By Ackel Zwane | 2018-10-12
NOW the cat has come out of the bag that indeed a minimum level of education is required for one to become a member of parliament.
This week the Members of Parliament got more than they bargained for when Clerk to Parliament Ndvuna Dlamini inducted them into the realities of tasks associated with complex issues that require certain level of literacy, much against the lie at primary election that any Tom, Dick and Harrison can become a lawmaker, that there was no need for basic education for one to make it to Parliament.
All along we have lived under the falsehood that our Tinkhundla system of government allows for anyone of adult age with no criminal record to contest for parliamentary seats.
This included those who could not even write or read their names such as what we experienced with the legendary Maphalaleni Member of Parliament Lomasontfo who was a member of the August from 1993 to 1998.
Her contemporary Majahenkhaba Dlamini , then Nkhaba Member of Parliament, now Judge of the High Court, argued in defence of Lomasontfo’s handicap that the Tinkhundla system of governance was not discriminatory in that “being illiterate did not limit Dludlu in doing her job and said she was more concerned about her constituents, particularly because she represented about nine chiefs in Maphalaleni.”
But Lomasontfo could not read a single Parliamentary document let alone the core documents such as the standing orders and the Parlaiment Act of 1967, which contains 36 very detailed chapters. Over and above these important documents all other communication including the Order paper which contains business of the day is written in letters and in English for Lomasontfo who spoke not a single word of English.
Performance reports prepared by the various ministries are all written down and again in English; these are documents that must be scrutinised by members who are also expected to take to task government in its claim to service delivery.
Now an illiterate person must also go through the voluminous Auditor General’s report and make comparisons to previous discoveries of anomalies.
The same illiterate person must read and interpret the budget with a view to assist constituencies on what the priorities of the nation are. Come to think of it, this is tantamount of a repeat of the fag of a blind man leading the pack to come up with a perfect description of an elephant.
Coming to the standing orders, these are, in a nutshell permanent written rules under which the House regulates its proceedings.
The continuing or ‘standing’ nature of rules means that they do not lapse at the end of a session or parliament. Rather, they remain in effect until the House itself decides to suspend, change or repeal them. There are at present numerous Standing Orders, each of which constitutes a continuing order of the House for the governance and regulation of its proceedings.
The detailed description of the legislative process, the role of the Speaker, the nature of the parliamentary calendar and the rules governing the work of committees and private members’ business are some of the topics covered in the standing orders.
The House declares these continuing orders to be standing orders when it formally adopts them, and it periodically issues them as a publication for the guidance and use of all members.
Now this is the mother of all nightmares for Parliamentarians who, because of their ignorance of these orders in the presence of colleagues, relegate themselves to the background and drool for the duration of the five year period while the taxpayer pays dearly for their upkeep.
They cannot stand the embarrassment of having to be exposed as illiterates or ignoramuses in all matters pertaining to parliament proceedings.
This brings back the unfortunate memories of Lomasontfo tenure when her colleagues in the persons of then Mtfongwaneni Member of Parliament Mfomfo Nkambule and King’s appointee Sandlane Zwane turned the House into a virtual circus by making fun of the ignoramuses in their midst who could not even cite a single standing order.
Now this week Ndvuna was pumping so much reading material to the novices who happened to find themselves winning the election by flouting the very elections law.
That is the only document they mastered to defeat in order to pave way not so much for the interest of the establishment of the institution but what it has to offer, the hefty pay, sitting and travelling allowances and the poise of carrying the tag of being supposedly a law maker.
Surprisingly before swearing in MPs were now being lobbied to elect a Speaker and members of Senate. They could not say no to these advances because of the cash benefits that come with the exercise, which is daylight bribery. Certainly the interest of the incoming group is therefore not so much in upholding the law but in breaking it to the bone.
In the previous parliament there were members with criminal matters attached to their standing, thus putting their integrity into doubt but they continued in parliament until the very last day and some of them are returning with the very same rot and stigma hovering over them.
This is yet another example of how parliament could not weed them out because the rest of those who should have done so were either lackeys or simply unaware of which standing order to impute.
Now let us see how many of the MPs will bring material of substance to take this country to another level, not a lower level as has been the case of the decades.
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