PARLY, CABINET FEUD: HOW IT ALL STARTED
The non- payment of new elderly people and the nonaccessibility of Phalala Fund are two issues that created an impasse between Cabinet and the House of Assembly.
The two issues are described as being thorny ones in the constituencies, where the legislators, including some Cabinet ministers, were elected. Cabinet has not paid elderly people who turned 60 years of age from April 2017 up until now. Cabinet has a problem of having no money to cater for the new elderly people in terms of payment. The money, according to Cabinet, is unavailable because it was not budgeted for.
When the matter was first raised
The matter of the non-payment of the new elderly was first raised back on August 7, 2017 by Ntfonjeni MP Sompisi Magagula. He stood on Standing Order 58. Magagula said the senior citizens who registered from April 1, this year would not be paid, despite them being 60 years of age. “The elderly people at Ntfonjeni will be getting paid on Wednesday (August 9, 2017) and the unfortunate part was that those who turned 60 this year will not get paid,” Magagula was quoted as saying.
Deputy Prime Minister Paul Dlamini promised the legislators that he would talk to Minister for Finance Martin Dlamini and find out if there were means that could be done to save the new elderly people from the frustrations they were facing.
What happened after a month
After a month, the matter was also raised in Parliament. The DPM stated that they had not concluded talks with the finance minister. He said he would follow up on the issue to find out if there was the latest information. Mbabane East MP Esther Dlamini was presiding over the House sitting, in her capacity as Deputy Speaker.
Cabinet chucked out
Last week Wednesday (November 15, 2017), the MPs could not take
Cabinet to move out of the House to find out how the ministers could source money to pay the new elderly people. The motion to ask Cabinet to leave the House was moved by Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi, who stood up on Standing Order 58 to move his motion.
Buthelezi also raised another matter when moving the motion, that of Phalala Fund. Buthelezi stated that the situation was becoming difficult in their constituencies because people who were supposed to benefit from the fund did not get access to it. Mhlangatane MP Mbalekelwa Ndwandwe also passionately made a submission on the day. He wondered why people-driven initiatives were not taken prioritised by Cabinet.
“What do Swazis need to do to show that they need their services in their constituencies because they pay their taxes?” Ndwandwe asked during the debate. Parliament adjourned early on that day to allow Cabinet to work on the matter. The legislators wanted answers on the next day.
MP Johane tears statement
On the following day (Thursday last week), Cabinet went to the House with a ministerial statement, which was delivered by the DPM, in his capacity as the acting prime minister.
Prime Minister Dr Sibusiso Dlamini was not in the country, as he had gone on a honeymoon at Bonn in Germany. The DPM asked for five minutes for his statement to be prepared to be delivered in the House. During that time, Minister for Public Service Owen Nxumalo was asked to leave the House by Speaker Themba Msibi over a bad joke he made when Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini was making a submission.
The DPM, when delivering his statement, stated that Cabinet had no money to implement the payment of the new elderly people. The process to include the new elderly people into the database could not happen overnight because it was a long process. Cabinet also stated that Parliament did not make a budget allocation for the new elderly people.The Cabinet ministers further urged Parliament to observe the set budgetary processes. On the issue of Phalala Fund, Cabinet stated that the challenge was the increase in the number of patients requiring assistance under this scheme and the escalating increase associated with referrals.
This had led the country to owe huge amounts of money to medical facilities in South Africa.
That statement did not go down well with MPs, who told the DPM to leave the House with his Cabinet team to sort the problem. During that time, Mbabane West MP Johane Shongwe tore the statement, saying it did not help anyone. MP Prince Hlangabeza also stood up on that day to make his submission. He said he did not under-
stand why Cabinet was not humble when dealing with the matter.
The prince wondered why Cabinet was making this problem its own. He said they should approach the speaker to ask for help from Parliament to show that they were serious in handling the matter.
On that day, he said it was fine for them to vacate the House of Assembly until they approached Parliament for help. The MPs suggested that it was good for Cabinet to meet with the finance sessional and portfolio committees to forge a way-forward on the issues. The MPs and Cabinet were to meet on the night of last week Thursday. They were supposed to table a report, but they could not because the House sitting was cancelled on Monday. The House was called on Wednesday by the speaker.
On Wednesday, Cabinet boycotted the House sitting because they felt MPs expelled them from the House. They also felt MPs had to apologise to the Cabinet before it could go back to Parliament.
PM confirms boycott, wants MP Johane dealt with
On Thursday, Pri me Ministe r Dr.Sibusiso Dlamini, who had been back from Germany, confirmed Cabinet boycott of Parliament business. He told the speaker, through a telephone
conversation, that MP Johane Shongwe should be dealt with for tearing the Cabinet statement.
The MPs, the PM said, should also withdraw t he motion moved by Buthelezi. The PM said the MPs should just forget about deliberating these two issues and focus on other matters, if they wanted to work with Cabinet in Parliament.
However, the MPs proceeded with their business without Cabinet, as t hey had r esolved to do t hat on Thursday. The MPs argued that MP Johane’s matter was dealt with on Thursday last week. There was no need to apologise or withdraw. The House adjourned on Thursday for Friday.
Cabinet ends boycott
On Fri day, a s peci a l House of Assembly sitting was called. Cabinet was part of that sitting this time around. Speaker Themba Msibi related all the events that led to the stand-off between the two parties. He urged Minister Owen Nxumalo and Shongwe to apologise. Nxumalo apologised to the MPs a nd e s peci a l l y to Nkwene MP Sikhumbuzo Dlamini, whom he jokingly said was talking nonsense. Shongwe said he would not repeat himself because the speaker dealt with him on Thursday. The prime minister promised that a statement on the t wo i s s ues would be i s s ued on Wednesday next week.
Mbabane West Member of Parliament Johane Shongwe.