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As we enter the elections period, it is amazing how emaSwati really don’t know what the duties of Members of Parliament (MPs), as per the Constitution of the land, are.

This weekend I had the opportunity to again get clarity on the duties of bucopho, indvuna yenkhundla and MPs. I will share my experience from the recent nominations in my home area, Madlangampisi under the Tfuntini Umphakatsi, where the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) officers were led by a Mr Matfula. He did a brilliant job, but the process took too long.

The nominations began with the arrival of Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe with his entourage, the inner council comprising of tindvuna and bantfwabenkhosi baka Ndwandwe. It was a spectacle to behold as the public sat in numbers watching the arrival of the chief, who is a direct descendent of King Zwide KaLanga. Immediately the crowd was brought to order by the powerful and commanding yet highly respectful voice of Indvuna Gumedze, he offered an opening prayer with a very powerful message as to the expectations of the nominees and a stern warning to detractors. The speech from our chief minced no words that the expectations from the people nominated were to represent the people not groupings, clearly implying political parties.  

Duties of bucopho

The chairperson, a Mr Matfula, took time to explain to the people the duties of bucopho, who are considered development officers. They are in direct contact with the people in terms of development and services. They know the people’s problems first hand. They are directly affected by a lack of a bridge, as an example, and will take that need to his or her inkhundla. Our constituency, Madlangampisi, has seven tigodzi (distinct areas) and the expectation is that each of these areas will have bucopho (headmen/women) who will be in direct contact with the people and their needs. He or she operates within that particular sigodzi and personally transmits those needs to the inkhundla for action. He or she is paid approximately E14 000 per month by government to do this work. It is thus conceivable that the people on the ground would see bucopho more than they would see the indvuna yenkhundla and the MP.  

Duties of indvuna yenkhundla

Mr Matfula went on to explain the role of an indvuna yenkhundla, which is that of a chairperson of the inkhundla. He or she is expected to coordinate with all seven tigodzi working with the seven bucopho, as in our case, to deliver the development required by the people. Matfula equated an indvuna yenkhundla as a man with many wives, who has to ensure that all of his wives are happy. The indvuna yenkhundla is based at the inkhundla offices and is responsible for the administration of the offices and the funds allocated to them. The central government allocates funds to assist with development and these funds are managed through the inkhundla by the indvuna yenkhundla as the chairperson of the inkhundla council, which includes the MP and all bucopho. These funds are approximately E3 million per year. He or she is paid approximately E21 000 per month to administer the office as chairperson.  

Members of Parliament

The primary role of MPs is to legislate laws that govern the country and to provide oversight to government, the Executive, on behalf of the people who elected them. They were never meant to be development officers, but legislators and watchdogs of public funds. In an ideal situation, they should each have offices and private secretaries in Parliament. They should also have research resources to assist them make sound laws for the country in an investigative capacity where necessary in their oversight duties.  The roles of bucopho and indvuna yenkhundla are local and those of MPs are national and even international. The main role of an MP extends to the development of the whole country. Parliament has a bird’s eye view of the whole country and that is the reason they are paid around E50 000 after taxes per month.   

Assessing MPs delivery

The very unfortunate reality is that the success of MPs is not based on their true job description as legislators and overseers. The 11th Parliament, for example, recovered E200 million in public funds in their oversight duties within their Public Account Committees (PAC) and were able to stop millions from being lost to corruption. However, no one recognises that part of their achievement. Effectively this means an individual MPs can be excellent in their duties in Parliament, as required by the Constitution, at national level but be very bad at constituency level; not because of their inefficiencies, but because the government machinery just did not provide services to his/her community. For example, the road is just very bad, and they can do nothing without the central government.

On the other hand, another MP can be loved by his constituency because the government machinery luckily has come to his constituency to build that road, but not from any work done by them. However, that same MP is failing in his or her parliamentary duties, affecting the national development of the country but will never be removed. Maybe it is not even fair to expect service delivery from bucopho or MPs alone since the real cost of service delivery is way above the E3 million allocated to tinkhundla.  The cost to provide real development such as clinics, schools, bridges and road infrastructure is far beyond the ability of an individual bucopho or MPs. But, unfortunately, they are assessed on that. MPs can only advocate for their constituency to government agencies and international communities. This cannot be done during the first term as the knowledge of the government and international community system and machinery takes time. It is very important that all levels of bucopho, indvuna yenkhundla, and MPs work nicely together to achieve real results for our Tinkhundla System to work effectively. comment [email protected].