Matsapha Commission report findings amounts to political dictatorship.



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

The recent report by the Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the Matsapha Municipality and the subsequent dismissal of the Councilors does not only undermine the will of the ratepayers but an eye opener on how the Executive arm of Government interferes in governance of the various Municipalities.

It should further be noted that the decision by Prince Simelane and officials in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to establish a Commission with the intention of removing elected Councilors does not only violates the SADC Principles on Elections and Governance but the African Union Charter on Democracy.

Under normally circumstances, democracy suggests that elected individuals remains accountable to the people; however in this country we are seeing government officials given powers to decide the future of individuals who were entrusted by the ratepayers to govern the various Municipalities. In light of the aforementioned, it is of paramount importance to note that Councilors execute powers delegated to them by the people as per the basic principles and values of democracy.

The power vested to the people as per democratic principles suggests that elected individuals can be mandated to govern or removed from power through the ballot box not what we witnessing in this country, to be precise, what is happening here is political dictatorship. As I write this article, I am struggling to understand what type of democracy is practiced in this country and whether Prince Simelane and Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini understands how the Matsapha mess will reflect in the eyes of the international community. Some of us who attend meetings for journalists at international level, we sometimes questioned by colleagues to explain the type of democracy that is practiced in this country. I must say, we have a tough time trying to defend this country and I would appreciate to be lectured on what type of democracy is this. It seems as country we mislead ourselves, branded our political system “Monarchial Democracy” as a diplomat way to pool the wool in the eyes of the international community.

Is it democracy when Councilors within all the Municipalities risk being dissolved by the Prince for doing their job as mandated by the ratepayers? This country is a huge joke and as the situation stands it is a waste of time to hold Local Government elections and elect Councilors who will then be at the mercy of officials and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development.

But we shouldn't blame Prince Simelane for this mess; the Urban Government Act was structured in a manner that subjects Councilors under the control the Minister of Housing and Urban Development. Under normal circumstances, the local government should work independently with the Councilors assuming powers equivalent to Members of Parliament to formulate developmental policies in the interest of the ratepayers. Councilors should execute their duties in line with the Standing Orders and or the legal framework that stipulates their duties. Now, we have a very embarrassing investigation report whose findings recommended that the Matsapha Councilors should be dissolved and one of the reasons according to the findings of the Commission is that they disagree and as a result, can no longer work together, what an unjust, shameful and undemocratic recommendation!. It should be noted that in every working environment, it is very rare for people not to disagree because they hold different opinions and have different approach on issues.

But subsequent to the recommendation of the Commission whose constitutionality remains questionable, we witnessed Minister Prince Simelane summoning Councilors to what looked like a disciplinary hearing, he subsequently fired them. This means, the Minister and his officials strongly believe these Councilors were their employees and as such, they were regulated through the provisions of the Employment Act, what type of "nonsense" is this? The way this matter was handled it was clear that the Minister was preparing to fire the Councilors and replace them with appointed ones who will then be loyal to him and his officials. It most instances, the appointed Councilors becomes a conduit pipe for officials in the Ministry and various political syndicates to loot ratepayers with impunity.

This is what has been happening in the other Municipalities where ratepayer’s money is looted and Councilors cannot do anything because Town Clerks are accountable to the Ministry, why are we destroying this country? How can officials in the Ministry and their political head have powers to fire Councilors elected by the people merely on findings of a Commission of Inquiry whose establishment undermine the provisions of the Constitution? It should be noted that in almost all the Municipalities around the country, Councilors are stripped of their powers by officials within the Housing Ministry, this then leaves more questions on whether as country we understand how a Local Government should function.. Firstly we need to understand that these Councilors were elected by the people and as such any law or policy that allows an individual to just wake up in the morning and dissolve these elected individuals through such “kangaroo Commissions” does not only undermine the will of the people but confirms that this country is indeed a dictatorship State.

Under a democratic political system, Councilors may be referred to as “Members of a Local Government Parliament” and they are capable of using relevant legislations and policies to solve their misunderstanding without the interference of the Executive. In this regard, the Mayor must enjoy powers equivalent to that of Speaker and or a Board Chairman in the corporate governance structure. For this reason, the people with interests in the governance of the Municipalities are the ratepayers and investors who own properties in various cities and for the Ministry to then violate their democratic right in this manner and stripped them their powers to decide who should represent them as Councilors will hit this country hard in terms of investor confidence.

Investors and donors that are now crucial in the sustainability of this broke government wants an open, transparent, just and democratic government and it would be hard for a dictatorship State like this one to attract investors. It should be noted that some of the investors who establish their businesses within the towns automatically develop an interest on how the Municipalities are governed. In this regard, the Urban Act should be challenged in court and declared unconstitutional if it allows the Ministry to have absolute powers over Councilors elected by people. The way things are happening within the Municipalities, suggest that Town Clerks might engage in corruption with impunity knowing that when questioned by the Councilors, the Ministry will intervene. Let me hasten to state that the recent Matsapha Commission was not only unconstitutional but it further violated the fundamental values and principles of investigation based on the following grounds: An investigation by its nature is a process of establishing facts and gathering of evidence to substantiate allegations of wrongdoing.

It is therefore important that from the very beginning, the investigation should be grounded under the values of the rule of law and or the principles of natural justice. This includes by not limited to disclose of any conflict of interest that might exist during the course of the investigation and this process should not undermine the right to human dignity. But then, during the Matsapha Municipality Commission, we saw the media targeting individuals by publishing testimonial evidence linking other Councilors to corruption, those implicated were never given the platform or notified regarding their right to cross-examine witnesses. Furthermore, the mere fact that this Commission was established by the Ministry that was then expected to appoint interim Councilors after dissolving the elected ones suggests that the process was not only grounded outside the constitutional framework but with undeclared conflict of interests.

But then we shouldn't blame Principal Secretary Clifford Mamba and his Minister Prince Simelane, the problem is the way the law governing our Municipalities was structured; it takes the power from the people's representatives and allows the Ministry to interfere and or dissolve the Councilors. It is surprising that as a country we still using outdated laws like the Urban Government Act 1969, what’s significance of the Constitution then if its violated by the very same government with impunity?

I may not agree with the way Councilors Bongani Mamba, Sandlane Zwane and the Councilors conducted themselves in addressing some of the matters that forced the Ministry to intervene, but who have the power to remove them if they were trusted by the people? In conclusion, let me state that the way things are happening in this country should be a concern to every Swazi who love this Kingdom. There's clear evidence that this country is indeed a dictatorship State where elected individuals could be removed anytime. We need collectively work together and rebuild the economy of our country for a better life for all not these political fighting that undermines the image of the country at international level.