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MBABANE – The Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF) is of the view that the nation expects the dialogue to be held before elections.

MSF Secretary General (SG) Sikelela Dlamini said this was because elections were a product of such an engagement process (dialogue). Dlamini said the Government Spokesperson, Alpheous Nxumalo’s response, that there were no preparations yet, was indeed undermining emaSwati in the call for an all inclusive political dialogue. Dlamini said the call for a dialogue had been made louder since 2021, the year of the escalated political instability.  “They (government) have always maintained that the environment has never been conducive for dialogue but such an explanation is made so as to run away from the crucial matter,” said Dlamini.

The SG said to state that no dialogue preparations had been engaged upon until now, other than the availability of the budgetary provision, showed how adamant the government was. Dlamini said the dialogue that they envisaged would not be delivered by government alone, but it shall be a product of a multi-stakeholder involvement, in terms of coming up with its terms of reference, detailing how this process should be progressed with. He said the process to the national dialogue, and dialogue process itself, should indeed be a participatory process.
Chairperson of the Political Party Assembly (PPA) Nombulelo Motsa said in her observation, she saw no dialogue happening at all.

Motsa said it was true that government wanted peace, and yes currently it was calm, but it (government) would claim that the people liked the current government system and thus make no plans for the dialogue. She said it was noted that national cultural events were held without hesitation and people were also paid to be part of them. She said last year, some money was allocated for the dialogue, same as this year, and all that would be misused and no one would be held to account for it. She said government’s only focus was on elections, not dialogue.


It is worth noting that since the beginning of the civic voter education by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) in the different communities around the country, some citizens have been calling for the dialogue ahead of the elections. On March 5, Nkhaba residents joined the calls for the national dialogue before the elections, in order to iron out differences.  
Nkhaba residents made the call parallel to submissions made in Fonteyn under Mbabane East Constituency, where one resident, Muzi Ngwenya, questioned the EBC on how elections would be possible while the country was at war with each other. Ngwenya said the country needed to dialogue first and resolve any problems before going into elections. He said he doubted if the elections would be peaceful, while there were issues behind that were not addressed.

Meanwhile, at Nkhaba, one resident by the name of Zwakele Mavuso, said there were currently a lot of differences in views among the people countrywide. Mavuso was of the view that, in order to resolve those differences, there was a need for the dialogue.  He mentioned that through the dialogue, people would be able to voice out their concerns and how they wished the country could be governed going forward. Meanwhile, at Somntongo chiefdom, the EBC officials were disrupted by some residents who were demanding the date for the dialogue. As such, the EBC officials ended up not being able to conduct the voters’ education exercise. At KaLiba under Hosea Inkhundla, the EBC officials were also sent packing by the residents, who were demanding the whereabouts of their Member of Parliament (MP), Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza.

On March 2, MPs implored government to initiate community reach-outs (vusela exercise) under Operation Alibuye. The MPs called for the setting of the date for the envisaged national dialogue as the situation on the ground seemed to have now improved. The MPs made the call during the sitting of the Portfolio Committee of the Prime Minister’s Office, for the debate on the office’s annual performance report for the current year (April 2022 - March 2023). Madlangemphisi MP Sibusiso ‘Scorpion’ Nxumalo, said government should utilise the E30 million budgeted for the national dialogue in conducting the community out-reach initiatives in all the over 300 imiphakatsi in the country.  Nxumalo said through those community out-reach initiatives government might find that what troubled the people was simply lack of jobs and poverty, which could be addressed.  He encouraged government to go to the people to hear their concerns ahead of the dialogue.

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