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MBABANE – The Opium and Habit Forming Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2022 debate got some Members of Parliament (MPs) heated up.

The Bill formed part of the order paper under orders of the day yesterday and the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi was expected to do a second reading of it, opening room for debate for MPs, but the debate took a turn for the worst. Shortly before the Speaker, Petros Mavimbela, opened the floor for the minister to make her second reading, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, MP Mduduzi ‘Small Joe’ Dlamini, stated that it would not be proper to carry on with the debate because there were challenges that the committee had to work on.
He shared that the challenges included that every time the committee was scheduled for a meeting to work on the Bill, they did not form a quorum. He submitted that this led to failure to get submissions from the stakeholders as it would be unprocedural to meet them when they did not form a quorum. Another challenge that he cited was that they had not benchmarked with other countries that had this law in existence to extract knowledge on how they went about enacting it. However, his explanation did not hold any water for the Speaker, who made it known that the legislator’s explanation was spelling laxity and no zeal to work for the members of the committee. Mavimbela’s contention was that the committee had been given plenty of time to work on the Bill but to this day, nothing had come out of it. He asserted that the members of the committee were obviously not eager to deliver on their mandate and as such, they did not deserve to be in Parliament because they had failed their constituents.  “When we were nominated during the elections, we agreed that we would stand for the elections and that means delivering on our mandate as expected.


“However, if we would have MPs fail to deliver on parliamentary business, then they have failed the people who brought them here. This law got into the House with a certificate of urgency and the expectation was that the committee would work on it in the same spirit that it reached the House,” he submitted. Mavimbela reminded Dlamini that they had a meeting on the issue and he made it clear to him that as chairperson of the committee, he should prepare a report detailing the challenges faced by the committee and share it with the House.
However, Dlamini was of the view that preparing a report was not a one man’s show but should entail the input of all the people he was working with. “In my entire time in Parliament, I have never heard that the responsibility of preparing a report lies entirely with the chairman. We have reached the office of the Speaker on the matter and we shared the challenges that we are facing as a committee and it boggles the mind to see the Bill in the order paper,” he shared.

Dlamini shared that he understood the importance of the Bill as it impacted on the lives of many emaSwati but everything should be done procedurally. Mavimbela then insisted that the business of the day, concerning the Bill, should be carried out despite the status of the Bill at the committee level. However, his submission was met with resistance from some of the MPs, including the chairman of the committee. “Don’t buy into the stories that the chairman is selling right now, let us continue with the business of the day as intended,” said the Speaker.
Kwaluseni MP Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini suggested that the members of the committee should be replaced with others who would carry out their mandate, because the current ones had failed to do so.


Sithobelweni MP Bhekitje Dlamini shared that they had been in the House long enough to know that what the Speaker was calling for did not conform to Parliament procedures, especially because the chairperson had stated the challenges the committee had encountered. Mavimbela told the House that he had instructed the chairman to prepare a report detailing their challenges and bring it to the House but he had failed to do so. “How then do you expect the office of the Speaker to react when significant Parliament matters are taken this lightly. The Bill was put into the order paper but the chairman did not show up in Parliament on the day, nor did he take it upon himself to explain or apologise to the Speaker,” he submitted.
The Speaker then made a ruling on the matter that in the next sitting, the chairman should have prepared the report and it should be tabled in the House.