MDC rejects diplomatic passports for MPs

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

MDC legislators will not accept diplomatic passports as promised by government until such time ordinary citizens have access to the travel documents, secretary general Charlton Hwende said Friday.

Zimbabwe has had to scale down the printing to much sought after documents to as less as 60 a day due to foreign currency shortages that have seen consumables drying up while a row with a major supplier as well as printer almost brought everything to a complete shutdown.

Government early last week announced it will provide diplomatic passports to some 400 MPs for ease of travel.

“Diplomatic passports to MPs at this point in time when ordinary Zimbabweans who need to travel out of the country for medical treatment, escaping the current economic hardships and to further their education are failing to access ordinary passports is not a priority,” Hwende said.

“We must provide passports first to ordinary Zimbabweans, only after that can we consider diplomatic passports for our MPs.”

The MDC MPs have however accepted cars and other trinkets that come with their election to the National Assembly and Senate.

A row has also erupted between the opposition and government over funds due to political parties with a particular threshold of representation in Parliament under the Political Parties Finance Act.

Hwende last week claimed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was out to strangle the MDC by denying it access to some $3 million due to it from Treasury despite having already paid out millions to Zanu PF.

The MDC secretary general added: “As a social democratic party, we must refuse to be equalised by the corrupt Zanu PF regime. We must stand and defend the toiling masses.”

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and Zanu PF MP for Makonde, Kindness Paradza made the announcement that was met with a slogan ‘ED pfee’ from the ruling party legislators in appreciating the gesture.

Paradza said it was only in Zimbabwe the world over where lawmakers were not considered diplomats.

“I want to thank His Excellency the President on behalf of all the 350 parliamentarians that for the first time since our independence, honourable members are going to have diplomatic passports,” Paradza told fellow MPs.

Diplomatic passports allow holders to enjoy various advantages that include easy passage at borders, special lines at customs, tax exemptions, travel upgrades on airlines and hotels, free visas to any country and in some cases, visa free travel.

Government has also announced it has since acquired fresh consumables to begin printing more passports.