9 October 2012

Swaziland: Govt Must Go - Swazi Business


Joint press statement from the Federation of Swazi Business Community, Constituent Assembly and Swazi Coalition:

As leaders of the local business community we must express our utmost concern at the Swazi Government's poor handling of the issue of SPTC's Next Generation Network of cellular phones called "ONE" as well as the fixed phone service.

The introduction of these new services, at last, brought real competition into the telecommunications sector. This enabled ordinary people to begin to afford to communicate more and the business community to access new markets, and improve their services, competitiveness and profitability. As one of the poorest countries in the SADC region we long suffered from monopoly pricing and were charged the highest rates for ICT services.

The government's actions which saw the whole SPTC Board sacked, a Minister of Information Communications and Technology removed from office, and the accusations by the Prime Minister of a "Mafia" at work, show the highly politicised environment in which SPTC was expected to work. It is well known that the current cabinet reversed SPTC and the previous government's decision to sell most of its shares in MTN at a fair market price to finance the ONE project. For the Prime Minister to suddenly claim the sanctity of the courts as a defence for what are highly controversial decisions is to mislead the nation. Swazis must realise that the PM has a clear conflict of interest in this matter in that he has shares in Swaziland Empowerment Limited which holds 19% of value of Swazi MTN. At no time has he been heard to recuse himself from discussions in which he has a direct financial interest.

The SPTC saga is one of a long line of self-serving decisions taken by this cabinet, which seriously undermine the business reputation of the country. From giving itself handsome pay rises through Circular No 1 when the country is in cash crisis, to awarding its members massive discounts on shady land deals. From attempting to arbitrarily evict the tenants at Jozini Big Six to mismanaging the economy so that our members are owed Millions of Emalangeni and viable businesses and ordinary people's jobs are at risk because of their incompetence. They have undermined the Anti Corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission and, probably worst of all, were putting the very basis of all business - legal contracts - in jeopardy through their dreadful mismanaging of the recent Judicial Crisis.

The Prime Minister must know that to ignore a vote of no confidence from Parliament sends a message to the world that Swaziland is not a country governed by laws but by an arrogant, unaccountable clique who are happy to abuse their powers and use political patronage for personal gain. His behaviour completely undermines his Majesty's vision of Swaziland being a first world country by 2022.

We have heard the voices of the people at many public meetings including Sibaya and our MPs' vote of no confidence who have all said it was time for this cabinet to be relieved of their duties. We now formally add the voices of the business community to this call. This cabinet has no mandate to govern, is not fit for purpose, and it must do the honourable thing and go immediately before it damages Swaziland any further. We further call upon the new government to find a way of reinstating the SPTC services that served the nation so well.

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