Mbabane: Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Sikhanyiso is back at work, Independent News has reliably learnt through its well-placed and senior sources within the ministry.
Information that the Minister was back at work started to reach this publication on Monday afternoon. Independent News has learnt from its well-placed sources that on Monday the Princess held a meeting with the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of ICT Maxwell Masuku and other high ranking officials in which she was seeking an update on how the ministry had been operating during her absence.
The sources further disclosed that the Minister was set to attend the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, being the day Cabinet ministers gather for the weekly meetings.
When sought for comment, Masuku neither admitted nor confirmed the reports, saying if he commented he would be setting himself up. He said it is not his space to comment on political issues like this one and that the only people who can respond on such is the government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini, or the Prime Minister himself. He said he is only capacitated to respond to matters concerning the work of his ministry.
Government spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini said he was unaware of any development regarding the Princess. As of the meeting with the PS, the spokesperson referred all questions to PS Masuku.
When asked about the Cabinet meeting today (Tuesday), where the Princess is reported to have attended, Dlamini said such was difficult to confirm because currently the ministers conduct meetings virtually. He said if Cabinet met physically at the Cabinet offices he would be in a position to comment on the presence of the Princess, but as it stands, he was in the dark.
Princess Sikhanyiso went on an extended leave in January, a stance which was announced by the Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini. The Princess was subsequently replaced by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo who is the acting minister of ICT. Khumalo has been since then doubling as the Minister of commerce and ICT. Recently, members of the parliament heaped praises to Khumalo for his great work despite juggling two critical positions.
Worth mentioning, 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. The Princess has been out of office more than six 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.
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