Plot to unseat Senate President: How Senator Isaac Magagula sabotaged investigations



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE: Senator Isaac Mmemo Magagula, the former National Commissioner of Police allegedly tried to sabotage an investigation by this publication into a secret conspiracy to unseat Senate President Pastor Lindiwe Dlamini.

This was after this Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism questioned him regarding phone calls he made to Deputy Senate President Ndumiso Mdluli on Sunday 28 April 2018 in the midst of media reports that seems to target the reputation of the Senate President. As the investigation intensified with various politicians questioned by this publication, Senator Magagula joined the ‘fast lane’ and alerted several powerful political figures that this journalist was investigating the matter, his reason for attempting to sabotage the investigation remain unknown. Magagula was contacted on the 4th May 2019 around 1053hrs regarding the matter and by 1400 hrs the same day; he had already made calls to about four influential figures informing them that this publication was investigating the matter. It has been disclosed that the powerful forces within Parliament are allegedly using the media to target the reputation of Pastor Lindiwe Dlamini, so she could be declared morally and politically unfit to hold the office of Senate President and subsequently removed. This is not the first time political forces in Parliament adopt secret tactics to remove a Presiding Officer, Themba Msibi, the then Speaker in the House of Assembly subsequently seek protection from King Mswati as powerful forces were hot on his heels. It appears the power hungry individuals in Parliament, some who feel ignored for Cabinet positions are using the same strategy on the Senate President as Msibi was first attacked by the media before a motion was moved calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate him. Furthermore, Msibi was also facing a rebellion from his staff allegedly backed by the then powerful political syndicate in Parliament known as "Scuba Divers".

But now, this Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism uncovered that the ultimate intention was more than the removal of the Senate President, but to weaken what was perceived as dominance of members of the Jesus Calls Worship Centre (JC) in the local politics. The political tension regarding the dominance of JC members in politics and other governing structures of the country intensified last year shortly after the King through Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini announced members of the current Cabinet, insiders revealed that more political figures who lost in the race to Hospital allegedly became bitter. But apart from the cold war influenced by Cabinet positions, an investigation by this publication gathered that a power struggle subsequently erupted within the House of Senate after Pastor Lindiwe Dlamini frustrated moves by politically ambitious Senators who were scrambling to occupy positions in influential Committees that include that of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Committee known as "Committee One". The Finance Committee is one of the most powerful bodies in Parliament, it deals with the allocation of budget and as such commands power over corporate companies and business people who do business with government. The PM,s Office Committee automatically attain piece of legislative authority and or power over the police servce, a law enforcement institution that has been over the years manipulated by the late Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini and then National Commissioner Isaac Magagula to fight their political enemies.

It has been disclosed that Senator Magagula after losing the race to Cabinet was vying to occupy a position in the Prime Minister's Office Portfolio Committee, a position that would have retained his influence over the police service under the PM's office. On or around November 2018, concerned senior intelligence sources disclosed to this publication how Senator Magagula was plotting to lobby for the establishment of a Ministry of Police and State Security that was to be headed by him.

In the midst of an independent investigation into the serious conspiracy against the Presiding Officer, Senator Isaac Magagula was questioned by this publication to explain what he was discussing with the Deputy Senate President via a phone conversation on Sunday 28 April 2019. At first, the former National Commissioner denied knowledge of the matter or ever speaking to Senator Mdluli saying he doesn't want to even speak about this matter. "I am not aware of any moves to undermine the authority of the Senate President, that's what I can say and I don't want to speak further. The only person who can speak to you on such matters, if need arise, is the Clerk" said the Senator.

But when this publication pressed further questions, probing him regarding the calls he made to Deputy Senate President and a subsequent meeting that was held thereafter in one of the Hotels at Ezulwini, Senator Magagula changed tune saying he wouldn't want to get into details, as he was not aware how such information reached this publication. "Angifuni kuyingena ngoba angati kutsi uyitfole yatsini (I don't want to involve myself on this matter because I don't know the information you have)" he said But then as the former Commissioner was questioned further and given accurate details regarding the calls he made, he finally responded saying with the Deputy Senate President, they were only sympathizing with the Presiding Officer regarding the series of scandalous articles in the media that seem to targets her reputation. It was after this investigative journalist indicated to him that the questions posed arose as his name featured in the midst of the investigation and as such, he was being given the right to respond. The Senator later discussed the matter saying any responsible person was bound to be concerned with the current political challenges involving the Presiding Officer.

"Any person was bound to be concerned with the current political challenges of the Senate President particularly what is being written about her in the media. We were just wondering what the Senate President has done to deserve such. What was wrong with being concerned about someone who is facing challenges? I think you should have spoken to her first because the things we discuss as politicians are more private and cannot be disseminated publicly" said the Senator. But when the Senator was asked to clarify if with these comments, he was confirming to have made the calls and discussed issues bordering around the political challenges of the Presiding Officer with the Deputy Senate President, he changed tone again, saying he doesn't want to be misquoted.

"Angikasho njalo, ungangifaki emagama emlonyeni, angikasho! (I didn't say that, don't misquote me") said the Honorable Senator. However, Senator Magagula, shortly after being questioned by this publication later made series of phone calls to high-ranking government officials and senior politicians informing them that this journalist was investigating the plot to undermine the authority of the Senate President. This was on Saturday the 4th May 2019 and it could not be ascertained why the former National Commissioner opted to notify the powerful politicians, some who were subject of this investigation.

But this Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism uncovered that subsequent to the calls made by Magagula to Mdluli, the Deputy Senate President held a meeting in one of the Hotels at Ezulwini with Pastor Lindiwe Dlamini and a senior member of the country's governing institutions where the matter of the political challenges and alleged media conspiracy against the Presiding Officer was discussed at length. Reached for comments, Ndumiso Mdluli, the Deputy Senate President confirmed receiving a call from Senator Isaac Magagula on Sunday 28 April 2019. Mdluli further confirmed holding a meeting with the Senate President thereafter. But the Honorable Deputy Presiding Officer said he couldn’t comment much on the alleged plot to undermine the authority of the Senate President, as he was not close to the locations where most of these political plots happen.

“As you might be aware, I stay far away from the Mbabane-Zulwini corridor where most of these political plots are made, I stay in the farm. What I can confirm is that on that Sunday I bought a newspaper at Luve on my way to church at Nkiligi and found an article that touched me, she is my boss and there is no way I cannot be touched. While in church, I then received a call from Senator Magagula who asked me if I saw the article and I said yes. Magagula then suggested that I meet the Senate President ngiyomekhuta (sympathize with her) and I did just that. I can’t comment much on the plot to unseat the Senate President because most of these things are discussed via the Mbabane-Ezulwini corridor and I stay in farms,” said the Deputy Senate President.

It has been disclosed that at the centre of the publication of the scandalous articles involving the Senate President was Sifiso Sibandze, the editor of the Times Sunday and his reporter Welcome Dlamini. The editor published an article that subsequently became a subject of discussion in the corridors of power on whether he was acting independently or used by the political forces that are allegedly plotting to unseat the Senate President. Reached for comments, Sibandze said he couldn’t respond regarding the articles he wrote or published about the Senate President saying they were a property of his employer, the Times of Swaziland. "All my articles automatically becomes the property of the Times once they are published so it would be better for you to speak to my boss and luckily he is next to me now" said editor referring to Martin Dlamini, the Managing editor of the Times of Swaziland. When reached for comments, Dlamini disputed the allegations that his publication was colluding with political forces to target the Senate President. He said as a newspaper, they are only interested on issues of accountability of public power adding that the issue of the Senate President having two drivers was published based on a submission that was made in Parliament. "What we wrote about the Senate President having two drivers was in a report and that report did not come from the Times but in Parliament as you know. Our official comment is that we are not aware of such, we don't target people but we deal with issues of accountability in government. As a journalist you know" said the Times boss But an independent investigation by this publication uncovered that in one of the meetings in the corridors of power, the articles of the Times particularly the one published on Sunday 28 April 2019 subsequently became a subject of discussions on whether the newspaper was acting independently by intensifying the issue of the two drivers and or whether there were no links between the paper and the forces in Parliament. It is actually the motive of Clerk to Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini who made the submissions before the PAC that later saw the Senate President being a subject of scandalous articles from the press. The Clerk to Parliament accused the Presiding Officer of allocating herself two drivers; this matter subsequently became a subject of debate in the press.

But an investigation by this publication uncovered that it was actually a Cabinet decision that saw the Presiding Officer having two drivers allegedly as a temporal arrangement. Reached for comments, Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe, the Minister of Public Works and Transport confirmed the Cabinet decision saying it was reached after government experienced challenges to provide cars for the Presiding Officers and other Ministers. The Minister of the Crown said initially, the Presiding Officers were supposed to be provided with cars from the Central Transport Administration (CTA), that were later found to be in a poor condition. He was asked by this publication to clarify whether the Senate President abused her powers as a Presiding Officer and allocated herself two drivers. "Your question on whether she abused her powers or not is a good one and my answer is ‘not at all’. When these Presiding Officers took an oath of office, they were allocated rented cars that were later declared costly for government. This was after it was discovered that the ones from the CTA were not in good condition and as Cabinet we took a decision to engage the Correctional Services to provide us with transport. They agreed on condition that their officers would drive the cars. Furthermore, these cars from the Correctional Services are parked after working hours, that is when the personal driver of the Presiding Officer takes over and drive a personal car in case the politician wants to go somewhere" said the Public Works Minister.

Parliament insiders confirmed the sentiments of the Minister saying it was practically impossible to terminate the services of the Senate President’s personal driver based on a temporal arrangement that was entered into between Cabinet and the Correctional Services. " The personal driver of the President would sometimes be asked to drive her around with a personal car after the one from Correctional knock-off, and besides, this is a government employee, you cannot terminate his services based on an arrangement that might last just for two months. Ndvuna knew what he was up to by telling the PAC he knew nothing about the arrangement that saw the Senate President temporally having two drivers. The Correctional Services insisted that they want the cars to be driven by their officers so they could return in good condition. Even if Ndvuna claims he was not aware of the car from Correctional, then where is the one that should be allocated to the Senate President by his office? He is just on a mission to tarnish the reputation of the President" said an insider within Parliament. A former Presiding Officer who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said a Clerk to Parliament act as a Controlling Officer for the Legislative House and there was no way he could claim ignorance of cars used by Presiding Officers.

“He is a Controlling Officer with administrative powers in Parliament and it was surprising when he told the PAC he was not aware of the car used by the Senate President” said the ex-Presiding Officer. In the midst of the investigation, it transpired that the Clerk to Parliament was actually aware of the transport arrangement agreed upon with the Correctional Services such that his office handed over the car to the office of the Senate President. But the question that arise is, why did Ndvuna Dlamini lied before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that he was not aware of the matter and was this linked to the plot to tarnish the reputation of the President as means to unseat her? Reached for comments, the Clerk to Parliament wondered who are those alleging that there was a plot to undermine the administration of the Senate President.

"Who told you there’s a plot to unseat the Senate President?” the Clerk to Parliament asked.

However, when asked further questions regarding his submission in Parliament and whether he was aware of the Cabinet arrangement to allocate cars to the Presiding Officers, Dlamini said he was busy and promised to respond later.

“I am currently busy. I will respond to your questions later. Alternatively, you can send me the questions through a text message" said the Clerk, however after the questions were sent to him, he never responded. An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that on or around April 2019, the Clerk to Parliament, subsequent to the submission he made in Parliament before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) regarding the issue of the car held a meeting with the Senate President and one Parliament employee identified as Celumusa Khoza. Parliament sources disclosed that it was during that meeting were the Presiding Officer expressed concerns that the Clerk made these submissions that saw the media focusing on her despite knowing how this arrangement came into being. Furthermore, it was during that meetings were it was disclosed that the Dlamini suspects the Senate President was plotting to remove him as Clerk to Parliament in favor of JC member. Reached for comments, Senate President Pastor Lindiwe Dlamini said she was not aware of the plot but learned through the newspapers that Clerk to Parliament submitted before the PAC that he had difficulty working with her. The Presiding Officer said the sentiments of the Clerk were serious because Parliament remains an important arm of government that requires professionalism and a culture of excellence. "I am not aware of any plot but have read through newspapers as per submissions made by the Clerk before the PAC that he had difficulty working with me. Parliament is a very important arm of government that requires professionalism and a culture of excellence. This requires a change in the mindset for an effective management, which is what we are busy with. " said the Senate President.

Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane also shared similar sentiments when speaking to this Swaziland News on the subject matter but he further emphasized the importance of Parliament in the economic evolution of the country. "Parliament and Cabinet are the economic axis of the economic evolution of the country and any perpetual disorder there would not be in the interest of the country" said the Government Spokesperson. Reached for comments, Themba Msibi, the former Speaker in the House of Assembly said it was clear now who was responsible for creating division in Parliament and plotting to unseat him. Msibi, who is now the Regional Administrator for Lubombo region survived a political "tsunami" that was seeking to remove him from his position. The former Speaker said what he noted was that the same strategy was being used on the Senate President as even in his case, the media was focusing on him with series of scandalous articles. "It is clear now who this person is. Before, there was a serious conflict in Parliament perpetrated through the media and the blame was on me and Gelane. Now we are no longer there but the ship continues to sink. What I note here is that the same strategy that was used against me is being used on the current Presiding Officer. In my case, the media would focus on me and target my reputation and I'm grateful to King that I survived the political challenges and later given another assignment. Now we expect unity in Parliament because the people who were sinking the ship being former Presiding Officers are no longer there" he said.