Scores of Arusha residents and activists wrapped in sacks yesterday walked barefoot for about 7kilometers to protest against the new MPs’ allowances, saying they widened the gap between the “haves” and "have nots".
Protesters started marching from Kilombero market via Meru Post Office, Idara ya Maji, Main Bus Stand, Stadium, OTTU offices, Bondeni Street and ended up at the Parson Hotel near Arusha Main Market.
Carrying placards inscribed with different messages, the marchers threatened to call countrywide protests in February, if the President inked the proposed controversial allowances.
One of the placards read: “While MPs demand more pay, we school children have been sitting on the floor for lack of desks in classrooms.”
“We must fight against this new form of grand corruption for the sake of this nation,” another placard carried by a 12-year-old boy read.
The public has been protesting against the hike of lawmakers’ sitting allowances from 70,000/- to 200,000/- per day since Speaker Anne Makinda confirmed the increase early this month.
“If left unattended it will pose a new threat to the country's desire to ensure better life for everybody,” said Alphonce Mawazo, chairperson of Wazalendo Associates — an Arusha based NGO.
He said: “It is ridiculous to pay such a hefty amount of money to just a single person per day, when a primary school teacher is paid below the proposed amount per month.
Mawazo who is a CCM ward councilor for Sombetini explained that MPs and even the Speaker are not safeguarding the interest of majority poor Tanzanians who are living in abject poverty.
“This type of allowance is undesirable and it is untenable in the eyes of voters and the public in general. We ask the president to work on this matter,” said John Mchasu, who is a secretary general of Wazalendo Associates.
He called on Speaker Makinda to understand that millions of Tanzanians were living in poverty, noting: “These MPs are not there to defend public interests. They are there for themselves.”
Verista Mollel, a Ngulelo-based resident bitterly complained: “The newly proposed allowances have tarnished the government image before the public. MPs should look into this before taking any further steps.”
She said many people are dying in hospitals for lack of medicines and other facilities, wondering how MPs could be comfortable with such a situation.
“Tanzanians are not fools as some officials in the government think,” she said.
A Standard Six pupil Aikaeli Kaaya said: “We have no desks in classrooms, no textbooks and other teaching and learning facilities. Why not take the money and invest it in education?
Early this month Speaker Makinda defended the new allowances for MPs, saying the increase was aimed at enabling the lawmakers to pay house rent and meet costs of other essential needs.
“I’m surprised at the ongoing public debate that MPs are receiving a lot of money. What we added to their perk is the sitting allowance only. We have not increased the MPs’ salaries since 2003. The lawmaker gets a salary of 2.3m/-. Now if you deduct 700, 000/- in tax per month and 800,000/- as car loan repayment, service and fuel charge, what do they remain with?” she asked.