Times of Swaziland
24 June 2008
By Mbho Shongwe
Want to be an MP? Then read this
…. Most of the people who find themselves on these lists lack quality and reputation, hence add no value to the appointing authority
If the constitution is any document to go by, on or before August 30, 2008, Swaziland will be having a new Parliament. During the same time, the kingdom will be having the new prime minister with the other ministers of the Crown.
The new Cabinet will be faced with finalising the preparations and activities of the double 40-40 Celebrations. Who will be running government after June 30,2008? The constitution does not provide for a way out as was applicable with the council of ministers after dissolution of Parliament according to the dictates of April 12,1973 decree which of course served as a constitution.
It is hoped that, this time around, a sworn member of the House of Assembly will be appointed prime minister. The practice of appointing a stranger as the prime minister and making him/her a member of the house is not consistent with the constitution.
It is also hoped that the deputy prime minister will come from Senate to balance the equation and promote good governance. Clause 67(1) of the constitution says "The king shall appoint the prime minister from among members of the house acting on recommendation of the King's Advisory Council".
While, other Swazis are preparing for the elections others are seeking for the prime minister and probably his/her ministers and the rest are lobbying to be prime ministers, ministers, being on the king's appointee lists; House of Assembly, Senate and other committees.
One can imagine the sweet talking and backstabbing within the corridors of power and behind those walls. Have these processes of having people on the king's lists benefited the nation and or the king? Your guess is as good as mine. Most of the people who find themselves on these lists lack quality and reputation, hence add no value to the appointing authority and good governance in general. However, let us look at the first day for both elected and appointed Members of Parliament (MPs) when they occupy their seats where their name tags are placed with honourable (Hon) before their initials and surnames.
This then means that they should be honourable throughout their term, in Parliament, communities and nation at large. They are sworn in one by one by the clerk of Parliament. They are also exposed to the Standing Orders which guards them and tells them how they should behave and conduct themselves in the house.
Their most important task in that meeting is to elect the speaker. Besides, their naiveness, of the Standing Orders, its operations and at that short notice are expected to perform a job that will determine the future workings of the house. They do not know each other, have no proper background of the person they will elect as the speaker. In the house, one simply stands to say something, the raising of hands is not allowed.
Then, one member may propose a name of a member or non-member to be elected speaker. If seconded, the clerk of Parliament, presiding over this process would ask for a written motion and acceptance letter from the proposed individual. While, still looking for the unknown in their minds and wondering, one would propose for closure of the nominations and if seconded, you have the speaker.
This is just showing that lobbying is carried outside the house. At times an illegal motion may be ushered into the house by non-sworn member, who may come late to be sworn in. Once the speaker has been elected and taken his/her position, the Standing Orders are in full operation and members are at liberty to raise issues. After these traumatic experiences, members must quickly read clauses 54,57 -58, 64 - 69 and 72 of the Standing Orders (2006) as amended. The next task is to elect 10 non-members to Senate, half of which must be females and four (4) females to join the house if female members were less than thirty (30) per cent according to clause 86(1,2) of the constitution.
These processes are surrounded by a wave of lobbying and arm twisting tendencies, especially to the naïve and timid new members. Members decide and agree on the numbers to be nominated before, the voting for the senators which means that debating has started. The speaker has the upper hand when he/she opens up nomination time. He/she may have asked all those members he/she will give a chance to nominate, hence knows the candidates they are carrying. It can be seen from the very beginning how MPs can easily be manipulated. Besides, this intimidation, members will be put on endless hopes and promises thus subjected into some kind of numbness on vibrant issues for the benefit of the electorate. Some issues raised in Parliament may make a member to be unpopular to Cabinet and or presiding officers, thus losing many opportunities.
These opportunities include to be appointed a Cabinet minister, serving in certain committees, trips and other assignments. Why is one raising these ever dangled carrots in the face of the members? It is true that some members do not know why they are in Parliament or they are only concerned about selfish ambitions.
Therefore, members must not lose the mandates and aspirations of the electorate. The electorate needs to be masters of their destiny and in order to achieve this, enabling laws must be crafted and put in place.
Without, saying that those aspiring to be members of Parliament must first go to school, it is very important for them to know how to read and write in English. This is true if they want to be effective in Parliament work. The bills are crafted in legal English.
Otherwise, they will only remain the voters of debates raised by others because they do not understand and cannot raise meaningful motions and questions to benefit their communities and the entire nation. Then, all these MPs will be participating on is 'the ayes or nays have it', meaning yes or no processes. MPs are the link between central government and their communities, in a vice versa mode..
As a test, any person willing to go to Parliament must read and understand this article in less than three minutes.