Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tough shit, Magwanga et al!

There is a group of former MPs, now re-elected, who seem to think that the sun shines out of their asses. They have gotten it into their heads that the behaviour of the Ninth and Tenth Parliaments, and even that of the Eighth, that was tolerated by the long-suffering peoples of Kenya, will be tolerated with the swearing in of the First Parliament of the Second Republic, that is, the Eleventh Parliament. They threaten to mobilise their colleagues in Kenya's only second bicameral Parliament to "renegotiate" their pay and allowances with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. They argue that the new regime proposed, and published in the Kenya Gazette, by the Commission places elected representatives in the national government in a "compromising position and [makes] them miserable personalities."

How any Kenyan, let alone one who claims to speak for his people, could sneer at half-a-million shillings in pay-and-perks as demeaning beggars belief. Their argument that they have responsibilities in their constituencies that demand higher salaries no longer washes with the great unwashed. The huddled masses may not be the most sophisticated political theorists in the world, but we now know that there is a link between the competence of our elected representatives and the level of development where we live in squalid splendor. Messrs Magwanga, Baiya, Chanzu and Ng'eno are proof positive that it is only the will of the people that will keep our elected representatives from ripping us off every chance they get.

Not even this author believe that representing the people is something one should do for free. Even in the so-called developed world, an elected representative wishes a life of relative prestige and luxury. The scandals rocking the Palace of Westminster regarding its MPs expenses reminds us that the colour of ones skin is not a guarantee of honesty or integrity. However, to allow Magwanga et al to keep taking us for all we've got and then some is tolerance too far. We drew the line in the sand when we overwhelmingly ratified the Constitution of Kenya in August 2010. We reaffirmed our position when we supported the creation of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission. Indeed, when they sought our opinions on whether their proposals were fair just before the general election, we were adamant that the cuts had not gone far enough; we wanted more. Mr Magwanga and his colleagues need to be reminded that we have weighed and measure them, and the departed-and-unlamented Tenth Parliament and we have found them wanting in every respect. This is not the time for any survivors of the carnage that was the general election to attempt to flex their muscles at our expense. If Mr Magwanga and his colleagues cannot live within a half-a-million shillings means, tough shit!

The four represent a dying concept of representative government, one that had been encouraged over 40 years of KANU hegemonic rule. That the elected representatives were responsible for hand-outs rather than leadership had become an entrenched custom that has proven surprisingly resilient. But even in the deepest recesses of our greed, we know that it is an ineffective way of governing or leading. The SRC's pay-cut for State officers is just the first step. The next is for all of them to learn how to lobby and connive and maneuvre to get their constituents what they need from the three arms of government and all its agencies. In 2017, when we next send these representatives through the fiery fires of a general election, those who will survive will be those who know that it is not a fat cheque that turns them into respected personalities; it is the quality of leadership they offer and how far they lead us out of the quagmires of our suffering.

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