12 October 2008
I gave MPs lots of bread—Mr Bread owner
By MAKHOSI MAGONGO
MBABANE— REVEALED: Mister Bread boss Wyne Levendale ‘assisted many’ MPs in their campaign for Parliament elections.
Some of the aspiring MPs were given loads of bread to buy votes, while other sponsorships from Mister Bread came in the form of cash prizes for soccer tournaments hosted by the campaigning nominees.
In return for the favour, they were supposed to elect him to be a senator once they were inside Parliament. But the plot did not go well, as Levendale lost to Tom Mndzebele, who made history by becoming the first visually impaired man to become a senator. Mndzebele got 44 votes while Levendale got 16 after a run off.
On Friday during the selection of senators, Mtsambama MP Bheki ‘No Problem’ Mkhonta nominated Levendale.
MP Mkhonta, a SUB Manager by occupation, yesterday acknowledged that Levendale assisted many MPs during the run down to the elections. He said he was not pleased that his nominee had lost, but was however happy that Mndzebele was eventually successful.
He further explained why he nominated Levendale. He listed several reasons why he wanted Levendale to become a senator.
"The first reason is that he is a Swazi who registered for the elections at Hhukwini area. Electing him would have made us a non-racist country. Our parliament should be balanced along racial lines, as much as we need to have people from the disabled Swazi community represented. I also believe that he has invested a lot of money in Swaziland and is committed to poverty alleviation in that his company employs over 300 people who have dependants.
"I also know for a fact that he assisted a lot of MPs while they were still campaigning for elections. The assistance came in many forms, including prizes for soccer tournaments organised by the MPs. There was free bread provided for the people, which is another way of alleviating poverty," he claimed, adding: "As for soccer, he has sponsored our 1st division league and many other community leagues."
MP Mkhonta said electing Levendale would have encouraged other investors who own businesses in the country. He said Levendale’s election would also be good for his constituency, Mtsambama.
Even though they are rivals in business, Mkhonta says he believes Levendale would have added value to the upper House.
"Nonetheless, I would like to congratulate Mndzebele who was the ultimate winner. I believe he represents a section of our society that has been marginalized over the years," he said.
Levendale said he was not bitter about the loss. "It’s fine, we can only try. At the end of the day, I am happy for the man who eventually won. I have no hard feelings," he said yesterday.
He confirmed that he assisted a lot of MPs when they were still campaigning. He, also, did not disclose any names.
He, however, said donating to impoverished rural areas was his company policy, though the donations were distributed via the then Parliament hopefuls.
He said his interest to become a senator was purely for the development of the country. "The difference between me and some of the people there is that I already have a well paying job, being a senator would have been purely a social responsibility. It was not a way of enriching myself. I wanted to participate in development because I believe Swaziland is a beautiful country that has a lot of potential," he said, adding: "However I believe there are many other people who are there purely for the development of the country, not to enrich themselves."
Chief Gija, the Chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission said he had been told that there was a case involving bread that is due to be heard in the high court. He was unsure whether it involved Mr Bread.
He further said donations should not be done with the expectation that there will be a favour returned.
"We have already warned against such donations. Giving is a blessed thing. However, when you give, you should not expect to be given a favour in return," he said. He said people elected into parliament were expected to be honest, and to desist from behaviour that is not in line with the law.