On a quick count, there were a little over 20 empty seats visible. And that was just as far as the photographer's scope could reach. There were probably many more empty seats than they eye could grasp. There are also other factors that may compel one to believe that there were many more empty seats. For starters, it was the evening session, a boring one for many who have ever attended Bunge sessions.
Secondly, legislators were discussing the African Youth Charter of 2006, something of little interest to many legislators. The charter was eventually ratified and Tanzania became African country no 23 to do so. But that's not the point.The timing of the image could never have been better. The legislators had demanded, and their wish apparently granted, an increase in their sitting allowances. The least the public would have expected is a half-empty Parliament now that the MPs have had it their way.
Since it was the evening session when the image was captured, it is very likely that the "absent" legislators had registered during the morning session as present for the day and pocketed the sitting allowance for half a day's work.
Now imagine you and I doing the same at our places of work. And then imagine asking for a raise, after the fact. Now narrow down your imagination to a single profession, say, doctors. When they reported to work after a strike as present for the day but did not attend to patients it was called a go-slow. MPs do that all the time, no questions are ever asked.
Yet they get to have exorbitant increases in their perks for all the wrong reasons. That they have more expenses than ordinary citizen, some kind of bull! My understanding is that a Member of Parliament is an elective post which one willingly decides to vie for.
It is therefore exceedingly unbecoming when you find someone grumbling about the burdens and responsibilities that come along with a post they so bitterly fought for. If one finds that burdensome, they know they can always leave, but I wonder why that is never considered as an option.
On another note, we are Africans, narrowed down to Tanzanians. We have one very common trait; extended families. If our honourable legislators feel that they should be compensated for assisting their voters, well, who is going to recompense the rest of us for assisting our kinsfolk scattered all over the country. Are we not Tanzanians?
It was rather repulsive to use the assistance they extend to their electorate as one of the reasons they deserve an increase in their allowances. We all chip in now and then to help a cousin there, a neighbour here, an old friend there and so on, that's typical African, and we don't go about demanding repayment.
And given a deep thought, the legislators are rather suggesting they be given more so they keep giving handouts to their voters, pressing them down deeper into begging, instead of find permanent solutions to their poverty so that they stop asking for assistance from their representatives.
One thing though the MPs would not admit is the fact that they simply brought it on themselves. Most of our politicians are blessed with empty campaign rhetoric; they give people false hope and in the end fail to deliver.
Payback is the mother. They are then forced to dig deep into their pockets because they always fail to deliver on their empty promises. They bite off more than they can chew. And when it starts to hurt, they never fail to find a "political" solution.
More reasons have been given to justify the increment in MPs' allowances; the cost of living has dramatically increased. But if the MPs have to eat, so do we; are we not Tanzanians? If they have to refuel, so do we; are we not Tanzanians? Now who is going to take care of us?
In retrospect, the decision by the MPs to increase their allowances and the fact that it has already been done may not have been a good investment. Doctors too demanded some unthinkable increases in their perks. When told to wait, what ensued was devastating. It's not hard to imagine who else will follow suit.
It takes a great deal of the nation's money and time to produce doctors and other professionals, unfortunately it does not always take much to make a legislator because the latter can easily be replaced by people from all walks of life.
The legislators should in the least have shown the public their human side by debating the matter in the august House, just like they want every issue of national interest to be treated. Instead they quietly made sure that they had it their way.
That was a punch below the belt, but then again, it was the ref who threw it!