Times of Swaziland
10 September 2008
Cabinet should have no room for incompetents
By Vusi Sibisi
Now that the euphoria over the controversial resource-draining 40/ 40 Double Celebrations for the 40th independence anniversary and His Majesty King Mswati III’s 40th birthday is done and finished, it is now back to reality for this once promising landlocked nation that is now referred to as impoverished.
But of course with two-thirds of the approximated population of a million people living below the poverty datum line, not to speak of the impact of HIV/AIDS that at one time represented the highest infection rate in the world, the Kingdom of Eswatini is indeed one of the most impoverished nations on earth today.
And talking about the arrogant distortion of national priorities by the government brings me to the next big event in what should go down in the annals of Swazi history as a very eventful year, if not en epoch-making one, that is the Tinkhundla elections that have entered the last phase. Notwithstanding the many cases before court in which poverty-driven candidates are jostling for pole positions ahead of the secondary elections next Friday, it can be expected that Cabinet ministers will be sent home sometime this week to allow those who are in the running for parliamentary seats to campaign.
As I see it, Cabinet ministers who are still in the running for elections have been enjoying unfair advantage over their competitors one way or the other, a situation that would render the elections unfair were they normal and in line with those of real democracies across the globe. But the Tinkhundla elections can never be adjudged in accordance with the universally accepted norms basically because the political system in use does not meet the barest minimum democratic values.
The electorate is used as pawns to legitimise the political status quo, yet in effect cannot control or bring into account the resultant government.
Although flawed as it may, had the government any respect for the people, the least it can do should be to appoint competent individuals into Cabinet. The beginning towards that end would, of course, be to do an appraisal of the outgoing Cabinet and looking at the catalogue of blunders that they are leaving behind as their legacy coupled to the many crises, including humanitarian crises, they either made themselves or failed to adequately address save only to pay lip-service to, none of them would deserve a recall. But then again under the Tinkhundla Political System it is not about performing a good day’s work towards alleviating the plight of the people that counts for anything.
As I see it, Wole Soyinka might have had this the Kingdom of Eswatini in mind when he wrote: "The enthronement of power as the birthright of a given sector of any human community evolves, sooner or later, into a privilege of mediocrity, logically still, into the quest for power by right, on the part of the mediocre. In the end even the mentally deficient grasps the real possibility – indeed, the absolute certitude – that his turn has come."
So we should expect, when the next government is formed, more of the same as in the past and that is nothing. And this has nothing to do with a dearth of talent because we have that in rivers as shown by some of the sons and daughters of the soil who because of their families’ lack of connections to government, have gone outside the country and excelled on their chosen fields.
Indeed, some became giants that they controlled budgets that are hundred times the national budget of this country. And anyone has to wonder why this country’s economy is stagnant when the economies of fellow Southern African Development Community’s (SADCs) are buoyant, over the apparent lack of fiscal prudence, the collapsed health delivery system and dysfunctional education system and the multitude of humanitarian crises.
As I see it, all those problems facing this country are a result of a grotesque political system that has placed government in the spotlight. Otherwise if the people were at the centre of everything, then there would be no question of if the outgoing Cabinet or any member thereof should be retained in office when the next government is formed.
Now that was an official stay-away!
Call it whatever you will but in all intents and purposes it appeared that the government was being vindictive over last week’s two-day stay-away organized by labour and political formations when it suddenly declared Monday a public holiday.
As I see it, the government was flexing its political muscle by declaring an official stay-away without as much as thinking about the economy it is doing everything to bring to its knees by not spending wisely or investing in a conducive, internationally accepted and sustainable political future. And that was but a display of the sort of arrogant behaviour of government when confronted by problems it helped to create.
It is not like this country is self-sufficient on anything, except perhaps in creating poverty and the requisite conditions to ensure it flourishes. And the last time I checked about two-thirds of the population of approximately a million people were dependent on hand-outs from international organisations and donor community to sustain life one day at a time.
But government is oblivious to some of these harsh realities and in arrogant fashion creates a holiday, which I strongly believe was a misinformed response to last Wednesday and Thursday’s stay-aways, out of the blue.
Even assuming there was a need for a holiday for imbali, as this was the official explanation given, government should have given ample notice to corporate Swaziland that is the driving force of the economy to make the necessary adjustments and logistical plans to minimise losses. But what does government do, shock both the corporate world and the nation with a surprise official stay-away on Monday when all along she had insisted that neither Friday nor Monday would be made holidays in view that Independence Day fell on Saturday, which was to be recognised as a holiday.
As I see it such behaviour by the government is further testimony of the arrogance and contempt with which it takes the people and over the way this country is governed. After all the thinking within government being that we should all be grateful for being allowed to stay here in their fiefdom without causing government any more troubles.
Well, with more stay-aways planned for next week and beyond, one has to wonder how many official stay-aways will government conjure up just so as to fix the protesting workers and political movements by showing them who is in control. And who knows, that may just be the catalyst and the shortest route to political transformation leading to the real political emancipation of the Swazi nation.