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Investor buys ipads for ministers

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MBABANE – Some cabinet ministers received gifts from Salgaocar Swaziland (Pty) Limited, the company granted a licence to reopen the Ngwenya Iron Ore mine.

They were given ipads and notebooks as a token of appreciation for welcoming the investor to Swaziland.

Prime Minister Sibusiso Dla-mini said his ministers declared the gifts to him in the presence of the investors. The ipad is a line of tablet computers designed, developed and marketed by Apple Incorporated primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and website content.

It works more like a computer and is viewed by many as a smaller version of the laptop computer. In Swaziland, depending on its features, an ipad may cost between E5 000 to E12 000 each.

The environmental assessment impact for the project has started as a scoping meeting was held last Monday at Ng-wenya where the company’s directors briefed stakeholders and the public on the vitality of the project.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said it was not a bribe but a token of appreciation extended out of generosity to a cabinet team working with the investor to set up business that would attract 2 500 jobs in the country. He said there was absolutely nothing wrong done by both Salgaocar and ministers as everything was done transparently, out of goodwill and generosity. He said the ministers, out of their own volition, declared the gifts when they introduced the investor to him.

Dlamini was called on to comment on the matter as word had gone out that ministers would be biased in handling the case of Salgaocar Swaziland (Pty) Ltd because they had received gifts.

Most of the ministers reached by the Times SUNDAY said they had not received any gifts from the investor.One of them pleaded with the newspaper to drop the story altogether because the public could regard the gift as a bribe. As a result, the prime minister had to come in to clarify the issue.

"Actually, they declared the gifts to me in the presence of the investor. It wasn’t a bribe and everything was done transparently. It appears the investor offered the gifts out of goodwill, out of generosity," said the PM. He said cabinet decided to appoint a team to work with the investor. This means it was not the entire cabinet that liaised with the investors and ultimately got gifts. The prime minister did not reveal members of the team.

accountable

This newspaper has learnt that relevant ministers who formed part of the team were Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Jabulile Mashwama; Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Macford Sibandze and Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Princess Tsandzile. Minister Mashwama believes she is not accountable to the public.

She said she did not understand why, all of a sudden, she had to disclose to the public which gift she received from which company or which gift she had not received from which company.

She said she would rather not comment on the matter. Macford Sibandze said he had not received it. Sibandze said his gift might be coming to him if ever he was among those who were to receive it.

"Maybe mine’s still coming, I haven’t received it," he said.

Princess Tsandzile said she could not comment on the matter because the leader of government had spoken about it already.

"I don’t think I have to say something because the leader of government has spoken about it," she said.Aziz Hamdam, Vice President of Salgaocar Resources Africa Limited, chose to say his company was not in the practice of giving out gifts. Salgaocar Swaziland has interest in reopening the Ngwenya Iron Ore Mine that was closed in 1977. Government would be given a 25 per cent shareholding and Ingwenyama (His Majesty King Mswati III), on behalf of the Swazi nation, will hold the remaining 25 per cent.

Salgaocar Swaziland (Pty) Ltd will hold a 50 per cent shareholding

The company wants to revive the mine and extract about 15 million iron ore dumps present at the site.

The new discoveries by the Minerals Committee suggested the mine could operate for a further 25 years or more, according to information from the committee published by this newspaper in August last year.

markets

The mine was closed down because the then owners were interested in an iron ore grade above 56 per cent iron because that was what the markets wanted at that time.

It was also closed down because transport costs from Ngwenya to the markets were prohibitive to transport iron ore grades below the 56 per cent iron.

About 98 per cent of iron ore is used to make steel - one of the greatest inventions and most useful materials ever created, according to the Mineral Information Institute in Colorado, USA.

No law against gifts?

MBABANE – At the moment, there is no law binding ministers to declare gifts they receive on a daily basis, Sabelo Masuku, acting Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration has said.

Masuku said ministers and other public officers were constitutionally obligated to declare their assets and liabilities when they assumed office; two years in continuous service and when they left office.

Presently, he said there was a Leadership Code of Conduct Bill before parliament that would require ministers and other public officers listed in the constitution to declare gifts for a certain value whenever they received them. He said the law would also protect public officers from declaring anything they got.

"The law would make sure you don’t just declare anything you are offered. Otherwise if it were like that, they would keep on coming to us to declare small items. However, certain gifts, as a matter of fact, would have to be declared," said Masuku.

As it were, he emphasised that there was no law barring them from receiving the gifts.

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