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EX-MINISTER WINNIE MAGAGULA PASSES AWAY

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MBABANE – ‘Make Winnie’ is no more.  COVID-19 has once again robbed the country of a great stateswoman in Deputy Commissioner of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), Winnie Magagula, who was affectionately known as Make Winnie.

Her maiden name is Mkhatshwa. 

She died at the age of 57. Magagula passed on late on Friday night towards the early hours of Saturday morning, while admitted at the Manzini Clinic. 

Her death was confirmed by one of her daughters, who could not give many details as she was still in shock over her mother’s passing. Magagula had earlier in the week tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to the Luke Commission before being transferred to Manzini Clinic on Friday. 

 

admitted

It was reported that she was on oxygen when she passed on. Magagula had been admitted to this facility from her home in Mkhondvo.

She was reportedly driven there, but she was by then able to walk on her own. It was recommended that she be treated at a facility because she was coughing. Before her appointment as deputy commissioner by His Majesty King Mswati III, Magagula served the country as Minister of Labour and Social Security during the 10th Parliament.

During the 9th Parliament she was the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).

 

political scene

Magagula got into the country’s political scene after she was nominated into Senate by the House of Assembly. 

A former law student at the University of Eswatini, Magagula had become a role model to most women in the country as she occupied the political sphere, which is mostly dominated by men and stood her ground during Parliament debates. 

She was one of the founding members of Sive Siyinqaba, Sibahle Sinje, a cultural organisation that later changed into a political movement. 

It was later mentioned that she had resigned from Sibahle Sinje. She was the first female secretary general of the Swaziland Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers (SUFIAW). Popular trade unionist and former Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) Vincent Nqongwane succeeded her. She was working for Central Bank of Eswatini when she served SUFIAW as the secretary general. 

Nqongwane, speaking in his personal capacity, said Magagula played a huge role in trade unionism, and fought for the workforce in the country.

Jabu Shiba, the current Secretary General of SUFIAW, said they learnt a lot from the ex-minister of labour and social security. She said she became the secretary general when trade unionism was a male-dominated space. 

“Magagula broke that protocol and proved to us that a woman can advocate for labour rights,” she said.

“Of course, she’s the first female secretary general of SUFIAW.”

 

hogged headlines

Magagula hogged headlines in her final term of office as a minister when the then Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini advised her during the official opening of the fifth session of the 10th Parliament to leave the august house.

Traditionalists charged that the ex-minister should be mourning her husband in accordance with the dictates of Eswatini tradition. She was the ICT minister when the House of Assembly in October 2012 passed a vote of no confidence in the 9th Cabinet. 

This was after government, through the ICT ministry, had informed its parastatal, the now Eswatini Post and Telecommunications Corporation, to switch off some of its services that were fixed mobile and some of its internet dongles and ONE mobile. At that time, the House of Assembly felt that government was on the side of MTN Eswatini and were of the view that the government was killing EPTC. 

 

resolve impasse

During this period, the EPTC (formerly SPTC) wrote a petition to the late former Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini stating that Magagula should be removed from her position as ICT minister for failure to resolve the impasse between EPTC and Eswatini MTN. 

The workers had stated that Magagula was intent on closing down EPTC, which would cause a lot of people to lose their jobs. The deceased was seen by the workers as having a conflict of interest because she once served on the MTN Eswatini Board. However, the vote of no confidence was not successful as the MPs later withdrew it. 

 

INSTRUMENTAL

The late minister was also instrumental in the promulgation of the Swaziland Electronic Communications Act and the Swaziland Communications Commission Act. 

The Swaziland Communications Act is the one that established the now Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM). 

She played a pivotal role in setting up the Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP), which comprises the IT centre at Phocweni and Biotechnology Park at Nokwane.

Magagula further made her mark when the country lost its African Growth Development Act (AGOA) eligibility and along with government worked around the clock to regain it again. 

This she did by presenting before the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, the amendment of the Public Order Act of 1963 and the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2008. 

The amendment of the Acts was instrumental in the country being able to retain AGOA. 

 

CLASH

During this period, the former minister would from time-to-time clash with the chairperson of the House of Assembly Portfolio Committee for the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the late Manzini North MP Jan Sithole, who was also a political activist. 

The minister also clashed with unions, particularly when issues had to be deliberated at the International Labour Organisation, where Eswatini was once listed on the Special Paragraph. 

With her birthday falling on May 1, which is Workers’ Day, Magagula irked local unions when she did not honour an invitation sent to her as the minister responsible to celebrate Workers’ Day with them. 

However, during an interview with Eswatini TV on the same day, the minister had said the workers in Eswatini had done a lot of good for the country’s economy as was evidenced by the infrastructure. 

She said the major issue, however, continued to be job creation especially for the youth. 

 

achievement

“As Swaziland (Eswatini) we are proud that we are part of these international organisations and we celebrate workers, it is indeed a day for celebrating their achievement,” she had said. 

She added that government also supported the spirit of dialogue which they had engaged in. 

“There is no country like Swaziland (Eswatini) and it is indeed the Switzerland of Africa,” she had said on May 1, 2017. 

The former minister was also instrumental in the launching of the Scholarship Recovery Unit, which according to Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg’s Mid-Term Budget Report, was the best performing revenue collection unit in government. 

Magagula’s passing comes at a time when the country is on strict partial lockdown and  the Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku, has stated that people who have died particularly from COVID-19-related illnesses be buried as early as possible, within 72 hours. 

Those wanting to mourn Magagula may also not have the chance to do so as government has also banned what is called kufukama.

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