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MBABANE – Do Members of Parliament (MPs) have the powers to overturn a decision made by the prime minister?

This will be the ultimate test today as the legislators are expected to move a Motion Without Notice where the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, has been asked to consider rescinding or setting aside the one month extension of the ban on the alcohol industry within 48 hours.

The motion, according to the Order Paper, is expected to be moved by Mhlume MP Victor Malambe and seconded by Ndzingeni MP Lutfo Dlamini.

Interestingly, the petition which was delivered by the Swaziland National Liquor Association (SNLA) to Parliament over two weeks ago has not made it into the Order Paper which was issued by the Speaker’s office on Monday.  
According to a source, the petition had been overtaken by events as by that time government had not made any pronouncement of the extension of the ban on the sale, manufacturing and distribution of liquor in the country.


The PM eventually made the announcement on the Saturday before last where he said the ban was extended for a period of about a month and that government would make a review before October 2020.
According to the Attorney General, Sifiso Khumalo, the MPs were within their right to ask the Executive to reconsider their decisions through a resolution.

Khumalo said the Executive, after giving due consideration to the matter, could come back and say whether it was doable or not.   
Initially, the PM had issued a statement on June 23, 2020 where government stopped the wholesale and distribution of liquor with effect from July 1, 2020 for a period not exceeding two months.   
Government, however, was silent after August 31, until a statement was issued by Government Press Secretary Sabelo Dlamini that alcohol remained banned.

According to The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 which were issued by the Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku, Section 32 gave the PM powers to issue guidelines.
 Subsection (1) states that the PM may issue guidelines to address, prevent and combat the spread of COVID-19 in any area of the Kingdom of Eswatini.


It states that the directions may include the recruitment and training of human resources from the Ministry of Health, and other entities responsible for the handling of COVID-19 mortal remains and deployment of human resources from the department of Health to identified sites to render services.

The guidelines further state that the PM may issue guidelines on the sourcing of human resources from retired health professionals and non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) to render services in identified sites; provision of health equipment, sanitation materials and medical supplies.
Subsection (2) further states that the PM or a minister may vary the guidelines issued in terms of this regulation when the need arise.
One of the MPs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that the fact that the guidelines read ‘may’ instead of ‘shall’ meant that the PM could not have the full authority to make any decisions which he chose and, therefore, he should consider Parliament’s advice on the issue of the ban.  

Another MP was of the view that the issue of the alcohol trade was not the responsibility of the premier, but the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo.  

He said Section 32 (8) of the guidelines gave Khumalo the power to issue guidelines to protect consumers from excessive, unfair, unreasonable or unjust pricing of goods and services during the national emergency; and to maintain security and availability of the supply of goods and services during the national emergency.

It further gives the minister powers to direct businesses to position systems for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“This could have been done by the minister responsible for Commerce, Industry and Trade and not the PM especially since this was the case at the start of the partial lockdown,” said the MP.

Meanwhile, the sale of alcohol was not initially banned at the start of the partial lockdown as the initial regulations on Section 21 (1) only banned liquor consumption outlets including bars and clubs which it was listed, shall cease to operate at the commencement of the Regulations.

At that time premises which sell liquor and also operated as an accommodation establishment according to the guidelines were expected to provide adequate space and comply with all directives and guidelines issued by government and the World Health Organisations in respect of reducing chances of the infecting others with COVID -19.

At that time bottle stores were allowed to be opened and operated between 11:00 am to 6:00 pm from Monday to Saturday.
Since the ban on the sale of liquor there has been a lot of sale of the booze through the black market.
Some have argued that this was caused by a lot of job losses.

The PM when extending the suspension of liquor sales gave five reasons among which he stated that alcohol had long and short-term effects on every single body organ.

He said it weakened the immune system, altered one’s judgment or decision or decision making while also increasing the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome and that group drinking would result in imbibers failing to observe social distancing.   

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: Spread of COVID-19
Is government truly willing to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country?