.
Chamisa further claimed that the loan was a bribe from the government, adding that this money could have been used on service delivery to Zimbabweans.
He further claimed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa wanted to placate his MPs to prevent an internal revolt in next year’s polls.
But political analysts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said the matter would cause more fissures in CCC if it continued to be handled poorly.
Senior lecturer at South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology, Ricky Mukonza said the insistence by Chamisa to oppose the loans would create more problems for his party.
“It is certainly going to cause some commotion in the party. Remember, some of the parliamentarians suspect that they may not be coming back on the party ticket and if they do a cost-benefit analysis they may find that taking the money is beneficial to them.
“It is those who view themselves as being close to Chamisa and have a good chance of coming back as MPs who will listen to what he is saying.
“We may see this as a repeat of 2005 where there was a conflict in the MDC about whether or not they should contest in that year’s senate elections,” Mukonza said.
“Whilst what Chamisa is saying appears morally sound and will resonate with the struggling ordinary men and women of Zimbabwe, it clashes with the interests of the party’s parliamentarians who may be focusing on their personal political economies. He is likely to face resistance on this one.
“The best way for him to handle this would have been to avoid making public pronouncements on the matter until he generates sufficient internal consensus. Then, he could make pronouncements based on that.
“What he has done further gives weight to assertions that he has serious dictatorial tendencies that are alien to a supposed democratic political outfit like CCC,” Mukonza further told the Daily News.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, also said Chamisa needed to handle the issue with extreme caution as it had the potential to destabilise his party.
“The CCC leader is undoubtedly between a rock and hard place.
“The offer by the government was not entirely politically innocent and I think for MPs it was designed to produce the kind of turmoil that is now brewing in the party’s leadership.
“The government deliberately threw the cat among the pigeons and is watching with considerable glee all this drama which is unfolding.
“For the CCC, what we have is a clash between moral and ethical principles on hand, and the reality of ‘eating’ in a political economy of scarcity on the other,” Masunungure said.
“A figure of US$40 000 is a huge bonanza for MPs whose annual pay is probably less than one tenth of that.
“Chamisa has to exercise a lot of dexterity in managing the situation which might easily explode in his face through defections to Zanu PF at a crucial time in the election cycle.
“The best way to handle the crisis is to allow the MPs to take the loot and for them to make a commitment to spend a specified portion of the jackpot in their respective constituencies.
“In any case, it is public money part of which they will be ploughing back to the public in that case,” Masunungure added.
Professor of World Politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Stephen Chan, also said Chamisa must allow his MPs to get the loans.
“Zimbabwean MPs, compared to their counterparts in countries like Kenya, whether government or opposition MPs, are not well paid.
“The lack of competitive salary is almost an incentive to undertake corruption. I see nothing sinister in the loan offer being currently made,” he said. – Daily News