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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Why our MPs crave for every cent they can lay their hands on

8th January 2012

One of the hotly debated issues during the twilight days of 2011 was the proposed, or should we say the already endorsed but reservedly and vaguely talked about by relevant spokespersons, is the upward adjustment of our beloved MPs’ sitting allowances by a cool 185%.

Believe it or not, but chances are that the controversy is likely to keep us busy as well in 2012. It is for this reason that we are joining the ranks of those determined to keep the sitting allowance ball rolling.

Challenged by anyone to prove my case as to why this will remain a nagging problem for quite sometime, I would readily give a few handy explanations.

First, we have a specific category of workers that is thousands of teachers countrywide, who last year vowed to call a strike if the malpractice of denying them a fair share of the national cake continues while MPs pocket their highly raised sitting allowances, good salaries and other juicy perks. Given the teachers’ determination to pursue this cause, their move will put the MPs’ sitting allowances to the fore once again.

Teachers apart, even other workers who are feeling the economic pinch are restless as well. The workers umbrella organization has already categorically promised to back up the teachers, in case they opt to walk the talk and lay down their mental tools, in an attempt to teach the ruling establishment a lesson or two.

We are also very much aware that the constitutional debate is poised to take off any time within the first half of this year. All signs indicate that issues related to the yawning gap between the have-too-much and have- too- little, now threatening our cherished peace and harmony, are likely to crop up as there are already strong feelings that the constitution must address them.

All these forces do not take lightly the tendency by our MPs to preach water but drink wine. Whoever thinks under such circumstances the MPs’ sitting allowance question will be relegated to the back burner must be living in dreamland.

All said one key question calls for an urgent answer, in attempt to find out why our men and women “of the people” are craving for any cent they can lay their hands on.

I am determined to be extremely fair to our legislators by genuinely observing that they are not the only social group worshipping, the false God that money has become. The craze for money is everywhere, and the saying that “man made money and money made man mad” is now more relevant than it has ever been before in history.

Now let us come to the real point. It is not a secret that a substantial investment in monetary terms has to be made by most aspirants for legislative seats, with few exceptions of those who happen to contest with extremely unpopular incumbents.

This explains why it is not uncommon for seekers of legislative seats to secure bank loans, dispose property, exhaust bank accounts, seek financial god fathers and resort even to all sorts of unethical money making ways, so long as the end justifies the means.

The political fight for legislative seats has turned into a financial nightmare which leaves many as broke as the proverbial church mouse. Why are we then surprised when our MPs begin to devise all sorts of ways to recoup what they spent right from the day they take the oath to “serve the people diligently.”

Then there is this self inflicted wound. We are referring to the MPs’ habit of posing as benefactors of the electorate – that is dishing peanut pocket money to poor peasants, promising to help where some parents fail to pay school fees for their children, providing some schools with computers and books, distributing sports gear and balls to youth groups, contributing handsomely to endless wedding receptions, and you name it. We do not need a genius to tell us that behind this Uncle Tom spirit are calculations for the next election. Whoever thinks only presidential aspirants are already in the rat race for 2015 misses the point.

If there were no personal motives, a proper approach would be to mobilize the electorate to engage in self-empowerment activities so that they eventually stop living on handouts.

Unless our MPs change their mindset and focus on this option, they will continue with their unfortunate habit of robbing Peter to pay Paul, which does more harm than good to their collective image.

Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant ([email protected])

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