ESWATINI WILL NEVER BE THE SAME

Observer on Saturday - - Front Page -

I vividly re­mem­ber back in 2008 when His Majesty the King re-ap­pointed him as the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter, the man­date he gave him at Sibaya was clear. The King needed some­one of a strong char­ac­ter, some­one who will be able to face the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic chal­lenges of the time. He had no other but the late Prime Min­is­ter Dr. Barn­abas Sibu­siso Dlamini.

Com­ing back from my two months of na­tional duty I would have loved to share my ex­pe­ri­ences as an as­pir­ing Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and share my life­time lessons from in­ter­ac­tions with the elec­torate.

How­ever, the demise of the coun­try’s long­est serv­ing prime min­is­ter in our 50 years of in­de­pen­dence, Dr. Barn­abas Sibu­siso Dlamini dic­tates that I re­flect on his life and shelve my ex­pe­ri­ences for an­other day.

It is im­por­tant that from the on­set we state the ob­vi­ous. The late Prime Min­is­ter had just fin­ished his sec­ond term un­der the new Con­sti­tu­tion which for the first time in­tro­duced a new el­e­ment into our po­lit­i­cal space that any­one who has served for two con­sec­u­tive terms was no- longer el­i­gi­ble for re-ap­point­ment.

One time long­est serv­ing Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ma­jozi Sithole was the first politi­cians, who de­spite his age per­mit­ting found him­self not el­i­gi­ble to serve in the 2013-2018 Par­lia­ment.

More min­is­ters who served in the pre­vi­ous Par­lia­ment like Prince Hlan­gusempi, Princess Tsandzile, Jab­ulile Mash­wama, Pas­tor Lindiwe Dlamini and Chief Mg­wagwa Gamedze were to join the late prime min­is­ter led team in not qual­i­fy­ing to be con­sid­ered for po­lit­i­cal of­fice this time around hav­ing served their two con­sec­u­tive terms.

So in short we knew that po­lit­i­cally at least for the next five years, it was game over for him and we ex­pected as we do, to have a fresh face as leader of gov­ern­ment busi­ness.

We were also aware that he fin­ished his last few months in of­fice not well, but did not mean that we ex­pected him to go so early af­ter hav­ing fin­ished his po­lit­i­cal as­sign­ment.

We would have been happy with him around as the le­gend of Eswatini pol­i­tics to pro­vide coun­sel to the au­thor­i­ties or whoso­ever is ap­pointed into the po­si­tion of prime min­is­ter.

In his life­time he has done two unique things whilst he served in the coun­try’s high­est of­fice. This is a prime min­is­ter who served the coun­try in this po­si­tion for 17 years. His first full-term was be­tween the years 1998-2003 hav­ing been ap­pointed in late 1996. His sec­ond term was in 2008 to 2013 and then the most re­cent one which was 2013-2018. It was at the end of his sec­ond term where he pro­duced a re­port which ac­counted for his five years in of­fice. This was to work as a han­dover to the next prime min­is­ter, who hap­pened to be him. Just be­fore he fin­ished his third term, he pub­lished a book re­count­ing his jour­ney as the prime min­is­ter of the King­dom. So far, no prime min­is­ter had pub­lished a book about his work.

Chal­lenges

This is a man, who de­spite many chal­lenges, vic­to­ries and de­feats wanted to en­sure that he en­graved his legacy in a book.

At least, he did not want his story to be told by other peo­ple, but him­self.

He died promis­ing to de­liver a sec­ond in­stall­ment of his book once he has re­tired from pol­i­tics.

This is a man many loved to hurt. He was a trust­wor­thy ser­vant of the King and coun­try. He pro­jected him­self as the man of the mo­ment, a no-non­sense man.

I vividly re­mem­ber back in 2008 when His Majesty the King re-ap­pointed him as the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter, the man­date he gave him at Sibaya was clear. The King needed some­one of a strong char­ac­ter, some­one who will be able to face the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic chal­lenges of the time. He had no other but the late Prime Min­is­ter Dr. Barn­abas Sibu­siso Dlamini.

De­spite ex­pressed crit­i­cism of his lead­er­ship style in 2013, the King still felt he was the man to take the coun­try for­ward and re-ap­pointed him much against ex­pected pub­lic opin­ion.

This is a man who de­fined him­self as the light­en­ing ar­rester and in many dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions the coun­try faced, he came for­ward and took re­spon­si­bil­ity for ev­ery­thing that hap­pened.

In­fa­mous

This in­cluded the in­fa­mous Novem­ber 28, 2002 state­ment, where he over­turned the Court of Ap­peal rul­ing on the evicted peo­ple of Mkhweli and Macetjeni.

He died still de­fend­ing that po­si­tion say­ing that was the best de­ci­sion which was in the coun­try’s best in­ter­est.

Whether good or bad, the late prime min­is­ter has shaped to­day’s Eswatini’s po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic life.

He was the man for the mo­ment and we will never have some­one in his mold. There will al­ways be one Dr. Barn­abas Sibu­siso Dlamini.

Like all peo­ple, he was fal­li­ble. He had his own bad mo­ments. But in the main, his short­com­ings were de­fined by his own char­ac­ter of al­ways ap­pear­ing strong and a per­son who did not ac­cept de­feat.

Whilst de­fend­ing him­self, he would be ac­cused of abus­ing his pow­ers in­clud­ing cer­tain State agen­cies to en­sure that his will gets done.

At times some of his fights with in­di­vid­u­als or in­sti­tu­tions re­sulted in af­fect­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery. We can talk here of his fall­outs with Par­lia­ment (in par­tic­u­lar his two con­sec­u­tive terms), the Ju­di­ciary (which even­tual saw the dis­missal of then Chief Jus­tice Micheal Ramod­ibedi (Bhova) and some cab­i­net min­is­ters.

For­mer jus­tice and con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs min­is­ter sen­a­tor Sibu­siso Shongwe can au­thor a book about his much pub­li­cised fall­out with the late prime min­is­ter.

This a prime min­is­ter who de­fended the teach­ing of Chris­tian­ity in our pub­lic schools against the idea of pro­mot­ing re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion, which was be­com­ing more ac­cept­able to all reli­gions.

His de­ci­sions came at a high cost, but be­ing him, it was a de­ci­sion he had to take uni­lat­er­ally.

The late Prime Min­is­ter knew his story and when he faced the me­dia, he was well pre­pared for all kinds of ques­tions.

Sim­i­larly, it was the same case when he ap­peared in Par­lia­ment. He was al­ways ready and used all tricks avail­able to him to win bat­tles.

As a coun­try we have learnt a lot from his legacy and I am sure we take lessons from all the things he did whilst still oc­cu­py­ing the po­si­tion of prime min­is­ter.

He was no apol­o­gists. He would take a de­ci­sion and stand by it no mat­ter what hap­pens. This is one of the rea­sons that made him so pop­u­lar with the coun­try’s au­thor­i­ties.

He was in­deed the light­en­ing ar­rester. The book he au­thored can only give us a side of the man we knew to the coun­try’s long­est serv­ing Prime Min­is­ter. How­ever, as peo­ple he has touched us in many ways and only we can cor­rectly de­fine the legacy he leaves be­hind. Hamba Kahle Mlan­geni!

You served the King and coun­try in the best pos­si­ble way you could.

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