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SENATE ON THE BRINK OF EXPLOSION

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By Alec Lushaba - THE SWAZI OBSERVER-08-Aug-2009

SENATE ON THE BRINK OF EXPLOSION

This is by no means an act of defiance on my part to the Honourable Senators, but natural justice and duty calls that we reflect on the Senate Select Committee report which sought to determine whether Senate was brought into disrepute by the incident that happened at Pigg’s Peak Orion Hotel on Monday 30th March, 2009.

In an act of showing public protest, Senator Ndileka Dlamini is said to have walked out of the room just when Senate President Gelane Zwane was about to make her address, letting out some distasteful remarks in the process, directed at the Senate President.

For argument sake, let’s agree that that what the Senator did was wrong and had she had any grievance against the President, proper structures should have been engaged as an honourable member to address it.

I am, however, aware, reading from the report, that the Senator alerted her colleagues about the matter to the point of the Deputy President being aware but nothing formal was done.

misuse

But what concerns me and hopefully many others who followed the media reports this week, is not the Senator’s act per se, but the misuse of an institution by those who have to protect it to settle their scores.

I say this because the Select Committee was supposed to investigate whether Senate or Parliament’s image was brought into disrepute by the behaviour or better put misconduct of Senator Ndileka. What we get from the report and what it recommends is not what they were set out to do. What they ended up doing was to investigate the merits of the misconduct, which the Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku, acting in his capacity as the representative of the Prime Minister had done and thought had closed the chapter. But because that act had already let many Senators that had to be sorted off the hook, a way had to be found to revive the matter and be brought to Senate.

From where I stand, judging by the comments of the many Senators who appeared before the Committee, including the DPM and the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Lutfo Dlamini, there was no need for this ‘flawed’ motion to go through Senate, in the form that it was.

In order to put the matter into context, let me explain my point of view. Senator President Gelane Zwane is in her second term as President of Senate having succeeded Moses Mathendele Dlamini who in the previous administration was appointed Foreign Affairs and Trade minister. Senator Gelane was, as it is today, to be deputised by Senator Ngom’yayona Gamedze. It has been like that and it would seem, they worked well together judging by their public disposition in the previous term.

Senator Gelane, who is otherwise an acting Chief of KoNtshingila, was elected President amid court and traditional set-up battles fighting for her chieftaincy throne.

We have had many stories and allegations of sinister moves to oust her and her battles to remain in charge.

insecurity

Reading from the report, you get a sense of insecurity from the President’s part and maybe her conduct, which was unfortunately not addressed by the Select Committee despite being mentioned by some Senators including the DPM, who said her chief and Senate President can talk in a threatening or intimidating tone at times.

The issue of the President and her deputy not seeing eye-to-eye was not public knowledge, until it was reported and even suggested by the Select Committee that in an event the report is tabled for adoption, the Deputy President should not preside over it because he too is an interested party.

It is now difficult to determine which part makes him so much of an interest party that he could not preside over the matter. Is it because the matter was brought to his attention or that the President is not comfortable to have her rivalry could use it to his advantage? I suspect the latter. Senator Ndileka is an unfortunate scapegoat who found herself being caught up in grand political fights, which she never intended.

expulsion

From the President’s insecurities, it appears the Senator Ndileka’s case was that she needed to show everyone that she was still in charge of Senate and anyone who fails to toe the line faces expulsion or even suspension. Let me state that a simple case of individuals not getting alone does not warrant a select committee to investigate. That they beat up each other inside or outside the Parliamentary precinct does not warrant an investigation.

There have been major issues that were thought to have brought the image of Parliament into disrepute before and Parliamentarians wisely decided not to entertain them or be involved.

In the 7th Parliament, there was an issue of Speaker Mgabhi Dlamini who was caught collecting cow dung at Ludzidzini Cattle Byre unauthorised. His issue was viewed seriously by authorities and cabinet had to persuade him to resign from his position. Parliament declined to be involved. At the beginning of the term of the 8th Parliament, there was also another ‘Mafutseni’ scandal, where Lobamba MP Marwick Khumalo was also asked to resign from his position and again Parliament decided that it would not entertain the matter. Senator Themba Msibi, who was a member in this case, was also investigated by Cabinet in a similar case of bringing cabinet into disrepute on the infamous ‘Kai Kai’ scandal and was cleared by an independent investigator of the charge.

In this case, therefore, what was it that brought the Senate into disrepute, the insults and walk out or that it was the President the protest was directed to or both? Senator Moi Moi Masilela genuinely asked the committee how many cases they were going to investigate if a minor case of two individuals not getting along can be treated in the manner this one has? This is what makes me to conclude that this matter is bigger than Senator Ndileka. She is just a victim of grand politics which now tend to play themselves out to the public. This entire report should be dismissed and will make a mockery of an honourable upper chamber because it is baseless, besides being flawed.

tensions But that will not normalise the tensions in Senate. What Senate now needs is to recall the President and the Deputy President from their positions. It is clear that the tensions are now high and, therefore, they can no longer execute their work diligently, but instead will waste the remaining four years of their term frustrating each other, giving favours to friends and reprimanding their foes. This is more so if such power can be used in a manner that will reprimand all those who are not in your camp.

Senate must take responsibility and correct this mess by doing the honourable thing. At the rate things are going, if the situation is not effectively addressed, Senator Thulile Msane may soon get her silencer and do what she has threatened to do if her alleged petition to remove the President fails. I hope the Senators are honourable enough to see through this so-called Senator Ndileka’s investigation and act on their own problems honestly and objectively before they disgrace themselves and the appointing authority.


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