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Tanzania lawmakers move to divert personal profits to social funds

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Next week, Tunisia's deposed President will be tried in absentia on embezzlement and drug smuggling charges. There are lots of global examples of politicians lining their pockets at taxpayer expense. In Britain, some members of parliament were jailed for claiming stipends they weren't entitled to. And in Tanzania a similar scandal has some lawmakers wanting to give back what they say are their ill-gotten gains.

The BBC's Louise Redvers reports.


LOUISE REDVERS: Tanzania is one of Africa's poorest countries where millions live on the breadline without access to running water or electricity. But despite these pressing needs, according to the main opposition party, 13 percent of the country's budget is spent on stipends for members of parliament.

Zitto Kabwe is deputy secretary of the main opposition Chadema Party. He's launched a campaign to give up what is called his daily "sitting allowance" of $50, which he receives for attending meetings in parliament on top of his main salary. The money, he says, should be diverted to charity work and social funds instead.

ZITTO KABWE: Our country is very poor. More than a third of Tanzanians live below the poverty line. So its politicians have to show the way by cutting these expenses. They are very unnecessary and direct the way to development work.

Kabwe's idea has sparked much debate in the Tanzanian parliament, although most lawmakers appear to support the motion. But this week the Clerk of the National Assembly told members that once they get the money into their personal accounts they can spend it any way they wish, including on charity work.

In South Africa, I'm the BBC's Louise Redvers for Marketplace.

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