27 September 2008
No genuine voter education - Obed
Former Prime Minister Obed Dlamini, has stated that our elections will always carry some controversy as a result of the country’s political system and the lack of a continuous voter education programme.
“There has never been a voter education exercise in the country ever since independence. This is a defect even though the system may be said to be democratic as it is from the grassroots. Worse still, it greatly compromises the quality of the people who find themselves as legislators,” the former Premier stated.
He mentioned that people were excited over the establishment of the Elections and Boundaries Commission as stipulated by the Constitution, but that joy was short-lived when the same Constitution was violated and the commission was appointed without strictly following it, while the King went ahead and blessed it amid such concerns.
Responding to this newspaper’s request that he does a post-mortem for the elections, Dlamini noted that the primaries were a failure no doubt, and he blamed this on the lack of civic education, whereby people never saw the need to return and complete the process after it could not be finished in one day. He noted that a voter education exercise was a must, whether in a Tinkhundla driven, or multi party inspired election.
He then made an example of the flop of the ‘Vote for a Woman Campaign’ saying the people were never educated or empowered about the importance of women in decision making positions, nor the fact that the country had committed itself to a number of important international declarations, conventions and protocols that seek for the elevation of women in society. “But I must state that I was impressed with the EBC’s attitude. They were never haughty and humbly answered each and every question posed to them. This shows their ability and maturity. If they can polish up their act by including a voters education exercise, they can deliver an almost perfect election the next time around.”
He observed that as a result, Swazis still did not fully comprehend what kind of person was needed in Parliament, even voting for bread distributors and lift-givers.
“Education is crucial even though the system does not support this view. When uneducated people go to Parliament, the system itself takes a knock.
“The uneducated honourables may be appointed into important international or regional bodies, and you can imagine what can happen, whether he is a chairperson or rapporteur. He will not be able to comprehend what would be going on as it would be Yiddish to him.”
He noted that at times the King even takes irrelevant people to important sessions like the current UN General Assembly, saying this did the country no good as such trips turn out to be tourist forays for these people.
“Such are not tourist exercises, but working trips. The King should take more legislators with him, who would interact with their international counterparts and exchange ideas about development of their countries while also emulating in the country what they saw. I say it again the tourists should remain behind and only people who are going to do serious work out there should go.”
...Slams inept cabinet appointments
Former Prime Minister has slammed the tendency by the country’s authorities of appointing irrelevant people for critical cabinet posts, saying this always resulted in the lack of proper and efficient service delivery.
He mentioned that the country had high priority needs, while the political atmosphere in the region called for highly skilled and educated people in these positions, so as to compete regionally.
He observed that it is not that we do not have people with such skills and academic achievements.
“We have a lot of such people in and outside the country, it is only the system that denies them the opportunity to serve their country, that invested heavily on their education.”
He mentioned that even the head of government, the Prime Minister, should be highly educated and qualified so as to be able to lead a team of similar professionals. Responding to requests by this newspaper which asked that he conducts a post-mortem on the elections as a former cabinet leader, Dlamini mentioned that all the ministries were crucial these days and should be headed by capable and able people with the know-how to drive those ministries.
He mentioned that there were key ministries though, which should never be toyed around with, through ‘Kangaroo appointments’ of people with no knowledge of the ministry’s main chores.
He said key ministries included health, finance, education and economic planning.
“I still say that an economist should head the Finance ministry, while a teacher or lecturer should head the education ministry and so forth. Such people know about the job. In fact they have been doing that for the better part of their lives. Mtiti Fakudze was okay at Agriculture as he is trained for that, while Themba Msibi did well at education, even though he is not from that background.
“Probably, he was saved by the fact that he is from a trade union background, which deals with people. But I still do not believe that he was the ideal person for that portfolio, and this is why some things got out of his control,” he said.
Dlamini continued that education was crucial even though the current system failed to acknowledge that fact when you look at the treatment of teachers in the country.
“The trend in education regionally and globally these days tended to rest on science and technology and we must have a minister who is well versed in those matters so he could steer the country in the direction the whole world was taking.”
Dlamini explained that the Finance ministry was also very important and needed a leader with strong convictions and who stood by his beliefs.
“The last Parliament, of which I was part of, committed E50 million (Capacity building fund) of taxpayer’s money on a project without putting up structures for its proper usage and how to recoup it. What happened is that even the door-keeper (PS) who should have ensured that the money went to where it was intended, ended up being implicated in the alleged fraud that happened thereafter.
“This money was released after an order from the authorities, and a competent Finance Minister is the one who can put his foot down and oppose even such unwarranted orders that get to waste public funds,” Dlamini said.
When asked if he applied the same principles during his tenure as Prime Minister, Dlamini answered by saying the records spoke for themselves.
“For example, I put Solomon Dlamini at Education while deploying Themba Masuku at Agriculture. They were professionals in their fields, and this is supported by the fact that even today they hold senior positions in international organisations. These things can be done, as long as there is the political will,” he closed.