Powerful Swazi Prince removes, bans Councilors from standing for elections



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE: A senior member of the Royal family in the Kingdom of Swaziland (eSwatini) has issued an order dissolving and banning elected Councilors of the Matsapha Municipality from standing for elections after a recommendation by a Commission of Inquiry.

Prince Simelane, a former Army General and brother to King Mswati made the order in his capacity as the Minister of Housing and Urban Development. He based his decision on the Urban Government Act 1969, an outdated law whose provisions, election experts say, does not only undermine the Constitution but SADC Principles on Election and Governance and the African Union (AU) Charter on Democracy. In a letter addressed to one of the Councilors Bongani Mkhatjwa, the Prince said he was dissolving the Matsapha Council with immediate effect. "Pursuant to recommendations in the report of the Commission of Inquiry and your representation to myself, I hereby make the following order. The Matsapha Town Council is hereby dissolved with immediate effect. Your are therefore advised that your Councillorship is terminated and are(sick) not eligible to stand for elections a Councilor for any period until 2022" reads the letter signed by Minister Prince Simelane

Reached for comments, Clifford Mamba, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said the Prince acted within the confines of the law when making the order. “Those who are saying the dismissal of the Councilors is unconstitutional must clear state how because we followed all the due process of the law before firing them. This is not the first time we are doing this and we are surprised that now because its Matsapha, then it’s unconstitutional, we have done this in other Municipalities” said the Principal Secretary. But Macdonald Chipenzi, the Executive Director of the Governance, Elections, Advocacy and Research Service (GEARS) in Zambia described the decision by the Prince as undemocratic. Speaking to this Swaziland News, Chipenzi said electoral democracy suggests that the people should be consulted before an elected person is removed from power. “It is undemocratic and goes against electoral democracy. Electoral democracy requires that the electorates are consulted before an elected person is from power. Therefore, not knowing the rules existing in the country governing elections and those elected, the Act defeats the tenets of democracy in Swaziland” said the SADC Elections and Governance expert. Chipenzi further mentioned that the letter from Prince Simelane and the section cited was a clear indication that Eswatini has a long way to globally accepted tenets of democracy. “Reading through the termination letter and the section of the law cited, it is clear that eSwatini has a long way to globally accepted tenets of democracy” he said.

Even though Section 84(1) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Eswatini guarantees the rights of the people to be represented by their chosen representatives in the government, Minster Prince Simelane allegedly stripped the people their right and dissolved the elected Councilors. “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the people of Swaziland have a right to be heard through and represented by their own chosen representatives in the government of the country” reads Section 84(1) of the Constitution. When asked by this Swaziland News on why the Ministry used a law that violates the Constitution, Principal Secretary Clifford Mamba consistently maintained that everything they did was within the law.

“You will note that even the Chairman of the Commission was appointed by the office of the Attorney General (AG). Therefore, I don’t think such highest and reputable office of the AG can approve a process that undermines the Constitution” said the Principal Secretary. Reached for comments, Sandlane Zwane, the Matsapha Mayor who was ousted by the Prince said the AG should be blamed and wondered how he should be trusted with giving advice to the King if he approved the dismissal of elected Councilors.

“The Attorney General is 100% responsible for this corruption and undemocratic advice to the Minister. How can we trust him to advice His Majesty the King and Parliament? He should be fired together with the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Housing. Remember what happened to former President Jacob Zuma when he was found to have failed to uphold and protect the Constitution, the ANC got rid of him” said the ousted Mayor. Zwane, a former member of the Swazi National Council (SNC) who was also instrumental in the process of drafting the Constitution noted that power does corrupt people but people corrupt power. “Power does not corrupt people instead people corrupt power. Eswatini is a democratic state so I urge the Prime Minister to demonstrate to the country’s electorate and the whole world that they shall never tolerate dictatorship in the government, he must crack the whip to restore confidence” he said.

But Sifiso Khumalo, the Attorney General when reached for comments by this Swaziland News said all his advises to government and departments are in writing. He said if the copy of the correspondence where he is accused of advising the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to fire the Councilors doesn’t exist, then it means the isssue doesn’t exist. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t like to talk for the sake of making news. If it doesn’t exist, then the issue doesn’t exist” said the Government Principal Legal Advisor. When this publication made efforts to reach Minister Prince Simelane for a comment, his phone rang answered, however he later returned the call and this journalist informed him that Principal Secretary Clifford had already commented on his behalf and the Ministry.

“Nawutfole Mamba- ke, PS, utfole umuntfu lokahle ngoba nguye lowati konkhe, tsine nje sisebo new one Nkhosi sisefika ngabo labatiko (meaning: Its best that you have spoken to the PS, he knows everything as you know I’m still new in the Ministry. He knows everything regarding the matter)” said the Minister.