MBABANE: Victor Malambe, the Mhlume Member of Parliament (MP) allegedly bowed to royal pressure and withdrew a motion that seeks to force Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini to lift the ban on alcohol.
On or around 18thSeptember 2020, this Swaziland News reported that King Mswati allegedly manipulated COVID-19 regulations to ban alcohol threatening multi-million investments by Eswatini Beverages and other liquor outlets after learning that the industry was generating more revenue, but few millions reached his pocket through shares and the traditional custom known as kwetfula(presenting gifts to the King)
On Monday, Speaker Petros Mavimbela informed Members of Parliament (MPs) that the motion cannot be debated because the mover decided to withdraw it, he was responding to Ndzingeni MP Lutfo Dlamini who asked who asked why the motion was not included in the order paper.
“Speaker, you previously indicated that motion No 16 of 2020 will be debated in this sitting but I can’t find it in the order paper” said the Ndzingeni MP
An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that the decision to ban the alcohol was not taken by Cabinet but it came straight from the King, desperate pleas from influential Ministers to convince him to lift the ban allegedly fell on deaf ears.
Reached for comments, Thamsanqa Hlatswako, the Secretary General of the Swaziland National Liquor Association (SNLA) said the MP did not inform them why he decided to withdraw the motion, he confirmed that everything around this matter was being frustrated by the government.
“ The MP did not inform us regarding the reasons that forced him to withdraw the motion, but it seems everything around this matter is being frustrated by the government, even the protest march that we organized last Friday to force the PM to lift the ban on alcohol was stopped,” said the Liquor Association Secretary General.
Royal insiders disclosed that initially, the King wanted alcohol to be banned until November to force the investors to seek audience with him so he can demand more shares cash. Despite hosting his Umhlanga ritual reed dance ceremony in August 2020 in the midst of the epidemic, where hundreds of girls attended, he used the rise in the COVID-19 cases as a justification to ban alcohol.
On or around 05 September 2020, the King, through Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini announced the extension of the ban on the production and distribution of liquor for the duration of the month, he did not commit himself that the ban might be lifted thereafter.
“That decision will be informed by the behavior of this highly unpredictable virus over the course of this month” said the Prime Minister who was speaking on behalf of the King.
But the Legal and Corporate Affairs department within Eswatini Beverages headed by Mpumelelo Makhubu published a statement on digital media that demonstrated the company’s frustrations over the matter, warning that the alcohol industry in the country was unable to survive the extended suspension of alcohol sales.
“If it continues, it will contribute to the growing poverty, hunger and mortality rates in the very communities it aims to protect. Thousands of people are at risk right now. It’s not just people at big alcohol brands that will suffer-this will have devasting effects on small taven owners, restaurant employees, bars and liquor stores as well as SMMEs, packaging and logistics companies across Eswatini. We urgently need to find a solution, and we are ready to help,” read the statement from Eswatini Beverages.