Parly to blow millions on Vic Falls retreat

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HARARE – The Zimbabwe government is booking 350 legislators in the plush Elephant Hills Intercontinental Hotel in Victoria Falls for a three-day pre-budget seminar next week.

The swanky Elephant Hills consists of 276 elegantly furnished bedrooms overlooking the golf course and the Zambezi River, meaning some of the lawmakers will have to be accommodated in the equally swanky Kingdom Hotel.

The seminar is likely to gobble over a million dollars at a time when Zimbabweans are tightening their belts as the cost of living shoots up.

Jacob Mudenda, Speaker of the National Assembly, announced last week that the seminar will be held from October 31 to November 3.

“The Speaker reminded honourable members to confirm their attendance to the 2013 pre-budget seminar which will be held at the Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls, with the public relations department,” the Hansard reported.

David Chapfika, the chairperson of the Finance committee, said all legislators must attend to familiarise themselves with the budgetary process.

“There are a number of MPs who are new and not aware of the budgetary process in the 8th Parliament, so this is a chance for them to add their views,” Chapfika said.

“I am sure the minister is going to come up with a review budget for 2013. I am sure that all MPs will be attending.”

The bloated legislature, which is currently failing to fit into Parliament, will spend four nights in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

The grand five-star Elephant Hills Hotels crowns a hill overlooking the mighty Zambezi River. Lawmakers will feast on the finest cuisine and taste rare beverages all at the expense of the already overburdened taxpayer.

With a single room at the hotel costing $145, a double bed going for as much as $185 and a presidential suite pegged at $550.

The final tab might as well run into six zeroes.

For bed and breakfast only, the legislature will have to fork out an estimated $300 000 and almost the same amount for lunch and dinner.

Legislators on government business are paid $75 per day in out-of-pocket allowances and that tabulates to about $105 000 for four days.

A return flight to Victoria Falls from either Bulawayo or Harare goes for $250 and that comes to about $90 000. 

Ensconced on a hill, the flamboyant hotel offers an 18 peg golf course, two floodlit tennis courts, two squash courts a massive sparkling swimming pool and bowling greens and a gymnasium.

And that is not all. The MPs, from both Zanu PF and the two MDC formations, will also have at their disposal a casino and a gymnasium.

Those who may so will can also visit the spa, which offers body treatments and facials.

Critics say Zimbabwe cannot sustain or afford this waste.

During the Vic Falls seminar, the state will pay conference fees, transport costs and accommodation charges.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the seminar was good for exchanging ideas on the forthcoming budget and the economy.

Chinamasa is expected to present Zimbabwe’s fiscal position and press the legislators to give input to next year’s spending plan.

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