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MBABANE – The E30 million that was budgeted for the national dialogue has been utilised.

The money was used to cater for the People’s Parliament (Sibaya). It should aslo be noted that there were also donations from companies and members of the public. However, a breakdown of the utilisation of the funds could not be easily ascertained from the responsible ministry. The funds were transferred from the Ministry of Finance to that of Home Affairs, presumably before the start of Sibaya, to cater for expenses related to the national exercise. There had been questions regarding the E30 million following the People’s Parliament that was held from October 23, 2023 to November 3, 2023.


The E30 million was budgeted for a national dialogue, but government has not disclosed how much of that amount was utilised. Some government officials became emotional when asked to respond on issues pertaining the national dialogue and the utilisation of the E30 million. There has been dissenting views on whether Sibaya 2023, People’s Parliament, was indeed the national dialogue that Eswatini was advised by the SADC Organ Troika committee to convene. The Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg, in his 2022/2023 national budget, announced that government had set aside E20 million for the national exercise (national dialogue). However, the hostility of the environment could not allow government to convene the dialogue at the time.


In the 2023/2024 national budget, the minister announced that E30 million was allocated for the same exercise. He explained that E10 million was added to the unutilised 2022 budget.
During portfolio committees’ performance report and budget debates last year, Members of Parliament (MPs) attempted to quiz ministers on the whereabouts of the E30 million. The MPs wanted to know which ministry was housing the E30 million, so that they could direct all the questions they had to the relevant ministry, including the preparations for the crucial exercise.
The questions on the whereabouts of the funds were raised when the Ministry of Tinkhundla Administration and Development appeared before the House of Assembly Portfolio Committee, the Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Finance. The Ministry of Finance, in its written responses, mentioned that it was in government coffers and had not been allocated to any ministry at the time.


It has since been revealed by the Ministry of Finance that the budget for the national dialogue was transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The ministry was responding to questions from this publication on whether the E30 million for the national dialogue was utilised and which government portfolio managed the money. The ministry’s Communications Officer, Setsabile Dlamini, confirmed that the funds were utilised and were no longer in government coffers or diverted to other portfolios. “The budget for the national dialogue was provided for in the 2023/24 budget.

This was the second time we were providing for it, since you are aware that in 2022/2023 we provided E20 million. The funds were released and transferred to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which was responsible for Sibaya. Whether it has been fully utilised or not, the Ministry of Home Affairs would be in a better position to respond,” she said. The Ministry of Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Nhlanhla Nxumalo, referred questions to either the Communications Officer, Mlandvo Dlamini, or the Under Secretary, Nomphumelelo Dlamini.

The questions that were directed to these officials sought to establish whether the funds were fully utilised and what the money was spent on. The officials were also asked what differentiated the 2023 Sibaya from that of 2018, in terms of requiring such a budget, considering that the budget for the latter had never been announced before. The Under Secretary, Nomphumelelo Dlamini on Friday, acknowledged receipt of the questionnaire and promised to respond soonest. “Thank you for the questionnaire, we will respond and get back to you soonest,” she said.


The ministry’s Communications Officer, Dlamini, confirmed that the ministry received the budget. When he was quizzed on its utilisation, he said the pronouncement was part of the accountability and transparency that government was working on. He promised to send a detailed response in writing that answered all the questions from the publication. At the time the report was compiled, the officers had not responded to the questions. It is a norm that every five years, after the country completes the general elections, the next step is the appointment of Cabinet ministers and prime minister (PM). The PM is appointed by His Majesty King Mswati III on the last day of the People’s Parliament (Sibaya). In 2023, the same approach was adopted, but the only difference was that it took roughly eight days, including the two days of postponement due to heavy rains. The Sibaya 2023 followed the same approach as the 2018 and 2013 People’s Parliament.  It was officially opened by the Chairman of Sibaya, King Mswati III. There were panellists who presented on several national issues, including the unrest. EmaSwati also made individual submissions.


Besides that the eight-day national exercise was longer than that of the previous years; it came after a year and half when the nation experienced political turmoil that led to an unrest, which saw a lot of emaSwati losing their lives and property being torched and vandalised. The SADC Organ Troika committee, when it visited the country in 2021, suggested that Eswatini needed to convene a national dialogue, as a means to forge a way forward in the call for reforms. The thinking by many, which was supported by the SADC terms of reference of the dialogue of having political parties being part of the dialogue, was that the dialogue would be different from Sibaya. However, Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo was quoted by our sister publication the Times Sunday, last year November, stating that Sibaya was actually the dialogue that the country was advised to conduct.

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