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THE swearing-in ceremony of new Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa last but one Friday was seemingly a non-event for the Kingdom of eSwatini, given the unexplained but surprising non-attendance of Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, whose business unusual government has oddly been characterised by incessant trips to far flung places of no particular significance and value to this country.

To the less discerning the matter of foreign travels by public figures might appear to be insignificant and any public scrutiny thereof intrusive, yet it falls within the ambit of accountability and specifically the litmus test on the judicious exercise of power and authority. And where public funds are involved there ought not be a no go zone especially when it appears such foreign travels are of no specific value in the area of the kingdom’s international relations, but are serving narrow personal financial objectives.

Ordinarily, the PM’s absence from Zimbabwe’s historic change of guard, the first since independence in 1980, should have been a welcome relief given government’s perilous financial position but for the fact that money has never been a consideration when such trips are sanctioned. As it were, this is one case government would have tendered perfectly justifiable reasons for spending taxpayers’ money since this country has more in common with Zimbabwe than it does with far-flung countries like Iran.

Ah yes, the PM did attend the swearing-in of the president - am sure remembering his name would initially require head scratching - of Iran, a distant country in the Middle East with which we have very little in common. As for Zimbabwe, there is something akin to an umbilical attachment between the two countries initially owing to the fact that we are members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); with a lot of shared interests, as well as members of the African Union (AU). Historically, we evolved from the same stock, so to speak, which creates a strong bond of brotherhood between the two nations, hence needless for government to explain the significance of attending historic milestones occurring in Zimbabwe as it would if that country was Iran with which we enjoy superficial and not natural relations.  

As I see it, the matter of government’s posture on this subject matter is beyond financial considerations but could well be a harbinger of impending repositioning of the kingdom’s foreign policy apropos Zimbabwe and, as such, of public importance to the nation. Government cannot and should not explain this apparent omission with the lame excuse that Mnangagwa is interim President until elections next year. That would be too flippant and disingenuous given the historical significance of Mugabe’s ouster. It is, after all, common cause that there were distinct similarities between this government and how former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe governed Zimbabwe.

These included investing massively in the military to underwrite the political hegemony, clamping down on and shutting all spaces for political discourse and dissent, including freedom of expression, muzzling of the media, institutionalising corruption as a way of life and abusing national resources for the benefit of the political elites and the leeches orbiting the seat of power.    
It would not augur well for the kingdom to realign its foreign policy on account of Mugabe’s ouster because that would indicate that our foreign policy is influenced more by personalities than nations with which we intercourse. Consequently such alignment of foreign policy would not be serving national but individual imperatives.

As I see it, the ouster of Mugabe should be instructive to the leadership that nothing lasts forever if and when change imposes itself, other than being embraced and managed properly. Similar lessons should also have been learned from the Arab Spring that triggered the fall of dictatorial regimes but, like Mugabe, our government chose to look the other way. The fall of Mugabe should also be instructive of the fragility of relations this country, rather the leadership, enjoys with despotic regimes.

There definitely shall come a time of reckoning, especially if this government allows ill-gotten wealth to be invested within the shores of the Kingdom of eSwatini. Put differently, this country would be complicit to crimes committed against the impoverished peoples of these countries whose despotic leaders are guilty of looting their respective countries’ natural resources for personal gain and stashing the ill-gotten loot within these shores.
Yes, one day this country may be called to account for this. There is always a time for reckoning, particularly when one is on the wrong side of history since nothing lasts forever, and Mugabe and other fallen despots from the Arab world are contemporary testaments to that truism.

As I see it, government needs to urgently relook at instances where the country’s foreign policy has been influenced by personalities, invariably authoritarian by nature, because this scenario is not sustainable. Post-colonial Africa has taught us that despots and dictators are transitory and not an end and, similarly, if the kingdom’s diplomatic forays derives currency from these kind of leaders then it is at a dead end.  
Additionally, it would be interesting to look at the net effect of government’s business unusual policy on the travel budget and especially savings as well as cost benefit analysis given the prevailing cash-flow challenges.

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: Cost cutting strategy
Should have government consulted emaSwati before introducing the cost cutting strategy?