ASIAN PROBE: THE SUMS DON’T ADD UP

Sunday Observer - - FEATURES - BY MBON­GENI MBINGO

Iam yet to go through that so­called Asian Probe Re­port. I have not yet found the time for it, in be­tween my busy sched­ule and my be­ing away from the of­fice. But, I do know I am in­ter­ested in hav­ing a look at it.

I am par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested be­cause what I have gleamed so far from the re­ports seems a lot more ques­tion­able than the as­sem­bling of the very probe team. It leaves one with so many ques­tions, but more im­por­tantly—and which is why I am in­ter­ested—it seems to have gone for some­one’s head—An­thony Masilela. Oh and the two other of­fi­cials, the chief im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer and the po­lice of­fi­cer.

Noth­ing more. No one else. No other big fish—if at all the afore­men­tioned gov­ern­ment of­fi­cers are in­deed big fish. I got the sense, from read­ing the news­pa­per re­ports, that th­ese find­ings by the Par­lia­ment port­fo­lio com­mit­tee does not be­gin to tell me what I didn’t know al­ready; like what was not out there long be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched.

It does noth­ing to give me the ra­tio­nale for how only th­ese of­fi­cials are fin­gered; how the prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary in the min­istry of home af­fairs can be the mas­ter­mind for such cor­rup­tion for all th­ese years with­out any­one else in top gov­ern­ment po­si­tions get­ting in on the act. You know how cor­rup­tion works; es­pe­cially in this coun­try; where there is a rot, there are many peo­ple, all wait­ing to get their hands dirty. They know each other, they work to­gether and more im­por­tantly, they pro­tect each other.

In the case of the il­le­gal im­mi­grants, es­pe­cially the fact that we all know many Asian na­tion­als are in this coun­try il­le­gal, there can’t only be one per­son. There can’t only be Masilela. No, I refuse. In fact, given the ex­tent of the rot that is known to be pre­vail­ing with re­gard to how peo­ple are find­ing them­selves to be hold­ers of Swazi cit­i­zen­ship as soon as they touch down on Swazi soil, or how Asian na­tion­als and their aunts and cousins and some­times even their driv­ers het hold of same cit­i­zen­ship cer­tifi­cates within months of com­ing into this coun­try.

This is so wide­spread I know of an en­tire street of peo­ple who are sup­pos­edly re­lated and yet run some small-time busi­ness.

I know there are hun­dreds of Swazis out in the ru­ral ar­eas who are not just hold­ers of the same cit­i­zen­ship, but who have gone through kukhon- ta cus­tom, and are run­ning busi­nesses there. All of this within a few months of com­ing in. I know many oth­ers also who are yet to even lay their hands on a Swazi cit­i­zen­ship de­spite years of try­ing; years of frus­tra­tion; years of be­ing sent from pil­lar to post. I know of Jeff Ramok­gadi too, who af­ter years of good ser­vice, and be­ing one of us, he has no such doc­u­ment as a Swazi cit­i­zen­ship, let alone a per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mit. He in­stead has to run from of­fice to of­fice, beg and go through the emo­tional trauma of hav­ing to sit and wait. I know that he has just about given up. Th­ese things are out there.

Cit­i­zen­ship

I know of peo­ple who are be­ing given the run around by the cit­i­zen­ship board; I know how th­ese things are is­sued within a flicker of the eye­lash. I know the peo­ple who have been sent back and have been de­nied, de­spite that they had been given the com­fort that their cases were be­ing re­viewed. I know how they are frus­trated and made to look for one lin­cusa af­ter another.

Th­ese chron­i­cles of how to get a Swazi cit­i­zen­ship are all over the place; many of them be­ing told by our friends the same Asian na­tion­als who have bribed to own theirs, and who have bribed to get their friends and broth­ers from other moth­ers theirs.

I know too of peo­ple who have come through our bor­ders; with no pa­per­work what­so­ever; I know many who have ar­rived here from other coun­tries, with some du­bi­ous pa­pers to just al­low them en­try into Swazi­land.

I know how many of th­ese end up dis­ap­pear­ing into thin air, or small Swazi­land.

The point is, this is­sue of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, the cor­rup­tion and briber in this coun­try for peo­ple want­ing per­ma­nent res­i­dence and cit­i­zen­ship is so wide­spread all of us have a tale or two.

So the ques­tion is, is that what the par­lia­men­tary probe team has in­ves­ti­gated? Is that what they have pro­vided an­swers to? Is that what they have at­tempted to un­pack— the ex­tent to which this is pre­vail­ing or have they just done one piece of fine fraud and cor­rup­tion and handed us a re­port that is mean­ing­less and of no use to the coun­try? Have they just wasted our taxes?

Re­ports

Be­cause, you see, if this re­port ends up with just An­thony Masilela as the prime sus­pect, then I have a prob­lem. I have a prob­lem be­cause from kilo­me­tres away, it looks like a big rat that is reek­ing of an aw­ful smell. It looks like they have just about ru­ined an in­no­cent man’s life—and thrown him into the lion’s den, to sat­isfy their own in­dis­cre­tion. I do not want to be­lieve for one sec­ond that the PS would be the only main per­son be­hind all this rot—and then that ju­nior of­fi­cers would be be­hind all of what has gone on in this coun­try with re­gard to the wide­spread cor­rup­tion in this coun­try.

The net­works in this coun­try are mas­sive; there is no way that all of what we know and what this re­port seems to sug­gest, would go through only th­ese few hands.

There are peo­ple miss­ing from it. There are some ma­jor cul­prits who have not been touched. And the ques­tion is how—and why?

In­stead of giv­ing us this wishy­washy re­port, mem­bers of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee would have done well to at least left the of­fi­cers alone, be­cause not only have they now sac­ri­ficed th­ese peo­ple with­out any sort of ev­i­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate it, they have ac­tu­ally made of­fi­cial some ma­li­cious ru­mour for what­ever their agenda. I can­not even be­gin to imag­ine what kind of con­fu­sion they have caused at the min­istry of home af­fairs.

How does the PS carry on with his work—and should he be al­lowed to, un­til the Par­lia­ment re­port ex­on­er­ates him (be­cause it will)? How does he deal with the of­fi­cers and is­sue out in­struc­tions, con­tinue with ex­er­cis­ing his duty as though noth­ing has hap­pened?

Given the sen­si­tiv­ity and se­ri­ous­ness of th­ese al­le­ga­tions, should this not have been han­dled with care and tact?

So any­way; like I was say­ing, I am go­ing to need to make time to go through this re­port, to get a sense for what the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee was try­ing to achieve with go­ing for the PS and the other of­fi­cials. I get the sense that there is more to this re­port than meets the eye.

I have not spo­ken to An­thony Masilela on th­ese al­le­ga­tions, but I do feel for him. I do sym­pa­thise with him be­cause I have known him and have thought of him as a good man, a de­cent guy. I have thought of him as the ul­ti­mate pro­fes­sional. I have known him as the kind of man who can be trusted—a man of God.

I do not wish for a sec­ond to think what he must be go­ing through, to be hu­mil­i­ated in this fash­ion be­fore he even gets the op­por­tu­nity to de­fend him­self, while some other peo­ple are left to con­tinue en­joy­ing the mil­lions of Emalan­geni they have amassed through this cor­rup­tion.

It is tempt­ing to think they would do any­thing to be left alone. It is tempt­ing to ask what gives.

But, time will tell. As for this probe team, well, who knows—but my sense is that they have pulled the wool over our eyes.

Par­lia­ment sit­ting.

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