2 August 2008
To nominate or not nominate Ministers?
By THULANI THWALA
MBABANE- As nominations begin today, the big question or worry is what would happen to Cabinet ministers who are likely to be nominated in their respective chiefdoms.
The big question is whether or not they qualify to stand for elections given that they are still fully employed or to put it in legal terms as stated in the country’s laws governing elections, they are still holding public office.
The law states it clear that no person shall qualify to be elected or appointed as a member of the House of Assembly if that individual is holding or acting in any public office like all the ministers, presently. By 11pm yesterday, there had been no official word from anyone regarding the dissolution of Cabinet that remained behind when His Majesty King Mswati III dissolved Parliament over a month ago.
To quote from the King’s Order in Council of 1992, section 20 subsection (1) (b): No person shall be qualified to be elected or appointed as a Senator or to be elected as an elected member or appointed as a nominated member of the House of Assembly who- (b)…is a member of the armed forces of Swaziland or is holding or acting in any public office or is holding or acting in any office established by or under any law that may be prescribed".
In our own layman interpretation, this section means since ministers are still holding public office it would be illegal according to the law to nominate or elect anyone of them for purposes of serving as a Member Parliament.
Efforts to get the Attorney General (AG) Majahenkhaba Dlamini for comment on this drew a blank. He was reported out of office when called. His mobile phone rang without anyone picking it.
Deputy Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) Mzwandile Fakudze was also not reachable. His cellphone was off. Over 10 attempts were made to get hold of him but his mobile phone remained off.
The assumption was that he was probably attending the court case where the NCA sought an application stopping the nominations.
The application was dismissed by High Court judges Justice Stanley Maphalala and Justice Jacobus Annandale, who both sat with Justice Mbutfo Mamba, who, however, differed from the resolution of the two. There were no reasons given. They will follow later.
The Swazi News then contacted independent legal experts who sided with our view or interpretation of the section. "If they are carrying out duties as ministers and nothing has been said on their dissolution it effectively means they cannot stand for elections. Even if they were to go ahead, there has to be an instrument legitimising that. Teachers, police officers and other public servants have actually taken leave of absence because they wanted to conform to the law as they contest the elections," said a legal expert.
It had been anticipated that the king would dissolve Cabinet to allow ministers who are interested in contesting the elections to do so. There are ministers who minced no words that they would run for election.
Yesterday some ministers continued with their official duties as members of the Executive Arm of Government.
Health and Social Welfare Minister Njabulo Mabuza was a busy man launching the oral health month. He joined Inkhosikati LaMbikiza at Mantambe where the launching was held. He spoke as Health and Social Welfare Minister. Other ministers like Lutfo Dlamini, Thandi Shongwe, Dumsile Sukati and Rev Absalom Dlamini returned home from official business in Zambia and are likely to be nominated in their respective chiefdoms.
They were released early by their boss, Themba Dlamini, who remained behind. He made it clear that he allowed them to fly back for purposes of taking part in the national elections. In Zambia, the ministers attended the Smart Partnership Dialogue.
Government Spokesman Percy Simelane said nothing pertaining to the dissolution of Cabinet had been communicated to him. He was called yesterday. In fact Simelane made it clear that such issues are beyond his mandate.
This week the High Court was told that a number of teachers have applied for leave of absence during a matter involving another teacher Mduduzi Simelane, whose application to get leave was denied by the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
Well-known journalist Qedusizi Ndlovu is among a group of public servants who had to take leave because of their desire to stand for elections.
This state of affairs has actually thrown voters into the deep end. One voter said; "We are worried with what is happening. We are not sure whether to nominate someone we know as a minister or what," said.
Other voters expressed concern on the elections during a radio programme where they felt things were rushed. A man who identified himself as a Hlatshwako felt the nomination dates were announced at short notice and wondered if chiefs would be able to convene meetings for such.
"I feel things are not going right. The rush in announcing the nomination dates will create a lot of problems. As I speak, I do not even know when the nominations will be held in my chiefdom. I just feel chiefs have been put under pressure by the Elections and Boundaries Commission," he said.