Something fishy' about Communications Bill'
MBABANE – Some Members of Parliament (MPs) have come out to say they have avoided debating the Swaziland Communications Commission Bill 2010 because they feel Cabinet is up to something.
This belief stems from the last-minute amendments into the Bill that were forwarded by the Minister of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT), Winnie Magagula last week Monday.
This is the legislation expected to regulate the telecommunications industry and bring an end to the run-ins between the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) and Swazi MTN. However, in separate interviews, some MPs said they were suspicious of the late amendments, which have the potential to impact on the telecommunications industry if passed at whim.
To put their message across, last Monday MPs caused an early adjournment of the House of Assembly when they did not form the quorum of 30.
This was despite being told by the Speaker Prince Guduza that they should avail themselves to start discussions.
Somntongo MP, Doward Sihlongonyane, said the Bill was discussed in Parliament more than a year ago and the House was nearing the point of adopting it. The pending sitting over the Bill would have been the last hurdle.
"The amendments are major and many to be brought up at this level. I think Cabinet is not being straight here, something is amiss.
"From the look of things these amendments will take us back because surely players in the local communications industry have to see them and give their opinions," said Sihlongonyane.
Ntontozi MP, Peter Ngwenya, said many legislators were not happy that government had come up with new additions to the Bill and doubted that the quorum would in future, be formed when it came to debating it.
"They feel Cabinet is up to something.
"When you read through the amendments, you get the feeling that government wants to control the communications industry," he said.
Lomahasha MP, Meninjeni Mahlalela, said indeed other legislators had a problem and the amendments were to be withdrawn.
Meanwhile, on Thursday last week, the Bill ended up not being debated again since the ICT minister had left the House. She arrived at 2.30pm, but left an hour later when the House took more time in discussing other matters.
Nubbing of Bill was planned - MP
MBABANE – Ludzeludze MP, Nonhlanhla Dlamini, says she heard that snubbing the Communications Bill debate last Monday was planned.
Dlamini was not one of the MPs who walked out, but she mentioned that she was disappointed when she noticed that some of her colleagues had not returned after an almost 30-minute break.
"I enquired from some of my colleagues what was going on and I learnt that it was deliberate.
"What should be understood is that MPs have a right not to form a quorum if they are not in agreement with something," said Dlamini.
Meanwhile, Mahlangatsha MP, Musa Ngcobo, who was one of those who never returned after the break, said he was not happy with some of the proposed amendments on the Bill.
He added that he was not feeling well and that was the main reason he did not return. He said he had planned to return, but the House had adjourned by then.
Ngwempisi MP, Veli Shongwe, said he had in fact sought permission to leave the House before it adjourned because he was bereaved.
Motshane MP, Robert Magongo, was one of legislators who later disappeared.
On the day in question however, many legislators were absent from the House.
MPs unhappy because of pay cuts - Magongo
MBABANE – Motshane MP, Robert Magongo, last Thursday speculated that legislators were perhaps unhappy that government has still not stopped the 10 per cent salary cuts.
He attributed this to their failure to form a quorum of late.
Magongo said this in Parliament.
At the beginning of last year, MPs sacrificed 10 per cent of their monthly remuneration in an effort to contribute in lessening government’s wage bill by E240 million annually.
This was prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to try and get government out of its fiscal crisis. The salary cuts which were effected for a year saved up to E6 million.
However, when it became apparent that government had not succeeded in meeting the E240 million target, MPs wanted the decision to cut salaries to be revoked. Government has so far been reluctant to do that.
‘Government submitted an amendment on gateway’
MBABANE – Government submitted an amendment to operate directly or to sub-delegate an exclusive international telecommunications gateway.
This was one of amendments submitted by the Minister of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT), Winnie Magagula, last Monday. An international gateway is a telecommunications infrastructure that facilitates data transfer and international calls among other things.
This, MTN Swaziland Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ambrose Dlamini, said was what MTN needed at this point on Thursday during the announcement of their reduced call rates.
He said the rates would even be further reduced if only they were granted their own international gateway. Currently, MTN relies on telecommunications infrastructure provided by the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC).
In order for MTN to have its own gateway, legislators must grant this through the Communications Commission Bill 2010 which is yet to be adopted in Parliament.
The Bill, it is believed will solve problems between the two telecommunications giants.
But how now MPs? How on earth do MPs boycott parliament business because of amendments to a bill and of course as one MP says, due to none reversal of pay cuts? Do MPs realise that they are now short-changing the taxpayer and electorate that continues to pay their hefty salaries, despite the 10% cut to do work in parliament? Again the 10% cut was to cut an already exorbitant pay, courtesy Circular 1, and even with the cut politicians still earn significantly higher than what they earned at time of assuming office in 2008. Whoever omitted inclussion of the powere to recall in our Constitution destroyed accountability of MPs to us electorate, because believe me, this would be the time to consider recalling some of them. Are we going to run this country with boycotts and taking each other hostage? Where is the Speaker? Again as the Speaker is elected by the same MPs, what can you expect him to do if he wants to keep his post? Nothing. Shameful, isn't it? .
Jun 4, 2012, 8:10 AM, Burns Dlamini (Lobhoncela) (Burnspolitics@gmail.com)
Clearly His Majesty Must dissolve this Parliament once and for all and let The ministers in office wrap up business. As much as governments new brand/ad goes, "Hope for Africa". And these MPs defeating the whole idea with their shallow mentality, clearly theres no HOPE if the we keep them, MPs have failed dismally. They are simply acting like spoiled brats. Vinny Ocean
Jun 4, 2012, 1:03 PM, Vinny (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our honourable MPs must note that boycotting the Bill does not change anything in as far as those who made the amendments are concerned. All it does is it delays the process. Ngoba vele ekugcineni they will have to rubberstamp this Bill. In the meantime, this war between MTN and SPTC continues. Guess who will continue to suffer, the man on the street paying an arm and a leg for telco services and heavy taxes. Our honourable ones' tel bills are footed by the man on the street. So who can blame them when they sit on their job. In this whole saga they have zero incentive because they loose nothing with the ongoing telco saga. These MPs must do what they do best, just rubber-stamp this as they used to do. Sekuntjintje ini manje. Bills have been passed willy-nilly. Them lot were all along saying ney--nay without even reading the Bills they were passing. Sekutseni ke manje bahlonishwa labakhulu. Chubekani njengenhlala yenta nine bakalazidze. Kadze kwamoshakala.
Jun 4, 2012, 1:03 PM, Lobhoncela (Bhoncela@yahoo.com)
Oh me gosh!!! What madness is this? In the first place, these development officers are holding us at ransom. Do they understand that the unnecessary delays are costing SPTC an arm and a leg. The ONE has been suspended, the fixed phone has been stopped, the Regulator is not functioning, they are all waiting for the legislation. Mind you this bill has been sitting in parliament since 2010. The major problem here is that we have a Minister who understands this technology and wants to create opportunities and attract FDIs, empower the SMEs and bring e-commerce and paperless government. There is the digital divide that she wants to close, telemedicine etc and this is beyond the understanding of these so called MPs. They have been doing these silly boycotts because they don't even know one word of the Knowlege Economy. Why did we shoot ourselves, I'm happy 2013 is around the corner. Nation of the great Kings, nation of Swaziland, I call upon you to join your votes together and make sure that not a single one of these hungry lions come back. Please speed up the Biotech Park so we can start our businesses in the knowledge world. Crying SME.
Jun 4, 2012, 3:49 PM, Susan Ngubane (email@example.com)
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