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ICC FUNDING: URGENT BILL FOR OVER E1BN LOAN TABLED

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MBABANE – Like it or not, nothing will stop the Government of Eswatini from borrowing over E1 billion for the construction of the International Convention Centre (ICC).


This was evident at the House of Assembly yesterday when a Bill to borrow about US$ 83 018 441.26 (equivalent to E1 162 258 177.64) was tabled under a certificate of urgency.


Even an attempt by Hosea MP Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and others to try and challenge the tabling under a certificate of urgency was not successful.
By virtue of being tabled under a certificate of urgency, the Bill is expected to be passed soon as it has already moved to the committee stage following its tabling yesterday.


The Bill, cited as The Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China (Taiwan) (Construction of the International Convention Centre) Supplementary Loan Act, 2019, came through a government gazette bearing yesterday’s date.


Mabuza stood up to state that there was currently more questions than answers regarding the ongoing construction of the ICC and suggested that the Bill should not be tabled under the certificate of urgency and that more time should be spent looking into it.


“There are questions that MPs asked in this same House so maybe let us wait for answers to be provided first,” Mabuza said.
Speaker Petros Mavimbela then suggested that since the minister had moved that the Bill should go straight to the committee stage, there was a need to determine the feeling of the MPs by using the routine guideline of asking members who supported Mabuza’s submission and those who did not.


However, the screams of ‘nay’ and ‘ayi’ seemingly did not bring the desired results as it could not be clear in terms of figures.
In parliamentary procedure, a voice vote or acclamation is a voting method whereby members vote by saying ‘nay’ or ‘aye’, and the Speaker judges based on the mood of the House.


Worth noting was that all Cabinet ministers present stood up to support that the Bill should go straight to the committee stage.
Mabuza was adamant that the number of those who voted against the certificate of urgency was higher.


 “No Speaker, there is a mistake here. The number of those who said ‘nay’ was higher and we did the counting ourselves. The Speaker must rule on what we witnessed, not what he wants us to do,” Mabuza said.
The MP eventually backed down after the Speaker made it known that arguing the matter would not help and that the work of Parliament needed to be made a priority.


The gazette states that government will pay the loan in 40 consecutive semi-annual instalments after a grace period of five years.
On another note, Mabuza also raised a concern at the sitting to the effect that MPs were not respected at some of the country’s national events.
He said as a result, those who were chairpersons of portfolio committees no longer found it necessary to honour invites.


Strangers


“We are treated like strangers at events. It is like no one cares so I wonder why we should bother,” Mabuza said.
Also in the Order Paper was a question directed to Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo who had to state if government considered calling a business summit in the current term of office to get entrepreneurs’ views for future development and revamping the economy.


Giving his response, Khumalo assured that the summit would be held starting this year and that it would be an annual event.
In the same vein, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati was asked to inform the House if his ministry had plans to introduce a law that would limit the use of plastic bags with the view of phasing them out to protect the environment.


Vilakati informed the MPs that plastic bags were a national concern and that his ministry had already drafted regulations to control such.
“The regulations have been approved by Cabinet. All that is left now is the printing so that they can be presented to Parliament. The regulations do have a section which will address what you are talking about,” said Vilakati.

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