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Saturday, 15 January 2011

SWAZI PM UNDER THE COSH

Prince Guduza, Speaker of the Swaziland House of Assembly, has rebuked Barnabas Dlamini, the Prime Minister, for ‘interference of the highest order’, after the PM met MPs one-by-one to try to influence them about a land sale scandal he is embroiled in.


Prince Guduza, called such meetings ‘improper’.


Dlamini, who was illegally appointed Prime minister in 2008 by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is at the centre of a corruption scandal over illegally purchasing government land at a vastly reduced price. Accused with him are millionaire Themba Masuku, the Deputy Prime Minister; four members of the Swazi Royal Family and at least nine cabinet ministers (past and present).


The Swazi Parliament decided to set up a seven-member select committee to investigate the matter. On Wednesday (12 January 2011), I reported Dlamini had called MPs in to see him ‘one-by-one’ to try to get them on his side.


Now, it has emerged that MPs told Speaker Guduza of the meetings.


Guduza reacted with vigour, telling Parliament that as a matter of principle, interactions or utterances by anyone about a matter being investigated by Parliament was tantamount to interference of the highest order.


The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reported that Guduza likened this to a person who engages a jury on a matter that is before court. This, he said, was unacceptable.


The Speaker said by talking to the MPs the PM compromised the independence of the legislature.


‘It is improper to discuss a matter that might involve you with the people who will handle it, especially if you might be a potential witness.’


Although Guduza did not mention Barnabas Dlamini by name it is clear that he was the intended target.


The Times reported that Guduza said he was not happy about allegations that the meetings involving the PM and MPs were to discuss, among other things, the government land allocations.


This is not the first time that the Speaker of Parliament has had to rebuke Prime Minister Dlamini. In February 2010 he had to slap down Dlamini after the PM said he was the head of Parliament and therefore not answerable to it.

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