3 August 2008
By Mbongeni Mbingo (Editor, Times Sunday)
I am frustrated. I love my country, and am a patriot. I know also that people expect us to always defend the system, defend the actions of our leaders, and sometimes this is impossible. Like what has happened this week—how do we defend this? How do we make sense of this?
The elections have always been presented as a mockery, since the day Chief Gija and his commissioners were handed to us, but I do not see the leadership—or the EBC itself trying to prove that this was a masterstroke, or that these people are capable of doing the job at hand.
Right now, I am convinced they cannot do the job and they are an embarrassment. I hope they know this, because we cannot disguise it any more.
My frustration today has a lot to do with why the elections are made to be such a mess. I am wondering if people are deliberately doing things to embarrass our king and country and to make sure that the elections flop. I wonder what is there for them when they achieve their goal, but it is perfectly clear right now that there are dark forces pulling this country back.
I can’t fathom how we could get things this wrong—so embarrassingly wrong! This week, our EBC decided—or should we say they realised—that there needed to be the nominations, the first step toward the elections. The people were not given enough time to prepare, and shockingly, the EBC, its polling officers and everyone else expected to help, were not ready.
It was like we were all caught off guard. This shocked me. Who decided that this weekend should be the beginning of the elections, and when was this decision taken? Why was it not communicated to the public in time?
I am assuming this latest comedy of errors goes to show that people were right to question Chief Gija’s leadership qualities. It goes to show too that people were right to question the commission’s qualities in pulling this off. It also is proof enough that people do not know what it is they are supposed to do, no matter how much they are paid.
The EBC is obviously clueless of what it really must do, and what it needs to pull things off. It’s like someone has to tell them when to do things, obviously that person expecting that by then certain things would have been prepared to ensure that what needs to be done will be executed. For Gija and his team, they are giving us the impression they too are taken by surprise.
So, how do they justify their hefty pay packages? How do they justify being in office, by the number of blunders they make?
This is frustrating because it gives the world the idea that we are not capable of putting our house in order, or in fact of getting people who could run things properly and efficiently. The world always has to look at us as the laughing stock, people who couldn’t be serious, and a country lacking in leadership. Yet, this is not true. This country has a lot of men and women who can do far better than what we are being given by such people as the commissioners in the EBC. This is shocking, to say the least, and in other countries—where there is perfect democracies, or where those in power are accountable to the people—this is a fireable offence.
Right now, as Gija reads this, he would have been asked to go back and play with his kids, or indeed, take up his job at the Water Services Corporation. He would have been told that he had flopped. He would have been told the people deserve better.
The problem with this country, however, is that we do not have such people even in our leadership, people who will worry what the people will say. Instead, we have people who only want to say it is okay, we will mess up some other time.
Chief Gija was never the right candidate for this job. He was never the man to be given such a task. And it shows, since he took over, he has presided over what has been a mockery of the whole process. He has made this a shambles, and has succeeded in proving that this system of governance either needs an overhaul, or is simply tired.
He can’t be blamed alone of course, but he is the man bearing the brunt, and therefore the buck stops with him.
I was shocked that he would expect that the nomination process would progress smoothly, with just a few days notice. It was evident in the manner that this was handled that he was ill prepared, from the announcements suddenly being run on the radio, to the poling officers being suddenly called up to meetings (they were given too little time) that this was going to be a disaster.
And so it has been, and what will we get? We won’t even get an explanation. We won’t even get the sacking this demands.
I have to say, however, that this reminds me of the mess that is at Miss Swaziland. It has to begin with the way the small things are allowed to go on that we cannot expect the bigger ones to fall into place. While I always imagine that this country operates like it leaves everything to either miracle, prayer or chance, I believe that this thinking must be discouraged.
Last weekend, for instance, Vinah Mamba-Gray put together a fantastic show to crown this country’s most beautiful girl.
She had known since early this year that she would stage the finals at the Convention Centre, and immediately started planning. Her planning was not up to scratch, the event started late, and really late. People were scurrying around looking for one piece to fall, before the event could take off. It was like she too had been taken by surprise, yet she knew all along the Miss Swaziland finals were coming.
Of course, they always say there is no hurry in Swaziland, but my this is what holds this country back. It appears it is contagious, although in the case of the EBC, this was poor planning of shocking levels.
Speaking of the Miss Swaziland pageant, I also have to say I am disappointed that the public has found issue with the picture of the former beauty queen than what the real issue was here. Yes, the picture has caught everyone’s eye—and rightly so, I might add—but it appears the public has forgotten what the matter at hand was.
The former queen gave an insight into what happens in the life of a beauty queen, and in her case with the people supposedly the sponsors of the pageant. This is a national concern and it cannot be ignored. The queen was telling us of problem that if it goes unnoticed will spread to the level where people simply expect it to happen.
I would have expected the nation to have responded to this with shock, that the pretty girls are asked to parade in men’s bedrooms for some lousy sponsorships. But no, that is totally ignored, and all people cared about what a picture they found to be too much for them to handle.
The supposed sponsor will be let off the hook. The pageant director will think nothing of the problem because she will not feel the pressure of making sure the girls are properly chaperoned, and that everything is above board. The pageant director will continue to demand that girls show a little smile to the sponsors, so that she can benefit for the next event.
The corruption will go on and on, until one parent realises that his or her child has been used.
By then it will be too late.
I admired Nkosingiphile Dlamini for her courage to speak up against this, for it shows the level of integrity that she operates under. I admire her for it shows she cannot accept being bullied, and that she will speak up if corrupt people expect her to stoop to their levels.
As for the picture, the less said the better. However, I will say this, to those readers of this paper who found it in bad taste, I will offer our apologies and assure them that this newspaper considers their taste each time the paper is put together.
If people found it too much, I will accept that perhaps in hindsight, we should not have used it. I don’t want to go on the defensive. I just want to assure our loyal readers that we will not lose sight of our responsibility to being a family newspaper, and that we learn everyday.
As for Gija and his team, they must bury their heads in shame, and I will ask, why does this happen to us? This weekend’s events have shown that we want to hand this country to those who have been calling for the elections to be boycotted.