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Nominated ministers face disqualification

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image The last team of Cabinet ministers. Some of them, who were recently nominated face disqualification.

MBABANE – The nine Cabinet ministers who were nominated for Parliament over the past weekend face possible disqualification from the 2013 national elections.

This is because they were arguably irregularly nominated since they are still in public office.
The ministers are Clement Dlamini (Agriculture), Lutfo Dlamini (Labour and Social Security), Benedict Xaba (Health), Wilson Ntshangase (Education and Training), Mduduzi ‘Small Joe’ Dlamini (Tourism and Environmental Affairs), Hlobisile Ndlovu (Youth, Sports and Culture), Ntuthuko Dlamini (Public Works and Transport), Rodgers Mamba (Tinkhundla) and Patrick Magobetana Mamba (Public Service).

Attorney General (AG) Majahenkhaba Dlamini has, however, argued that a Cabinet office is a public office ‘in a different sense’ but two prominent lawyers; Human Rights attorney Mandla Mkhwanazi and constitutional lawyer Thulani Maseko insists it is a public office. 
The kingdom’s Constitution, in Section 97(1)(c), stipulates that a person ‘who is holding or acting in public office does not qualify to be appointed, elected or nominated as the case may be, a senator or member of the House’.
Following His Majesty King Mswati III’s dissolution of Parliament on Friday at the Ludzidzini Cattle Byre, Cabinet has maintained that they still remained in office.

The nominations were carried out a day after Parliament was dissolved.
The King, in his speech, had told the nation that since Parliament had been dissolved, an announcement would be made in the media regarding an ad hoc committee, which he termed sigejana, that would hold office in the meantime.
By yesterday, there was still no such pronouncement.

Cabinet ministers, by virtue of their insistence that they were still in office, were, therefore, not eligible to be nominated to run for Parliament seats.
Mkhwanazi, in an interview yesterday, said the ministers were indeed not supposed to stand for the nominations if they were still in office – as they maintain.  
“Their nomination was irregular because a Cabinet office is a public office. If anyone can challenge their nomination in court they (challenger) can be successful.
“That is why even police officers and other members of the security forces as well as any government employee have to resign or apply for leave of absence in order to stand for the elections because they are in public office. They (ministers) ought to have also resigned from office so as to be eligible to stand,” Mkhwanazi said.

He further wondered as to how the ministers could claim to be still in office considering that His Majesty had dissolved Parliament.
“Once you remove the jacket of being a member of Parliament, you are then not supposed to be in Cabinet,” the lawyer said.
Section 68(4) (c) of the Constitution states that the office of minister shall become vacant where the minister ceases to be a Member of Parliament.
Mkhwanazi said since there was no longer a Member of Parliament in the country, following Parliament’s dissolution, that meant there was also no Cabinet.

However, the AG said it was only when Parliament was still in office that a minister stepped down once he ceased to be a member of the House.
Constitutional lawyer Maseko said it was undisputed that Cabinet was a public office ‘but whether the ministers can stand for elections while still in office needs to be debated’.

Government Press Secretary Percy Simelane preferred not to involve himself in interpreting the Constitution.
“I need to be careful when it comes to the interpretation of the law. Not even those who make or pass laws are at liberty to interpret it but the Judiciary,” he said.


AG: I don’t know about ‘sigejana’


MBABANE – Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini claims not to know what His Majesty the King meant when he talked about ‘sigejana’.
The AG was responding to a question on whether a Government Gazette that sought to establish the sigejana had been published.

“I do not know about sigejana. Only the King can tell us what he meant when referring to sigejana. I do not know what the King was speaking about. To me this was an open term,” Dlamini said.
When Government Press Secretary Percy Simelane was asked about sigejana, he responded: “I want to believe you have a source for the ‘naming of ‘sigejana’ in the person of TV Mtetwa as quoted in your maiden story on the disengagement of Parliament, please consider using this source again.”
TV, whose full name is Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, is the acting Ludzidzini Governor. He is currently in Singapore with Her Majesty the Indlovukazi and his phone rang unanswered when called yesterday. However, senior member of the royal family Prince Masitsela shed light on what sigejana is.
“Sigejana lidlandzana lebantfu,” he briefly explained, meaning ‘it is a small group of people’.

The King, when dissolving Parliament on Friday, said the nation would be notified through the media on the appointment of sigejana.
In the past, once Parliament had been dissolved, a council of ministers was put in place and the Chief Officer in the King’s Office became the interim prime minister.

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