Now is the time to lay it bare
This week started on a high note, Monday being characterised by high expectations from a nation gripped by the ongoing fiscal, socio-economic and political challenges
His Majesty King Mswati III was to be the saviour on this day and while he did not immediately offer solutions, he did not disappoint either as he ushered in the People’s Parliament.
Whether this will bear fruit now depends on us, the people attending Sibaya, because as can be expected we cannot all attend and leave jobs and the economy unattended. It is because of this that I have decided today to also make a few observations and suggestions.
The king appeared to give the nation a ‘blank cheque’ on Monday when he laid out the agenda for the people without going into specifics and left the agenda open-ended.
Apart from mentioning topical issues such as the economy, the upcoming elections in 2013 and the ratification of conventions the King was, in my assessment, looking for contributions from the general public on a wide variety of issues touching on governance.
As the father of the nation, the King was very diplomatic in tackling issues of unrest that have hogged the headlines in recent times, choosing to attribute these to foreign influence or elements.
However, there is no gainsaying that some elements in the protests are internal in nature, precipitated by bad governance in the main.
First I want us to tackle the area that is the cause for the socioeconomic problems engulfing this nation; the system of governance. The Tinkhundla ‘holy cow’ needs a major overhaul if this nation is to see meaningful progress and advancement. Firstly the election process is fraught with nepotism and cronyism.
From the onset, aspiring MPs ‘bribe’ their way through the process through giving constituencies mealie meal, bread or other tangible gifts or, in order to get the youth to rally behind them, using soccer tournaments. MPs are known to be spending serious money on ‘entertaining’ their constituencies. The end result of this is that we end up having the wrong people in Parliament.
Then there are the Senate positions where, as has been reported in the media, aspiring senators are allegedly forking out huge sums of money to get certain MPs to campaign for their appointment to Senate.
I can recall an altercation between an aspiring Senator who failed to make it to Senate and was now demanding her money back from an MP and that was nasty. The whole process is not transparent and does not therefore lend itself to ensuring that the right people are elected or appointed. And this is dangerous.
It seems to me this nation has to define methods that would make our elections and appointments into political positions transparent and free from nepotism and cronyism. The use of money or other influence should be outlawed and anyone found to have done that to be disqualified, period.
In these elections and appointments, we need to be guided by competence and a person’s ability to perform the assigned tasks.
If not, we are going to continue having some ministers of the Crown going on the radio to mislead the nation, as happened this week regarding the Tshaneni-Manzini road carnage, where the minister is on record telling the bereaved families not to bother expecting the MVA to help, only to have the CEO of the MVA come out to say their hands were open to assist the bereaved in the matter. Shameful, isn’t it?
There is also a need to have political structures accountable to the nation to justify living off the taxpayers’ money. Here I refer to the Swazi National Council (SNC), the Border Restoration Committee (BRC) and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) when we, as taxpayers, find it difficult to understand their functions and contribution to society and the economy at large.
Take, for instance, the HRC; is it fair to expect that they just wait for politicians and other public officers to come and make declarations once every two years and then go into hibernation? I mean in order to justify their existence these structures must have clear deliverable goals for the nation to see.
Pluralism and multipartism are also part and parcel of democracy and the global communities’ call for this must be taken seriously by this nation. It is not a question of other people dictating terms to us or intent on violating our sovereignty – it is an imperative of democracy.
We live in a global village, where if we flunk politically or economically we become a burden to the rest of the world, whether by getting aid in terms of food or economic bailouts; and we cannot therefore be entitled to refuse advice that is intended to improve governance while we still look to the international community to come to the party in times of distress.
If Swazis are intent on maintaining the status quo, they must prove to the international community how our Tinkhundla democracy is meeting the universally accepted democratic norms.
Whichever way we look at it, Swaziland has a lot of convincing to do and those attending Sibaya should be candid about this one and not make submissions just to please. As for the political formations, I say: This is your moment to be heard; this cannot have come at a better time for you.
Because of the limited space in this column I can only end here, but the list of suggestions is endless as there is so much to be done.
Whether these and the many other suggestions and contributions to be made at Sibaya will find their way into adoption and implementation is another matter.
However, the fact that His Majesty has commissioned the People’s Parliament says to me these suggestions would be taken seriously; yet more reason for encouraging those out there to represent us well.
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