By SIFISO DLAMINI | 2020-09-17
HOUSE of Assembly have adopted a motion that will direct government to alternatively cap the period for imported vehicles to 12 years instead of the seven years.
This was during yesterday's house of Assembly sitting following an uproar from both the public, as well as parliamentarians regarding the decision.
A motion without notice was moved by Siphofaneni MP Mduduzi ‘Magawugawu’ Simelane, that the Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg should forthwith justify the rationale of capping the seven year period for importing used cars. This was done in terms of Legal Notice No. 183 of 2020, in light of the strict provisions of Section 3of the Import Control Order, 1976 that the conduct of the minister must also take into account the public interest.
Whether there were any consultative measures, the minister adopted with the stakeholders to arrive at the seven year limit. The minister was further directed forthwith to alternatively cap the period to 12 years from the date of purchase.
While making his submissions, Simelane said due to an outcry from the public, he saw it fit to relate the concerns regarding this matter.
He said he did not understand how the minister read the order as when reading Section 3, it provided that whenever the minister deemed necessary, in the public interest.
"I do not know if he read this part as this was in no way in the interest of the public. I do not know if he did consult the public before deciding to cap the period from 15 years to seven. In my constituency, I live with the people categorised as the public and are meant to benefit from the decision. The reaction from the public was different from what the minister said he was doing in their interest,” said Simelane.
Further, he outlined that 60 per cent of the population in the country lived below the poverty line. He said it was important to note that for the majority of the population, these vehicles were not a luxury but a means of making a living. He said there were a means to ease business, to ensure they put food on the table for their families. He said this category included taxi men, farmers and hawkers, to name a few.
"Just because the people in your category were able to afford the more expensive vehicles does not mean you can step on the majority who cannot afford," he said.
He recalled that in the beginning, the period was capped at nine years. However, in 2012, the dealerships and the public pleaded with the then minister of finance to request for the capping to be increased to 15 years because the mini trucks, for instance, did not fall in the nine year bracket.
"In the public interest, former Minister Majozi Sithole decided to extend the period to 15 years. When did government consult the public to say this was in their interest," he said.
He further wondered why the current government always made decisions that made the lives of the public difficult instead of better. He said it was acceptable that the same government that was meant to better the lives of the citizens only cared about fattening the purse disregarding the public and their best interests.
"Whether that is against the interests of the public, they do not care, this should be a government of the people, for the people and by the people" said Simelane.
He said the justification that this was to increase SACU receipts was not acceptable, as this was not the only choice government had. He suggested that government should come up with other ideas that did not frustrate the public.
He felt the decision was haphazard and indicated that government cared less about the citizens of the country. He said government did not even have ambulances and depended on them with Bucopho and Tindvuna to transport sick people to hospitals using the same ones that government was banishing. "I have been using these vehicles for a long time and I know that a seven-year-old vehicle would cost in the region of E100 000 to E150 000. How many people earning the local minimum wage can afford those vehicles," he said.
He said the vehicles that they were expected to buy had a lot of issues compared to the import vehicles from overseas as they do not repair but replace parts. He said this was tantamount to taking the country backwards because someone was enjoying the seat.
He pleaded with the House to make a statement to government that they could not allow them to do things willy-nilly, while they watched and did nothing. He added that keeping quiet and doing nothing was tantamount to being an accomplice.
He added that there were no roads and instead of improving the lives of the public to ensure they afforded the vehicles they should not assume that everyone could afford to go to the bank.
"This is making the poor man poorer and the rich man richer," he said. Who considers the people living under the poverty line when the same government that was meant to put them first steps on their necks," added Simelane. He was seconded by Manzini North MP Macford Sibandze who said he acknowledged that government had a reason for capping the years. He, however pointed out that their role as parliament and representatives of the public was to advise them when they made decisions against their interest.
"This motion is not about car dealerships but the ordinary Liswati, who fall in and below the middle income earners," he said.
Adding, he said the notion that this would increase SACU receipts, did not hold any water. He said government should provide them with a projection of how this would benefit the country. He noted that the dealerships could survive with the new cap but the public would not be able to afford the vehicles. He also said the notion that the vehicles were environmentally unfriendly was also not true as the vehicles were issued with environmental certificates indicating they were fit. Meanwhile, Hhohho Woman MP Nokunceda Bujela said government should have considered the current situation faced by the nation due to COVID-19. She said these vehicles have provided a lifeline to the public, as they were able to afford making a living.
The minister accepted the motion, which was then adopted by the house.
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