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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Paying Chiefs salaries will be a waste of public resources.

Wednesday, 20th September, 2023

Dear Mr Editor.

Kindly publish my opinion on your widely read news publication

Allow me to share with the public my ferventconcerns on the calls that chiefs must be enrolled in the government payroll system.

 It is so disappointing to say the least that amid the lot of challenges facing the people of this country requiring financial resources, there are people who want to waste them and reward individuals who have no single purpose in the development of our society. I have nodoubt that it is not ordinary Swazis who are making this senseless call: in fact, I am persuaded to believe that it could be King Mswati himself who is initiating this discourse with a view of introducing a loyalty package for chiefs to cement hisrepressive ruling apparatus. 

If this is to be done as it holds high chances under Tinkhundla because the system is a habitual enactor of worst decisions, it will extend a heavyeconomic burden to the taxpayer.

Figures sourced from the Elections and Boundaries Commission’s website suggest that there are 336 chiefdoms in the country currently. If chiefs were to be given a salary, that will surely be above what Tindvuna tetinkhundla are being paid considering that the traditional status of chiefs is above that of local government officials.

Tindvuna tetinkhundla are being paid fifteen thousand emalangeni (E15 000) per months at present as per the Finance Circular No.2 of 2013, this means that the salary you may expect for a chief can be at aminimum of twenty thousand emalangeni (E20 000). At this minimum value, the taxpayer will lose 6.7 million per month and 80.6 million per annum to chiefs salaries.

 This will be at the minimum and it could be worse if the monthly value is above 20 000 and it does not take into account other benefits including car allowancestheir insurance and maintenance costs. For Tindvuna tetinkhundla, the circular provides that they receive an annual motor vehicle allowance of E90 000 and motor vehicle maintenance and insurance of E67 500each.

Imagine this same value when it is extended to 336 people. Paying chiefs can also pave a way for incrementally incorporating Tindvuna temcuba in the system in future as they can make a strong argument for their services if the none-services of chiefs is rewarded. If 336 chiefs are paid at theestimated rate, it means that the country would be losing either two states of the art and fully equipped schools or even clinics per month to the salaries of chiefs. 

You can as wellimagine the number of students such amount can cater foreither in extending free education to high schools or supplementing grants to tertiary institutions. These and other examples add to the so many development opportunities we are missing while we fund the opulence of the royal family. 

Some people without applying sense usually argue in support of traditional authorities mentioning that chiefs in eSwatini are the decision makers, dispute resolvers, land allocators and cultural compasses for those residing in their chiefdom and thereby qualifying them as key role players in development.However, the fact is that the mere existence of chiefs does not translate to efficient development, there is no correlation between the existence of a chief in a certain territory and development. 

If there is anything we have practically witnessed, is that traditional authorities in particular chiefs have been a hindrance to the development many say they aid. The dwelling mess in rural areas and farms that has led to forced evictions of many eMaswati has been caused by chiefs. Land grabbing of widows’ lands and orphans has been in many cases sanctioned by chiefs, development initiatives in chieftaincy disputed land remain in limbo in many parts of the country and chiefs are at the centre of that chaos. Ask those who have lived under the late Malamulela Magagula at Dvokolwako, Gasa Wangwane at Ndunayithini and those who are living under Mashampu Khumalo today how it feels to live with a chief. 

What is there then to reward? It can only be king Mswati who think of rewarding chiefs because they are his footstools carrying the mandate of his oppression. 

If there is anything that we should be calling for as people, is a people led and democratic development where rewards will be based on clearly defined development assignments and not to pay people salaries based on baseless birthright.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Paying Chiefs salaries will be a waste of public resources.
Nceka uMphakatsi.