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POLITICAL SYSTEM AN OBSTACLE

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THE Tinkhundla political system-driven government of the kingdom does not need external detractors to expose it for what it really is, it is built on a false and not credible, valid and sustainable foundation as ably depicted by last week’s abrupt silencing of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

 The PAC is an important organ of the Legislature through which it exercises its oversight responsibilities on the other arms of government, specifically over how the taxpayers’ Emalangeni are employed. Parliament itself is a critical institution in the scheme of things in projecting a veneer of so-called democratic credentials of the Tinkhundla political system although in reality, it is essentially a rubber stamp for executive decisions.


 Ordinarily, emaSwati in their collective, should be alarmed by this unwarranted encroachment on the institution of Parliament. But unfortunately, a majority of fear-gripped compatriots remain in the safety refuge provided by slumber land just so they stay out of trouble. Consequently, when there is no one to protest and criticise the excesses of the regime, that is when the rot and corruption gain currency.


 The question is why and by whom is the PAC being sabotaged in its investigations into how half a billion Emalangeni was spent without discernible outcomes in the construction of the Sicunusa-Nhlangano Public Road. In fact, this inquisition is long overdue as the construction of that road has been mired in controversy, like others before it, since its inception. Exacerbating matters is that the financing of the road is an interest-bearing loan in United States Dollars, which is the burden of the taxpayer.


 In the midst of the controversy surrounding this particular project, some senior officers within the corruption-prone Ministry of Public Works and Transport were reshuffled and some shipped out to other ministries to take up positions that they were not even proficient in. At the height of all these shenanigans, word got out that this was done partly to protect some of the political elites messing up the project as well as to appease the Arab funders.


 And while government - with major players in the financial services, industrial and agricultural sectors, including some State-owned enterprises in tow - splashed a couple of million Emalangeni in a public relations offensive in Forbes Africa magazine to create a superficial image of the country as an attractive destination for capital as a precursor to rolling out its Strategic Road Map 2019 – 2023, these efforts are contradicted by the realities on the ground of the obtaining political oligarchy.

The system is like a runaway train owing to its bad governance track record that is motored by its inherent extreme excesses given its Byzantine nature. The PAC imbroglio is but a tip of the excesses that are synonymous with the political system that has no effective checks and balances.


 As I see it, this particular PR initiative was probably premised on the misguided understanding, if not belief, that this attempt at positive spin doctoring would be superimposed over and shade the real Eswatini – a feudalistic country trapped in-between the stone age and the modern era of algorithms and robotics – where the rule of law is anathema and the people have been immobilised into silence through induced fear. But even assuming that this was money well spent, whatever the spin-offs, if any at all, had been achieved would be undone by the reckless exercise of power as shown by the unfolding PAC debacle. 


 But, to assist this fledgling government, it does not require expensive PR to make a country attractive to foreign direct investors (FDIs). It takes a sound political system in which power vests with the people that has checks and balances; is transparent and accountable; is predictable and whose mandate is periodically renewed through free and fair elections open to even political parties. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of this country where people cannot freely engage in politics where the plurality of voices is outlawed and generally the system is hostile to human rights and liberties. 


 If and when investors have a desire to come and invest here, they will not look up to expensive PR projects because they understand that this effort is primarily to paper over and hide the political monsters real the rot that pose a risk to their capital. Instead, they would look up to data provided by legitimate and trustworthy institutions such as the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And between the two Bretton Woods institutions is a wealth of information on Eswatini even though they may refer to Swaziland. The identity issue and how the change happened could well be another Achilles heel to government’s attempt at making this country attractive to FDIs.


Worse still, this nation is not even congruent with the one thing that presumably matters above everything else, the new name of this country or at least how it is written. Is it eSwatini or Eswatini, the latter name being the version government has pronounced as official albeit without caring to explain the basis for this?
The question is what if government is wrong etymologically and language/grammar-wise on this name issue? I am reminded of the tragic history of amaXhosa and Nongqause who is said to have convinced conformist tribesmen to poison themselves and commit mass suicide on the premise that they would arise renewed and a better nation. That, unfortunately, is the suicidal extent to which emaSwati have been sanitised into paralysis and helplessness.

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