Mbabane: It has reliably been gathered that Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo is not paid for his services as Acting Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Minister.
Khumalo assumed the role of the acting ICT Minister after the incumbent, Princess Sikhanyiso was granted an extended leave in February.
According to Circular No.2 of 2013 clause 4.4, parliamentarians may take annual, maternity, sick and other leave, as may be necessary, after consultation with the minister responsible for Parliament or the Presiding Officer.
It was also reliably gathered that while out of office the minister of ICT, Princess Sikhanyiso took home in total over E347, 968. 13 which includes the housing allowance, as package for her ten (10) months’ extended leave, while Minister Manqoba Khumalo, who is the incumbent minister of commerce, industry and trade and acted in the Princess’ place, was not paid a cent.
For three months the Princess took home a package of E116, 058, 75, after-which she was paid E135, 401, 88 for seven months following that the basic salary was halved. In addition, she walked away with E96, 507, 50 for ten months as housing allowance.
The ministers’ housing allowance stands at E9, 650. 50 per month, such allowance as entitled to all ministers.
Khumalo only takes home the ministry of commerce package, which stands at E38, 686, 25, which is the basic salary for all Cabinet ministers. Worth mentioning is that had it not been that ministers are not entitled to sitting allowances including parliamentary sittings they would take home a little more than their basic salary, depending on how often they’d appear for sittings.
According to Circular No.2 of 2013, ministers are not entitled to sitting allowances like parliamentary sittings. The Circular says a sitting allowance shall only be paid to Members of Parliament, Tindvuna Tetinkhundla and Bucopho Betinkhundla with the exception of ministers and presiding officers.
The announcement to the effect that Khumalo would assume the role of the Princess as Acting ICT Minister was done by the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini at a Cabinet retreat which was held in Pigg’s Peak Hotel and Casino on January 21 and said the Princess was indisposed but without spelling out the clear details of her condition.
While the Circular No.2 of 2013 clause 4.4, says parliamentarians may take annual, maternity, sick and other leave, as may be necessary, after consultation with the minister responsible for Parliament or the Presiding Officer, it does not give elaborate details in terms of remuneration benefits and or disciplinary measures in the event such is violated.
On the other hand, government stipulates that officers are entitled to three (3) months maternity leave, during which time they will be entitled to their full pay. On elapsing of the 3 months officers will be entitled to half pay. It was not immediately established if whether or not Princess Sikhanyiso submitted to the laid down procedures in view of the leaves’ remuneration terms and conditions.
Independent News went from pillar to post trying to figure out the terms and conditions the Princess submitted to after the minister of finance, which is privy to politicians’ remuneration packages, referred questions to the Ministry of Public Service, which passed the baton back to the finance ministry.
Communications Officer in the Ministry of Finance, Setsabile Dlamini, stated that acting ministers were not entitled to payment for services done. She shared that an acting role depends on the agreement between the concerned parties and was not covered in any government statute. These sentiments were echoed by the government spokesperson, Sabelo Dlamini. “Ministers do not get an acting allowance,” said the spokesperson and when asked if they act for free he simply said his response was self-explanatory.
On assuming the role Khumalo had said he would do his best to ably execute both duties as commerce and ICT minister. This is despite that his own ministry (commerce) is known to be one of the busiest.
“I will give it my best and will focus on making progress on the key imperatives that ICT is driving in our Strategic Road map,” Khumalo is quoted by one of the daily newspapers.
“It is going to be hard work, but I will give it my best,” said Khumalo.
Before the PM’s announcement the Princess was noticeably missing during the royal events, in particular the Incwala Ceremony.
Worth mentioning is that on September 22, Minister Khumalo’s work was once put into test as members of the Parliament questioned the instrument that allowed him to continue acting for the Princess while the constitution only allows a minister to act for a period not exceeding six (6) months. To this date, the Princess has been out of office for ten months.
Matsanjeni North MP, Phila Buthelezi, cited section 72 of the 2005 Constitution of Eswatini which states that a minister who is absent for any reason may, after consultation with the Prime Minister delegate those functions to another minister in writing for a period not exceeding six (6) months.
The MPs then boycotted to entertain any work or bills from Minister Khumalo as the acting ICT minister until he provided an instrument which allowed him to continue acting for the Princess.
On October 7, Minister Khumalo through the Attorney General (AG) Sifiso Khumalo submitted the written instrument to the Speaker Petros Mavimbela. However, upon reading the instrument the MPs noted up a loophole in the instrument as it only had a commencement date but no elapsing date. MP Buthelezi who is also the Deputy Speaker said for the aforementioned reason the instrument was invalid hence the MPs would still not entertain any work from Minister Khumalo.
The AG acknowledged the error and promised to rectify the error and would submit a well written instrument. Well, later on the month of October the Minister Khumalo through AG submitted the instrument and it was read for the august house and it stated that the second six (6) months acting period commenced on July 28, 2020 and will run for a period not exceeding six (6) and for that reason the period is expected to elapse in December.