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Outside the kingdom’s ongoing tragic political theatre, perhaps the most hated institution today is the Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA) in the wake of its award of an average 10.14 per cent domestic tariff increase even though it is almost half of what the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) had applied for, which was 21.31 per cent.

Not surprisingly, consumers had hoped for a zero tariff increase if their inputs during ESERA’s nationwide public consultations were reflective of their expectations given the state of the economy as well as skyrocketing food prices and generally the cost of living. Given the wreckage left by the COVID-19 pandemic that exacerbated an already dire economic situation for the majority of emaSwati under the twin grips of political tyranny and poverty, a zero tariff increase was desirous. But I am now better informed why ESERA awarded the increase having attended what I would term a learning session during which they unpacked the processes and rationale that informed their decision.

Since then I created a graphic picture of ESERA riding a wild stallion (EEC) in the hope of breaking and adapting it to a new domestic form of life. Those familiar with this scenario will understand that throughout this process the horse would be employing every trick to try to dislodge its passenger so that it can roam free once again. To remain firmly in the saddle requires tenacity, will power and commitment to prevail in the end. The history of EEC, when it comes to financial management, is definitely not one to be proud of as lately attested to by an over E2 million medical expenditure.

I do not intend to go into the algorithms that informed ESERA to arrive at the decision it made, but what impressed is the seriousness with which they considered and indeed factored inputs from their public consultations. This is perhaps also illustrated by the fact that, whereas their South African counterparts had awarded Eskom a plus 18 per cent increase, ESERA went below that considering that we source the bulk of our power from that country. In fact this was a radical departure from the past when the domestic increase was either pegged on or neighbourhood to what had been decided in South Africa; a pleasant surprise indeed.

As I see it, ESERA’s success in taming EEC’s runaway expenditure in the mid to long-term, combined with an energy mix on the domestic front the former is diligently and fastidiously championing, should translate to stable tariffs in future. That, of course, is premised on there being no political interference in the operations of the regulator because it is legend that some parastatals that perform as envisaged by the enabling laws have invariably been castrated and reduced to mere scarecrows. A case in point is the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).


Perhaps it would also be helpful for ESERA, resources permitting, to once more go back to and give feedback to emaSwati on its decision and what informed same. That way it may earn the trust of the people and in turn transform the relationship to one of strategic partnerships. The two parties need each other if they are to get EEC to trim its fat and to be on the straight and narrow apropos fiscal discipline.      

My second instalment for today’s column is government’s uncharacteristic but not surprising behaviour since the cowardly and thoughtless assassination of Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Rudolf Maseko – may his soul rest in eternal peace. Government has gone on a public relations overdrive since this dastardly and atrocious act happened. Why? As I see it, if we were to scrutinise closely government and Maseko’s positions on the contentious subject of the slated, but inordinately delayed, national dialogue we may stumble on the underlying reason(s) of why government has behaved in the manner it has since the former’s assassination in front of his young family. Since the slaughter of dozens of protestors during and post the June 2021 pro-democracy protests, government has been deferring the envisaged national dialogue on the excuse that the environment was hostile owing to sporadic attacks and murder of its security personnel in a tit-for-tat and, therefore, not conducive.

Conversely Maseko, and his Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) that he chaired, held firm to the belief that convening the national dialogue soonest would stop the violence. A firm advocate of non-violence, Maseko had somehow convinced diametrically and vehemently opposed political foes under the umbrella of the MSF to embrace dialogue instead of seeking retribution for the mass murders attributed to the State’s security organs, as ably observed by the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) President, Mlungisi Makhanya, in the aftermath of his assassination.

Additionally, government had been ducking and diving on the matter of hit men and mercenaries until it was finally pushed into a corner whereupon it admitted having engaged the services of what it termed security specialists. There are just too many contradictions, coincidences and improbabilities in government’s story given events before and after Maseko’s assassination. From a moral and ethical point, this automatically disqualifies government from leading investigations into Maseko’s assassination.

There is also that seemingly innocent, but quite frankly informative, observation made by government’s Spokesperson, the one and only Alpheous Nxumalo, when disentangling government from accusations of being behind Maseko’s assassination. He qualified this denial by stating that Maseko was not particularly ‘a person of special interest to the State’. There definitely is something to be gleaned from this statement, a qualifier to government’s dismissal of suspicions and insinuations that it was behind the hit on Maseko. On the face of it, this could be interpreted to mean that, had Maseko been ‘a person of special interest to the State’ there would be justification for his elimination.

After all the extra-judicial killings that have taken root of late and to date government has neglected or refused to investigate the mass murder of protesters during and after the June 2021 pro-multiparty democracy protests, the genesis of the prevailing political environment. Indeed if there is terrorism, as government suggests, it began then and it came from the State. Hiding behind the veneer of terrorism to justify its actions and to solicit the sympathy and support of the global community is not taking this country forward. Consequently, were it left to me, I would pronounce a verdict of guilty by juxtaposition on this sordid affair.

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