1 August 2008
Elections standoff: Civil servants cry discrimination
By Njabulo Dlamini
AN uproar has erupted within government following a constitutional provision that civil servants will not stand for elections unless they secure leave of absence from work.
Some civil servants have expressed concern over the provision alleging it was discriminatory as it does not apply to those coming from the private sector.
However, Minister of Public Service and Information S’gayoyo Magongo insisted they would abide by the constitution as a government upholding the rule of law.
“Our position as a ministry is clear concerning such issues as a government abiding by the constitution and upholding the rule of law. As I’m speaking to you, we’ve processed two leave of absence applications from certain civil servants; in fact I instructed the Principal Secretary (Cyril Kunene) to approve the applications,” Magongo said.
He said he had no problems granting leave of absence to civil servants who submitted their applications as per the constitution.
States Section 97 (1) states that notwithstanding Section 96, a person does not qualify to be appointed, elected or nominated as the case may be, a Senator or member of the House if that person;
Part (c) is a member of the armed forces of Swaziland or is holding or acting in any public office and has not been granted leave of absence for the duration of parliament.
After some civil servants visited the newsroom to express their disappointment at the apparent discriminatory legislation, blame was shifted to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
Comment from EBC Chairman Gija Dlamini could not be obtained.
However, Deputy Chairman Mzwandile Fakudze said he might have been misunderstood when he made comments on radio concerning the issue. “We have nothing to do with such issues as they are the purview of government. I urged civil servants to consult the Attorney General’s office and nowhere did the EBC pronounce itself on the matter; we can’t commit ourselves anyway,” he said.
Some teachers were said to be making frantic efforts to have their applications approved after they were allegedly urged to resign by their employer prior to standing for elections. However, Minister of Education Themba Msibi declined to comment saying terms and conditions of service were under the public service ministry portfolio.
Meanwhile, Dominic Nxumalo, Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) General Secretary, said firstly as an organisation they were for a multi-party system since the trade union believed in freedom of association.
“However, it is the democratic right of members to choose whether or not they participate in the elections. For those who choose to participate and stand, they should follow the procedures as set our in the constitution. Even if they were to go to court, they might lose because the law is clear and they must abide by it,” Nxumalo said. He clarified that teachers and civil servants wishing to partake in the elections should not resign but apply for leave of absence.
“We can’t take up such matters as an organisation since it’s unlike cases whereby someone is being harassed, victimised or discriminated against. They shouldn’t speak out of emotions but stick to laid down procedures.”