Cabinet may remove Circular No. 1
MBABANE – Cabinet has discussed the controversial Finance Circular No.1 of 2010 and may get rid of it, Government Press Secretary Percy Simelane has said.
If the circular is not cancelled, Simelane told global news agency AFP, disgruntlement in Swaziland would be widespread.
Civil servants’ organisations, political formations and civic society groups have been calling for the withdrawal of the circular ever since it was passed by Parliament in September 2010.
While public sector unions have been on strike for the past five weeks demanding a cost of living adjustment on their salaries, government has insisted that it does not have the money they are demanding.
The unions have repeatedly stated that they would not believe that there was no money while the circular was in place.
The circular awards politicians attractive allowances including a E1.5 million payout for the prime minister when his term of office ends.
The AFP quoted Simelane as saying: "Parliament has taken it up. Cabinet has discussed it. I believe if they discover that ‘yes, it must go,’ it should."
Responding to a question on whether the allowances and perks outlined could be contributing to the high government wage bill, Simelane said politicians’ salaries "could be contributing towards the hefty salary bill that we have".
Simelane also admitted that if the circular was kept in place despite the huge public outcry over its existence, "discontent will be very rife."
He nonetheless insisted that the politicians’ pay matched that of other southern African countries.
"I’m not sure that our politicians are paid better than other politicians in the region," he said.
When the Times approached Simelane on his statements he responded: "Yes, Cabinet has considered reviewing Circular No. 1. No official position has been taken so far; it’s still a 50/50 situation. Normally government engages experts when salaries are reviewed not necessarily poach scales from other countries in the region. To the best of my knowledge Swaziland is not offering the best salaries for politicians in the region. We are a small economy and may logically not pay like our giant neighbour, South Africa, and other better-placed countries in the region."
Reacting to Simelane’s comments, the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) said what was clearly needed was the removal of the circular.
"There must be no review or any compromise; it must go on its entirety. The circular has enriched only a few, politicians per se, who are a minority. The 50/50 is neither here nor there," Secretary General Vincent Dlamini said.
On Simelane’s statement that ‘discontent will be very rife’ if the circular was not withdrawn, Dlamini said the government spokesman was correct in that observation.
"If the circular goes, this country can realise peace. He (Simelane) is right when he mentions discontent. If it goes it can contribute to bringing peace in the country. It can allow us to discuss a lot of things with government," the NAPSAWU leader said.
He said they long informed government and the International Monetary Fund that the Circular should be removed and ‘we still maintain that’.
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