By Zwelethu Dlamini | 2020-08-02
Members of Parliament and senators interviewed by this publication have come out to support the allegations by the former Senate Deputy President Ngomyayona Gamedze suggesting that senate seats were for sale.
Gamedze stunned the public when he withdrew from the election to replace the late senator Mike Temple by claiming that the election was open to the highest bidder. Gamedze formally withdrew from the race through a letter addressed to the returning officer of the Senate Elections Act, who is Clerk to Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini.
He alleged that some MPs demanded exorbitant amounts of money for them to vote for him to the seat which is now contested by three businessmen. He alleged that the money demanded by some of the legislators was not less than E10 000.
The former legislator is said to have stated that he had unfortunately observed a very disturbing practice that seemed to ‘indicate that the election is open to the highest bidder’.
The former senate deputy president further alleged that he had approached many members and a majority of those he spoke to wanted money, citing that they too parted with cash in their constituencies in order to get a Parliament seat.
Similarly, senators and members of parliament interviewed yesterday validated the allegations by Gamedze saying it was a ‘norm’ for any election to have a huge budget.
While the senators admitted that they were aware of their colleagues who were in the chamber because they paid MPs handsomely to get votes, MPs admitted that several senators paid them to get votes and the senate hopefuls were expected to make offers if they wanted to be voted.
Both members of parliament and the senators agreed that the budget for a male senator was in the region of E500 000 due to the competition while for female senators it was lesser as they normally do not have stiff competition as there usually are fewer women interested in the seats.
One of the senators who requested to remain anonymous stated that he was only aware of only three senators who were not appointed because they had refused to pay for the seats.
“I can only vouch for three senators whom I know for a fact did not pay for the seat, one of them was the favourite among those who voted him because of a certain reason. Otherwise people pay some of those who lose after parting with huge sums of money and end up hospitalised,” revealed a senator, who added that in 2018 one of them was hospitalised after having paid E500 000, but lost the election.
The senator was quick to say it was not true that all the senators had to pay to get the seat.
“You can still lose the election even if you had spent a lot of money. It is no guarantee that you will win the necessary votes as the election is conducted through a secret ballot. This is politics; it is not child’s play, some win (a seat) without paying but because they are known,” said the senator.
Another senator said one of those that had entered the race lost in 2018 and had to engage the services of lawyers to force the MPs to pay back his money.
“I wonder how he played his cards this time around as he needed the votes of the very same MPs he had taken to lawyers,” said the legislator.
Members of Parliament, on the other hand, repeated the exact words of Gamedze saying they had spent money at their constituencies in order to get a Parliament seat, hence they expected the candidate to have a budget for the senate election and the one with the lucrative offer was given their best vote.
“It is not true that we demand the money rather the candidates make offers and we tell them what their competitors are offering,” said an MP.
The MP disclosed that they are aware that an expensive vote goes for around E10 000 while E5 000 is the cheapest you can get.
“So if they see that their competitors are offering more they do not have to call that corruption. Every election has a budget. Look at the budget of those in our neighbouring country which runs into millions of Emalangeni. In the western countries it runs to billions of dollars,” said one of the MPs.
Another MP stated that they also spent a lot of money to earn a seat in parliament in their constituencies buying food parcels and for their campaigns, hence they expected senate hopefuls to do same.
“We were given forms to fill by the Elections and Boundaries Commission in those forms we stated how much we were anticipating to spend on the election. Every election requires money, it is about money. The senate hopefuls must have money to entice the voters this case the MPs,” said the legislator.
Another MP said it is a pity that others were not aware of the rules of the game.
“Most of the senators can tell you that money talks. Show me 10 senators who can honestly say they never paid except those that were appointed. The one you say he never paid a cent, was voted for by the appointed MPs because they had said he should withdraw from the position of speaker as they wanted their own, so they were returning a favour,” said the legislator.
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