Circular No. 1 defines Tinkhundla system
Government Press Secretary Percy Simelane is overly optimistic if he believes that Cabinet can abdicate the perks contained in Finance Circular No.1 of 2010, more so with its term of office coming to an end next year.
From the onset I should state that I intend to keep Circular No. 1 of 2010 on my agenda leading up to the next parliamentary elections next year, for no other reason than because it may just unseat the obtaining Tinkhundla political system.
Simelane was quoted by this newspaper in its Monday edition as having confirmed that Cabinet had considered reviewing the controversial Circular No. 1, albeit going on to explain that no official decision had been taken as yet in that regard.
But whichever way one looks at it, there is simply no way that Cabinet can reverse the perks it awarded itself and other politicians through the circular in question.
Cabinet’s reported discussion of the circular comes in the midst of a protracted strike by public sector workers including teachers, civil servants and nurses over a number of demands, among which is a 4.5 per cent salary increment to cushion them against inflation.
This demand has been pitched against the existence of the circular in question, with public sector workers calling for its removal.
As I see it, there is every reason for public sector workers to be offended by Finance Circular No. 1 of 2010, not least because it came at the time when the national economy was haemorrhaging, coupled to an acute government fiscal crisis that at times has been so dire as to threaten the payment of salaries for public sector workers.
Even worse, these scenarios just did not create themselves but are a result of reckless and wasteful spending on hedonistic projects.
The picture painted by the circular in question is that of a country awash in money, with the only challenges being innovation and creativity in spending it.
That is why Cabinet ministers are paid 10 per cent of their basic annual salaries as tax reimbursement allowance. What this means in effect is that the taxpayer is partially responsible for the ministerial tax burden, which equates to a partial subvention of sorts, since this benefit is not open to and enjoyed by anyone else.
And we are talking about a country in which the majority of the population, approximately 69 per cent, is living way below the international poverty datum line, which means they cannot afford even one decent meal a day.
But that is not all; Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini and his deputy, Themba Masuku, although using government vehicles, are paid what has been conveniently termed an ‘annual capital allowance’ (formerly car allowance) of E120 000 every year, which means E600 000 each at the end of the five-year term of office.
Then if you thought everyone was equal in death think again because, as in life, some are more equal than others; the funeral cover for the PM is E80 000 while for his spouse it is E30 000; the DPM’s is E70 000 and his spouse E20 000; A minister’s is E60 000 and spouse E12 000; presiding officers (Speaker/Senate President) E40 000; deputy presiding officer, deputy minister and regional administrator is E30 000 and Member of Parliament/Senator is E20 000.
Additionally, the PM has access to a government truck up to 12 times a year, which means once a month, for the transportation of bulk goods within Swaziland.
Strangely, the nature or type of bulk goods are not stipulated which means the truck could possibly be used for commercial purposes, for the exclusive benefit of an individual, namely the PM.
The list of benefits, which befit a developed and affluent nation, is quite long and infuriating considering the huge schism between the haves and the have-nots.
What Circular No. 1 of 2010 has, in fact, projected is the perception that the so-called Tinkhundla political system is all about self-enrichment; and thereby it has also exposed its excesses.
By now every discerning compatriot is pretty much in the know about how this country has gradually and systematically been run into the ground and transformed into a nation of beggars.
Now - given the fact that those with political authority who can cause the disappearance of the offending circular, such as the lawmakers, are also beneficiaries – I am sure the breadcrumbs accruing to them courtesy of the circular in question were cleverly and deliberately designed expressly for this purpose.
Thus there is no hope that it can be removed. This is made more significant by the fact that the term of office for politicians is coming to an end next year.
As I see it, what we should now be asking for is not, actually, the removal of Circular No. 1 of 2010, but rather ensuring that we are never visited by the same instrument in the future.
At least we are now all aware that these circulars can be used as instruments of looting – that is why when they are authored there is no consideration of the state of the economy or the health of the fiscus – and they seem to be used every time a new Cabinet hits town.
If this trend were to be allowed to continue, the absolute certainty is that this country will be terminally broken, never to recover again. We are all well aware that that is often the point of no return.
While the need for a periodic review of emoluments for politicians cannot and should not be overemphasised, what should be considered are the methodologies and perhaps even the institutions, if any, tasked with this responsibility.
As ably pointed out by Mbabane businessman and former Senator Walter Bennett recently, salaries and overall conditions of service for workers are negotiated between their representatives from organised labour formations and their employer; so the question has to be asked: Who negotiates for the employer?
As I see it, this question would not arise in an equitable political environment in which ultimate power vests with the people.
Had that been the case, the present government would have probably been shown the door through a vote of no confidence immediately the offending circular at issue reared its ugly head.
Even if they had survived that I do not think they would have outlived the successive gaffes, which need not be enumerated upon because this column has aptly documented them over the years, it has been prone to since then.
Perhaps the time has come to reinvent the way this country works and does business. The first port of call is, of course, being sincere with ourselves about whether or not the so-called Tinkhundla political system is not the single causal factor of the rot in just about every sphere of life in this, the Kingdom of eSwatini.
But if the leadership still remains in denial and then perhaps it should allow competing political systems embodying their own ideologies and philosophies to face off with the Tinkhundla system.
The truism is that the Tinkhundla political system cannot be protected forever from the rigours of time.
Its endurance as a political system of choice has to be tested sooner rather than later.
Ultimately, the question that would need to be answered is; if other competing political systems are not averse to co-existing alongside the obtaining political oligarchy, why can’t Tinkhundla be flexible and be likewise if it is so durable and ‘the best political system ever’?
As I see it, the obtaining political status quo is already under threat from within. At this point in time Finance Circular No. 1 of 2010 poses the most serious threat to the Tinkhundla political system.
Who knows, the offending circular may just be the catalyst needed for fundamental political transformation that in the first place should usher the Kingdom of eSwatini into the 21st century of modern nations.
Which will give in first; Circular No. 1 of 2010 or the Tinkhundla political system?
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