Swazi Governing Councils (Emabandla) to cash over E500million from public coffers



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE: Newly appointed members of the Swazi Governing Councils (Emabandla) will cash over E500million from public coffers in respect of salaries and sitting allowances for the next coming five years.

King Mswati through the Attorney General(AG) Sifiso Khumalo announced the newly appointed members of various Councils and Commissions that are dominated by members of the Royal family including his own children, each member is expected to cash approximately E60,000.00 per monthly in salaries and allowances. This means taxpayers should prepare a budget of about E6million per month and or about E100million per year, the budget will subsequently accumulate to about E500million in the next coming five years. Even though the appointees shouted "Bayethe"(Hail to the King) in appreciation, pro-democracy activists and trade union leaders heavily criticized the King for these appointments that comes as a tax burden to the impoverished Swazis. Most citizens’ even professionals are sinking in debts as a result of low wages, high inflation and heavy taxes. In Swaziland (now eSwatini), about 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, with less than $1,00 per day. The appointments come at the time when government offered civil servants 0.0% while increasing Value Added Tax (VAT) and prices of basic services, this came under heavy criticism from trade unions and political activists.

But Swazi Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane, when responding to questions from this Swaziland News said the country will continue to have these Councils so long as the reasons to establish them are still relevant. He was asked by this journalist to provide responses on whether the country needs these Councils under the current economic situation. “If the reason for which Emabandla (Councils) were started is still relevant, then I believe we will continue to have them appointed from time to time. My thinking as to whether or not Emabandla are still relevant would be misplaced if the need to have them is still potent and is in the best interest of the country” said the Swazi Government Spokesperson.

The Councils that were announced by King Mswati through the AG among others, include the Swazi National Council (SNC) one of the most powerful and advisory bodies to the King, the Ludzidzini Council that works directly with the Queen Mother particularly on matters of Swazi Law and Custom, the Boarder Restoration Committee (BRC) tasked with negotiating the return of land from South Africa and Mozambique. Other bodies include Teaching Service Commission (TSC) the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the Land Management Board and the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) among others. The appointments suggest that the said over E500million will circulate and be enjoyed among members of the Royal family as a majority of those appointed are the Kings brothers, sons, daughters and friends of the Royal family.

Reached for comments, Sikelela Dlamini, the Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) said the country should prepare for tough times ahead as those appointed by the King are his own children, friends, siblings and chiefs among others. He said the appointment suggests that millions of public funds will go down the drain as these appointees were merely 'rubber stamps'. Dlamini made an example of the Swazi National Council(SNC) saying the body has over the years failed to provide proper advice to the King resulting to the country experiencing an economic crisis.

"These councils are superfluous. This time around the situation will be worse as those appointed are his children, siblings, chiefs, close family friends and men of cloth, people who will never advise justly" said the SNAT Secretary General.

Dlamini added that if the work of these Councils were important, the country wouldn't be in a financial crisis. He said as the situation stands, government claims there’s no money to pay civil servants and the country is accumulating debts that currently stands at over E10billion. Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, the Executive Director of the Coordination Assembly of Non Governmental Organization(CANGO) said the decision by the King to announce these councils at the time when the country was in serious financial crisis suggests that those in power want to continue enjoying life while the majority of the citizens remain in poverty.

“With the country bleeding economically,a call for national sacrifices including civil servants who did not receive an increment. With a call for patience, these appointments are a clear signal that our leaders want to continue enjoying life while the rest of the people suffer. We are called upon to be taxed more clearly to finance a few to enjoy better life whilst the rest of the population suffers. Unfortunately, this is done in the glare of the international donors who spend millions trying to help this government. No donor unfortunately is prepared to support a government whose resources are wasted. What is currently happening in this country is very sad” said the CANGO Executive Director.

But Kenneth Dlamini, an editor of the Swazi Observer, in his article, said the decision by the King to appoint his children to the various councils was an indication that he cares for the youth of the country. Dlamini, a member of the Swaziland Editors Forum said King Mswati demonstrated his love for the youth when he first appointed Princess Sikhanyiso as a Cabinet Minister.

“One can only commend His Majesty for the direction he is leading the country to in the last six months. Crucially, the King has also proved that he is willing to give the youth a chance by appointing them to committees. We first saw this when the King appointed Princess Sikhanyiso, who is now Minister for ICT, into Senate. His Majesty has followed that by appointing Princess Temaswati, Prince Majaha, Princess Temtsimba and Princess Tiyandza to Liqoqo, the Ludzidzini Council and Board of Trustees. Princess Temaswati is a member of Liqoqo while Prince Majaha and Princess Temtsimba are members of Ludzidzini Council” writes the Observer editor in his column dated 14 April 2019.

Lucky Lukhele, the Spokesperson for the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) said most of these Commissions and or Councils are meant to strengthen and promote nepotism in favor of the Royal family.

“I would make reference to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) tasked to recruit on behalf of the government. These Commission normally have a list of job- seekers from the Royal family that include friends and relatives of the King’s wives, Princes and Princes who are then prioritized for employment,(kutsiwa laba-ke besigodlo, kucalwe ngabo bacashwe). You will be shocked to learn that the questions they are asked during the interviews have nothing to do with the employment. They are normally asked the names of their Chiefs and how many times they attended National events like Umhlanga Reed Dance and then they get employed, can you imagine? Why will you need a Civil Service Board when Principal Secretaries can hire people on their own and have the expertise to interview them?” said the SNN Spokesperson. Lukhele described the various Councils (Emabandla) as a “fattening Ranch” designed to feed people who are related to the King.

“About 90% of the people who are appointed, its either they are coming from the Royal family or they are related to the King , which on its own I found it extremely against our own culture because Cultural, you don’t surround yourself and get advices from your family. You rather have one or two but the people that must be there should come from all the sectors of the society as a demonstration from the King that he values the advises from the Swazi Nation that he leads” he said.

Some of the children of the King who were appointed to the senior advisory committees include Princess Temaswati and Prince Majaha who made it to the Swazi National Council (SNC), an advisory body to the King and Ludzidzini Council respectively. Others include Chiefs, senior members of the Royal family, and relatives of King Mswati’s wives and long time loyalists that include former Security Chiefs.