HARARE – Outspoken opposition MP Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga has presented a totem branded T-shirt as a gift to Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa for making sanitary wear affordable.
It is, perhaps, the most visible symbol of the thawing relations between the two, and a bizarre gift presented to the Treasury chief.
The MDC Matabeleland South legislator also handed a bouquet of flowers to an aide in the minister’s office who influenced the minister to make sanitary towels affordable.
The legislator said she had to pull out all stops to get the minister’s attention on how pricey pads and tampons were, and she finally got the attention that saw the minister suspending duty on sanitary wear raw materials.
“I just want to thank the minister, after all these years begging him to do something about sanitary wear; we see that he actually did something about it,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said on Wednesday during a budget debate in Parliament.
“I think it is important for us as Members of Parliament to begin to think about the strategies of trying to get the minister to do certain things.
“For a long time, the minister refused to discuss sanitary wear because he felt menstrual issues were not right issues to discuss in public.
“He introduced me to a woman whom I want to celebrate today, Ms Mhini. She works in minister Chinamasa’s office.
“It took her two days to do what we have been asking the minister to do for many years.
“Basically, she called the producers of sanitary wear to a meeting, to which I attended, discussed with them why sanitary wear was expensive and before I knew it, we agreed that we were not going to have the materials used to produce sanitary wear carry import duty.
“Thankfully, today, I had to use sanitary pads, so I went and bought them.”
Chinamasa in his 2017 spending plan allowed import of sanitary wear raw materials duty-free, to keep a lid on domestic prices and overcome any shortage.
The move came amid complaints by Zimbabwean women that manufacturers were charging “criminal” prices for sanitary towels.
“In order to enhance competitiveness of locally produced sanitary wear products, thereby promoting growth of the industry, it is proposed to avail duty-free importation of raw materials, which include pulp, glue and virgin tissue, under manufacturers’ rebate, with effect from 1 January 2017,” Chinamasa said in his budget speech.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said she was expecting to see a reduction in the price of sanitary wear, as it was now cheaper for them to manufacture them.
“What we then expect the honourable minister to do is that, if sanitary wear prices go down, it means in the next budget, the minister will be able to provide a budget for free sanitary wear for the young girls in school today,” she said.
She said government must aim to increase the availability and affordability of sanitary pads for young girls.
“So, I have a present for Mhini, which I am going to ask the minister to take to her (flowers), just to thank her and say, that is what we expect on all women.
“I want to thank the minister for accepting to do this.
“In a typical and traditional way of thanking our males and men, we normally use the totem.
“I have this T-shirt for him, it is called Mazvita and printed Shumba, thank you so much,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said as she handed over the gifts.
Kuwadzana East MDC MP Nelson Chamisa said the National Assembly speaker should write an official letter to Chinamasa’s wife to notify her of the presents.
“This is a very important development.
“We were just hoping that to ensure that there is no problem — we know that there is domestic violence these days, if you may write to mai Chinamasa to alert her that a T-shirt has been bought and the minister is going to be putting it on,” Chamisa chuckled.
The speaker Jacob Mudenda, however, said the presents should not have been handed over in the House.
“In future, we will not allow presentations across the table. It can be done outside the House,” he said.
Parliamentarians are limited in the gifts they can accept, as they have to be sent directly to the Speaker.