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15 VICTIMISED FOR SIBAYA SUBMISSIONS

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NTFONJENI – Every liSwati has the right to speak during Sibaya, which is also known as ‘the People’s Parliament’, but some get punished for it.

According to some members of a farming cooperative known as Siyatfutfuka, they are being victimised because one of them made a submission during Sibaya. During last year’s Sibaya, many emaSwati had the opportunity to make submissions on various issues. They submitted on how the country should be governed. Some emaSwati ended up raising issues that affected them in a personal capacity. They were also asked to name the person they thought would make a good prime minister.

Meeting

Currently, the PM is appointed by His Majesty the King, who announces the name during the national meeting which is held in the cattle byre at Ludzidzini Royal Residence. The Ludzidzini Royal Residence is the country’s traditional headquarters and it is the official home of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. During such deliberations, the King allows emaSwati to advise him on how he could run the country.

Sibaya or the People’s Parliament is constitutionally regarded as the highest policymaker. It was during this time that a member of Siyatfutfuka decided to submit concerns he had about the Rural Development Fund (RDF). This is a fund under the Ministry of Tinkhundla Development and Administration. Using the fund, government gives money to cooperatives or groups of individuals to start their own businesses.

On the other hand, Siyatfutfuka is an organisation which is involved in farming activities such as assisting farmers in ploughing the fields as well as supplying them with farm implements such as fertilisers.

Concerns

William Dlamini, a member of Siyatfutfuka, had submitted his concerns during Sibaya but his submissions were general. He expressed concern about how RDF was being disbursed and urged the ministry responsible to follow-up on people who were granted funds to see if they were utilised for the intended purpose. Enjoying a rare opportunity to make a submission at the cattle byre, Dlamini also made a submission which was aired live on radio and television.

In his submission, he was understood by the executives of the co-operatives to be criticising their organisation.
In an interview, he said his intentions were not to tarnish the name of the organisation. He argued that he wanted to express his concern about the use of the RDF fund in general. “I did not mention the name of any organisation,” he said when asked to comment on the matter.

During his submission, Dlamini said the objective of the fund was to help communities and groups of people, but it only benefitted certain individuals. He submitted and questioned whether the responsible ministry had taken time to follow through until the end to find out if the money that was granted to assist co-operatives was being put to good use and not only benefitting those individuals.

Establishing

Under normal circumstance, the fund is given to associations with at least 10 people. They are expected to at least pay 10 per cent of the money that they are seeking. The fund can be used for anything such as establishing any business. In some communities, they use the fund to purchase buses, tractors or even start a shop, as long as that business will be able to generate income for the members.

Dlamini said he was worried that his submissions were being used to punish the members and that they were not being granted their dividends because of his submissions. He said some of the members were blaming him for speaking during Sibaya. He said it was not his first time attending Sibaya. However, he said it was his first time being given an opportunity to speak.

He said little did he know that this could land him and others in trouble. He told Eswatini News that  he was being victimised for the submission he made, adding that trouble started when members of the farming cooperative began to ask for their dividends.  During a recent meeting, he explained that the organisation’s chairperson had asked about a man who made a submission during Sibaya last year.

He said the chairperson insisted on knowing what the Sibaya submission was all about and that the one who made it should explain further. He alleged that he advised him to come with the people whom he was addressing and this should happen before funds could be released to the members. He does not deny the fact that he made the submission at Sibaya. During the cooperative’s recent meeting, he said he was asked to speak and explain himself but he did not obey this instruction.

Victimised

He said the situation was tense during the meeting. Dlamini said some of the members were not happy that he was being victimised for speaking during Sibaya. He said the members were of the view that the committee of the organisation was using his submission as an excuse for not wanting to pay dividend.

As a result of this misunderstanding, Dlamini said about 15 members were affected by this development. He said members were demanding payment of their dividends amounting to E400 000. With this money, he said the members would then figure out how they would be able to utilise it. He also went on to say that it was possible he was being targeted by the organisation because he was a very vocal person. He said he was self-employed and also bred broiler chickens for sale.

Other members who were spoken to also called the Times of Eswatini to express concerns about the issue.
They said it was unfair that they were being deprived of their funds yet they had budgeted for them, particularly for the month of January, which requires sufficient money for school fees. One of the members, who asked not to be mentioned, said he was also not happy with the manner in which the organisation handled the situation.

He said it was true that the members always had squabbles but it was only recently that the issue of Sibaya was brought up. The member then revealed that they would also report the organisation to the body that oversees cooperatives.

Implications

Meanwhile, the Attorney General (AG) Sifiso Khumalo was asked if there were any implications for people who victimised others for submissions during Sibaya. Khumalo was also the moderator during Sibaya. He was asked in his capacity as AG. In his response, the AG stated that victimisation in all its forms was wrong and should not be condoned. He explained that Sibaya should not be singled out.

He said the reporting structure depended on the form of victimisation, giving examples such as the workplace which has its own structure. “Some other forms of victimisation are reported to the police,” he stated. Khumalo said he found it hard to believe that anyone could be victimised for making submissions at Sibaya.

“Prima facie that would be wrongful,” he stated  Khumalo asked who was victimising the victim. He also wanted to know the nature of the victimisation and where the alleged victimiser got the authority to do so. “What is the relationship between Siyatfutfuka and RDF?” he asked. According to William, there was no direct relationship between the organisation and RDF.

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