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LOBAMBA – Two ministers could be in contempt of Parliament for making statements outside the House, which contradicted what they had said inside the chambers.

For them to escape a Parliament sanction, a legal source said they should rescind the statements they made in the House. This would enable the statements they made outside Parliament to be a point of reference, while expunging the one on the Hansard. The ministers are Dr Tambo Gina, the Minister of Economic Planning and Development and Prince Simelane, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development. Dr Gina issued a public statement that contradicted what he had earlier said in the House of Assembly about the government loan sought from Taiwan.


Lobamba Lomdzala Member of Parliament (MP) Marwick Khumalo had asked the minister this question: “How true is it that the government signed an agreement with the Taiwanese Government to the effect that should the government fail to service the loan, the government will cede the ICC and FISH building to Taiwan?” Dr Gina responded: “The allegations are true that government signed a loan agreement with Exim Bank of Taiwan that has a clause that stipulates that government will forfeit properties, but not specifically the ICC and FISH project in the event she defaults on repayment.” The minister has only rebutted the statement outside Parliament. The minister’s statement is still on the Hansard. A Hansard, which is used for reference, is a verbatim record of what was said in Parliament. It includes records of votes and written ministerial statements.   


In a press statement on March 29, 2022, the minister changed his Parliament statement to say that he had gone through the loan agreement and was convinced that there was no debt trap.
Outside Parliament, Dr Gina said: “The minister has actually read the original agreement and it does not contain any such requirements and that the minister is not aware of any other agreements with such conditions. But it can be categorically stated that the International Convention Centre (ICC) and Five Star Hotel (FISH) lines of credit do not involve pledging of assets as collateral in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Eswatini particularly, the Public Finance and Management Act.  “The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini bilateral cooperation with the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) which dates back to 1968 is above board and conforms to the Constitution and the country’s laws, especially Section 53 (1) and (2) of the Public Finance Management Act of 2017. The cooperation also aligns with the cooperation agreements that the country has with other development partners that are providing development assistance to the country.”


He also said: “The two countries’ governments have, over the years, signed periodic agreements to guide their cooperation in agreed areas of mutual interest.” Dr Gina said the agreements allocated non-repaid resources (grants) to the Kingdom of Eswatini for developmental purposes and cultural heritage. He said grant assistance that has been allocated to the Kingdom of Eswatini over the years towards the following areas included:
* The Taiwan Technical Mission.
* The Taiwan Medical Mission.
* KMIII Airport and Bio-Technology Park.
* Agricultural and rural development.
* Human resources development through improved education and health.
* Infrastructure development.
* Information, Communication and  Technology development.
* Enhancing human resources development through improved education and health.
* Enhancing food security.
* Other socio-economic development projects supporting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and other objectives of the KOE (e.g. rural electrification programme, potable water supply programme).

On the other hand, Prince Simelane, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, told Parliament that the local government elections went smoothly. He said there was a supplementary budget for the local government elections. He said, when he was briefed on the election, he even asked; “where is the vendor that offered IT solutions during the 2018 general election?” The vendor that offered the elections management system is Slomoes Corporation (Pty) Ltd.


Outside Parliament, the minister told the Times of Eswatini that he wanted the procurement for the procurement of a technological solution for local government elections awarded to the Royal Science and Technology Park (RSTP). He said he wanted E4.7 million that had already been spent on the project to be returned to the Consolidated Fund. Reacting to the issue in an interview with the Times SUNDAY yesterday, Lobamba Lomdzala MP Marwick Khumalo, a seasoned legislator, said: “To make a statement outside the House that is contradictory to the one a minister made in Parliament is contemptuous.”


MP Khumalo, who has been in Parliament since 1998, said a minister was not supposed to lie in Parliament unless he or she made a formal withdrawal of the said statement inside the chamber in which it was made. “If it is discovered that he lied to Parliament, the Privileges Act of 1967 would have to be applied,” the MP said. He said a minister easily attracted a vote of no confidence for misrepresenting facts in Parliament.


Contacted for comment, Dr. Gina, the minister, said he would address the issue on his return from World Bank meetings. Prince Simelane, the minister, could not be reached for comments as he was not reachable through his mobile phone yesterday. Alpheous Nxumalo, the Government Press Secretary, said the ministers in question would definitely apply themselves and respond accordingly. Nxumalo said even though he and MP Khumalo had set on the opposite political pendulum for reasons best known to him since 2004, he (Khumalo) was correct in his assertion that wrongly deposited information or statements should be corrected. The government press secretary said MPs were compelled or required to effectively fulfil their roles of scrutinising the work of government, passing legislation and facilitating debate. As a result, he said they needed to work with accurate information. He said parliamentarians have confidence that everything that was said in Parliament was accurate.


“The clearest incident about making inaccurate statements to Parliament mostly comes from outside of parliament. Nonetheless, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity is and should be allowed  without any alleged breach of the principle of good ministerial conduct,” he said. In the past history of the kingdom’s parliamentary activity, he said both MPs and Cabinet ministers usually corrected the record when the politicians had been found to have given inaccurate information to Parliament. “Usually, they do this by making a written statement (in the case of a minister) or by raising a ‘point of order’ in the House,” advised Nxumalo. “My conclusion would be that MP Khumalo mustn’t assume that the ministers in question are contemptuous without affording them the opportunity to explain or clarify, or even correct their earlier inaccuracies if any at all. If MP Khumalo does that, obviously, he will be too presumptuous.”

Section 68 (4) (e) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland (Eswatini) provides that the office of a minister shall become vacant where after a resolution of no confidence is passed by at least two thirds majority of all the members of the House on the minister. If the two-third majority of the members successfully pass the vote, the supreme laws provide that the King shall remove the minister. It has also been discovered that committees of Parliament have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court or a justice of the High Court at a trial. It is stated in Section 129 (1) each chamber of Parliament shall appoint sessional committees and other committees as may be necessary for the effective discharge of the functions of that chamber.


Subsection two says the standing committees shall be charged with such functions, including the investigation and inquiry into the activities and administration of ministries and departments as Parliament may determine. The Constitution also provides that the investigations and enquiries may extend to proposals for legislation. According to the supreme law, every member of Parliament not being a minister shall be a member of at least one of the standing committees. The composition of the committees shall, as much as possible, reflect the different shades of opinion or interest in Parliament.

Section 129 (5) then states that the committee appointed under this section shall have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial for:
(a)     Enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise;
(b)     Compelling the production of documents; and -
(c)     Issuing a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.

The Eswatini Parliament is modelled upon the British legislature. In the UK, lying to Parliament is treated as such a serious offence because of its potential to undermine the legislature’s role in its democratic system and what is arguably its most important function - scrutinising the government, and holding ministers and civil servants to account for their decisions. In 2021, a petition to make knowingly lying to parliament a criminal offence obtained more than 100 000 signatures. The UK Government announced that it does not plan to do so.

debt trap

In another development, Taiwan has urged Hondurus not to ‘quench its thirst with poison and fall into China’s debt trap’. Taiwan said it would not compete monetarily with China to keep its formal allies after its decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taipei to Beijing. Last month, Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced that her country would begin to establish an official relationship with Beijing, in effect severing its ties with Taipei. Her Foreign Minister Eduardo Enrique Reina had asked Taiwan to double its annual aid to US$100 million, the equivalent of E1.7 billion. Hondurus said Taiwan should renegotiate its (Hondurus) debt to the island. The Central American country was struggling to repay its international debts, including US$600 million (E10.2 billion) owed to Taiwan.

In response, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Reina’s statements ‘did not reflect the whole truth’ of the negotiations and that the ministry had ‘actively’ engaged in bilateral talks with Castro’s government. “Our communication efforts with Honduras have never stopped,” the ministry said last month, adding it was trying its best to maintain its friendship with Honduras.
“We urge Honduras, which is already suffering from debt problems, to not quench your thirst with poison and fall into China’s debt trap,” the ministry said in its statement. Taiwan’s response comes as the US warned Honduras that Beijing may not follow through on its promises of financial investment and aid. “The Honduran Government should be aware that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) makes many promises that are unfulfilled,” a State department spokesperson said, adding that the department was closely monitoring the situation.


Honduras’ diplomatic switch leaves Taiwan with 13 countries that recognise it as a country. China does not allow any of its diplomatic allies to recognise Taipei in an effort to isolate the island democracy from the international community. Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has not ruled out the use of force in attempts to ‘reunify’ it with China.
Honduras becomes the latest Central American country to sever ties with Taiwan to pursue relations with China, as Beijing seeks to assert its international influence amid souring tensions with the West. Beijing incentivises countries with promises of investment and trade in return for siding with its narrative on its claim to Taiwan. China has already invested US$298 million, the equivalent of E5.066 billion, in a first dam in eastern Honduras inaugurated in January 2021.