9 October 2012

Swaziland: Business Turns Against Government

Photo: Taurai Maduna/IRIN
King Mswati III: According to the Constitution, if the prime minister does not resign the king must sack either the government or the entire Parliament.

Leaders of Swaziland's business community have demanded the government abide by a no-confidence vote and quit office.

'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,' the Federation of Swazi Business Community (FSBC), said in a statement.

The Government, led by Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, suffered a vote of no-confidence in the Swazi House of Assembly last Wednesday (3 October 2012) and according to the Constitution the government should have resigned within three days or be sacked by King Mswati III.

Dlamini made it clear that he would not go and the King has not sacked him.

The no-confidence vote came after a long-running saga involving the Swazi parastatal Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) and MTN, the only cellphone company in the kingdom. The government closed down some SPTC services after complaints from MTN.

In a joint statement made with the Constituent Assembly and the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, FSBC said, '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.'

The statement added, ' 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 percent of value of Swazi MTN.'

FSBC said, '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.'

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