We predicted in this very column right from the day the news about the proposed MPs’ sitting allowance rise by 185 percent got published in the media, a few weeks before the end of last year that the issue would be one of the more controversial ones, come 2012. And here we are. The theme is not only hot, but seems determined to keep us busy for many months, if not years ahead.
Hon. Anna Makinda, the National Assembly Speaker and one of the most outspoken advocates of the MPs’ sitting allowance rise who, unfortunately, has been issuing statements on the matter, only to be instantly contradicted by the powers above her rank, has now introduced a new and unexpected angle to the not all that fruitful debate.
This time around she has been extensively quoted by the media as alleging that half of the MPs serving their ongoing five-year term intend to call it quits when their tenure expires!
The Speaker’s assertion, made last week, has attracted the attention of the media and broad sections of public opinion because there is something unique about it. As far as journalists are concerned, any happening which is unusual or unexpected provides material for a good news story.
That is why they will tell you that when a dog bites a man there is nothing much to write home about, but when a man bites a dog, then you have a front page news item!
So, what is special in this case is the fact that while in recent years we have witnessed all sorts of people trooping into politics for one reason or another, the disclosure that those already in the kingdom of Parliament are contemplating to opt out is both intriguing and unbelievable. There is a tendency to ask-what is really happening and why? Has the anticipated parliamentary milk and honey life gone sour?
But before we go deeper into an issue of this nature, it is important to ensure we are looking at the subject from right premises for, as it is believed in the study of logic, conclusions reached by analyzing a subject from wrong premises are rarely right.
Hence, it is pertinent to ask whether it is true that half the MPs have told the Speaker that they won’t be in the parliamentary race in 2015 or not. Can the Speaker produce any evidence to validate her claims? Can she, for example, produce any list of legislators who have taken this rather interesting stand?
Now, politicians being what they are, chances are that Speaker Anna Makinda’s statement is her opinion based on reading the MPs’ mood and what some intimate colleagues tell her in privacy. Hence, the possibility of producing any list when cornered and put to task to do so is remote, or non-existent.
In any case since we all understand the reality on the ground, it is unrealistic to regard the Speaker as a mere rumor monger. There is an element of truth in her assertion.
It is common knowledge that most of the elite in Africa today consider politics as a lucrative industry. This mentality was non-existent when most countries got political independence, but evolved and spread like a deadly cancer when post-independence politicians began to create conditions of controlling state resources and turned into a newly rich class overnight.
Politicians in Tanzania are no exception, and keen observers will tell you this is one of the reasons why most of our MPs are getting disillusioned on realizing that being an MP in Tanzania is not financially as beneficial, and may lead to bankruptcy, where one attains the goal after investing heavily during campaigns and getting involved in all sort of electoral corruption.
This scenario leaves us with little doubt that there are legislators who are determined to give up the ‘’honourable” title if it does not materially pay. If media reports and public discussion on the issue are anything to go by, then it is crystal clear that most Tanzanians are saying “good riddance “ to this type of MPs.
Reasons for taking this stand are obvious. The disillusioned MPs are not indispensable as this is not a profession at all, and there are many capable Tanzanians waiting in the wings to occupy any vacant legislative positions. And chances are that the young men and women who will take over are likely to overly appreciate the current MP’s remunerative package.
We note too that Anna Makinda has declared she won’t be in the parliamentary super league in 2015 and we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors, with a piece of advice that she can do much good to her reputation by timely dropping her unpopular MPs’ sitting allowance rise agenda, lest it be remembered as her lasting, sad legacy.
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant (firstname.lastname@example.org)