By Mike Drew | 2020-06-30
WHEN being appointed prime minister, after a high profile career in the corporate world, I would imagine that the Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini anticipated many new but very different challenges.
But I doubt that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was high on his agenda.
Whether CEO of a large organisation or Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Eswatini, leadership can be a lonely and a difficult job, but the skills set required is not that very different. In addition to the need for a transparency there is also a need to act in a decisive way.
On reflection, the key events of last week to include the confusing delay in announcing an extension to the partial lockdown and the banning of the sale of alcohol for a further two months, might suggest a degree of uncertainty and a lack of conviction on the required direction of travel. The Manzini Regional Administrator Chief Gija is correct when he states that the damage has already been done, but not because alcohol is being sold but because the abuse of alcohol results in anti-social behaviour to include an increase in assaults, domestic violence and impromptu house parties, which have contributed significantly to the spread of COVID-19.
But in the interest of balance, the views of Pastor Ernest Thokozani Magongo need also to be taken on board in that the sale of alcohol has strong links to the leisure industry and has created employment opportunities for thousands of Emaswati.
The sale of alcohol will now just temporarily disappear into the black economy for the next couple of months, with no tax revenue generated.
My concern is getting the right balance between the obvious continuing health and economic issues against the number of potential job losses.
With the REPS happy to continue to visit small rural churches to ensure ongoing compliance with the COVID-19 Regulations, whilst seeming to turn a blind eye to the giant liquor traders who made a conscious decision to flout the current government guidelines last weekend.
A good leader should lead by example. So the events at the Mountain Inn workshop facilitated by the ministry of health and the decision taken during the sensitisation exercise at the Mhlambanyatsi Constituency and both in clear breach of the COVID-19 Regulations, were at best disappointing.
On the evidence available, it can be argued with some conviction that, the REPS operates a two-tier criminal justice system, as evidenced not only by the lack of any meaningful action by the REPS at both workshops, but also by the fact that nobody has been charged over the rape of the UNESWA student.
A good leader must also make some very difficult decisions, to include whether his cabinet ministers are delivering both collectively and individually. Having been in the post now for nearly two years, the prime minister must know the strengths and limitations of his present cabinet team and who is not doing a good job.
Complacency and security of tenure of office is not a barometer for good government. Had the promised performance appraisal system been put in place, it is respectfully suggested that the prime minister might be looking with disappointment at the performance of some ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example. the ministry of public works and transport which has allowed the public transport operators to dictate the direction of travel, by allowing kombi drivers to continue to operate with seeming impunity.
The regulations and additional guidelines on the regular fumigation and provision of hand sanitisers never happened. With no real hygiene controls in place and the reliance on a totally ineffective and unenforceable 70 per cent rule.
There is also a very convincing argument to be made that, by allowing the kombi drivers to continue to operate during the partial lockdown, the minister has in fact contributed significantly to the spread of the coronavirus and any proposed compensation for the public transport operators needs to be justified.
With the Public Accounts Committee is set to resume its duties next Monday and the first order of business to engage with various government ministries on their annual reports for the previous financial year, the minister has had plenty of time to put forward a convincing argument as to why nearly 50 per cent of his 2019 budget was allocated to civil aviation when the road infrastructure is in a desperate state of repair.
A minister who also seems to have little appetite to support his prime minister by seeing any meaningful progress on the need for the independent audit on a high profile capital project where “irregularities” had been identified by the Auditor General. Which might also suggest a lack of commitment to collective cabinet responsibility.
A ministry of education and training which has decided not to acknowledge the constructive views of others such as the conclusions reached by SNAT, following its recent site visits to assess the schools lack of preparedness to return to the classroom in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time of going to press TUCOSWA have not expressed a view but it is anticipated will support the stance taken by SNAT. A ministry which seems to be blind to the real issues and is intent on opening schools whatever the health risks to both pupils and teachers on 6th July. Seemingly intent on being confrontational with other key stakeholders and unwilling to take any responsibility for the continuing safety and welfare of both teachers and pupils.
There is also a huge difference between the provision of separate transport for learners to avoid mixing with the public and the provision of transport which is safe and will not contribute significantly to the spread of the disease.
On past evidence any hygiene measures which may or may not have been agreed with the national transport technical working team will not be implemented.
The evidence is there for all to see on a daily basis on the roads of Eswatini. A breeding ground for the further spread of the coronavirus before the pupils have even reached the school gates.
The muted feedback from the majority of MPs to the minister’s report on the schools’ proposed reopening strategy and the equally unimpressive response from stakeholders during the presentation on the ministry’s readiness to open schools held at the Examinations Council of Eswatini premises would seem to suggest that the only person that the minister is fooling is herself. It now seems inevitable that the government will announce a further delay on the readiness of schools to re-open because the minister of education and training continues to fail to deliver.
Whilst a leader needs to have a motivated team, sometimes it is necessary to have those difficult conversations too.
As clearly stated in the Police Service Act 2018, subject to the provisions of the 2005 Constitution, the national commissioner is directly responsible to the prime minister in his position as minister of police.
As Minister of Police it is respectfully suggested that the prime minister should now be asking some searching questions, such as to how the REPS have responded with a deafening silence to both press statements issued by the Commission for Human Rights and Public Administration (CHRPA) on the need to protect human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Compounded by the decision taken that serving officers of all ranks are no longer required to display their force numbers on their collar blade to avoid identification, if there is a breach of human rights.
The NatCom seeming to prefer to issue a statement which mirrored the very strong warning from the prime minister with regard to the escalating gender based violence in the kingdom, where serving police officers have been both offenders and victims.
A statement which made no reference to the alleged gang rape of a female police officer at an illegal drinking party also attended by other police officers.
It is respectfully suggested that, the issuing of an internal memorandum expressing disappointment with non-compliance with COVID-19 Regulations by junior police officers whilst at the same time taking part in the photo shoot at the Nokwane Army Headquarters in the absence of any social distancing sends out totally the wrong message. It could also be argued that the decision to revoke the travel permits was in clear breach of the Disaster Management Act 2006 and has actually contributed to the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the Manzini region, to include the number of confirmed cases at Manzini Police Station.
Which only deflects public attention from the excellent work being carried out by the majority of brave police officers on the front line.
And here lies my dilemma, a continuing reluctance on the part of the REPS to investigate itself and obvious double standards, as evidenced by the decision taken just to transfer the rogue officer at Mashobeni South to other duties.
And further evidenced when making public the findings of its own internal investigation into the horrific road traffic accident which tragically took the lives of eleven of its own may their souls rest in peace, by deciding to ignore the fact that the police transporter was overloaded and in clear breach of the 70 per cent capacity rule.
Another difficult conversation which the prime minister might want to have in his position as minister of police.
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