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Phila is giving us a headache

So, what now? What do we make of this? Where is this coming from? Why has he withdrawn, or is it an apology—or both—his statement?

These are questions that we now have to answer, on our own mind you, following the latest development from parliament. The debacle caused by the Matsanjeni North MP Phila Buthelezi took a new dimension this past week when he stunned the nation with an apology and a withdrawal of his statements relating to either the performance of the prime minister or the appointment of the prime minister. It could be both.

However, what is stunning is that just a week earlier, he was being hailed as brave and correct to raise the issues he had raised concerning the state of poor development in the constituencies. He had won a lot of people’s hearts for standing his position that the prime minister was a hindrance to development in this country. Over the past two weeks, everyone has hailed his stance and the bravery to not be cowered into submission when the Prime Minister first responded with an official statement announcing that he was not taking this matter lightly.

But, two weeks later, and we have this. On Thursday the MP apologised, unreservedly, for his statements, leaving the nation now bemused. He said he did not mean to hurt anyone with his statements, a pregnant statement that now opens another set of questions, really.

“Following a submission I made on the prime minister on July 26, I am taking this opportunity to apologise and withdraw my statements. I also apologise to Their Majesties.”


To confound us further, the Speaker of the House then elaborated on this, saying that the MP’s comments had offended Their Majesties. “We are taking this opportunity to apologise for what this might have caused. It was not our intention to offend anyone when we executed our duties, especially Their Majesties. In Parliament we debate without intention of offending anyone,” Themba Msibi, the Speaker said.

This then is the problem. An MP whose comments are not measured is a problem, akin to some firebrand politicians in the Republic of South Africa. To be a representative of the people means that you carry their thoughts, hopes and aspirations. It means you are at par with their thinking and therefore your statements are theirs to own.

I have, occasionally questioned the manner most of our politicians go about blubbering things as though they come from the people when a majority of them hardly even get that kind of mandate from the people they represent. But it is true also that politicians get delegated authority from the constituencies to represent and speak on behalf of the people. This is important in understanding therefore that whatever happens in the Chamber must be for the people, for they are the ones that put the people there in the first place.

That context and narrative allows us to interrogate therefore this latest saga; has the MP been caught out for making comments out of turn? Is this to suggest that the statements he made could not have come from his constituency, which might have distanced itself from this, thereby exposing him to have made his own personal views to the matter?

Is it fair to conclude that based on the withdrawal of the comments, we can conclude that he was misguided in raising the issue of the appointment of the prime minister? 

Well, these are too many questions and quite honestly, the matter has become quite complex. But, we can deduce from it that MPs should be careful what they raise in Parliament under the pretext that they speak on behalf of the people. The matter simply tells us that while these statements might have seemed innocent at first, and perhaps arguably true, but there is no room for anyone to shoot from the hip and then play hero in our Parliament.


Ultimately, what this does is leave us with a big headache while trying to dismantle what has gone wrong with the comments, and what led to the withdrawal. While it remains a very delicate, if not sensitive topic, it now explains the haste with which the prime minister responded to it, and his position that the MP had made inflammatory statements that aimed at shaking the pillars that ensured that the country was unified, peaceful, and stable.  The PM accused him of disrespecting the country’s constitution and the people’s Parliament (Sibaya), which was the highest decision-making body in the country.  More importantly, the said Buthelezi should not use Parliament to attack the country’s pillars that ensure peace.

If we read into that it makes sense therefore that MP Phila Buthelezi had no other option but to withdraw these comments, because with just under a year into another election, the last thing he wants is to carry these accusations to the people, no matter what his situation is in his own constituency.

The PM’s remarks were already too serious to have been ignored, and the MP perhaps should have checked into that to realise the kind of minefield he was walking into, and taking the public with.

NatCom’s modern leadership
I admire the kind of leadership that the National Commissioner of Police Isaac Magagula is showing.
 I admire it because with so much power, the NatCom as we often refer to him, is using it with humility and transparency. These are two very good traits for a modern leader.
The NatCom has been criticised, perhaps unfairly, from all quarters for a lot of the wrongs in the police service;  admittedly because he is the leader and therefore must own up. What I always appreciate of him is that he never shirks from that responsibility, of accepting the criticism purely because he is the leader of the police and therefore that the buck stops with him. It bothers him, alright, the same criticism, and often he questions the motivation for others who critice the police.
What he doesn’t do, however, is be dismissive, bullish, arrogant, and egoistic. He is everything that represents a good modern leader, who accepts the notion that you can’t be perfect, that you have to always listen to the views of others to learn, that everyone has something that you can learn from.
That is not normal for the most of the leaders in the bracket of the national police commissioner. Many only want to hear the sound of their own voice, and reason. Many only want to see shadows. Many also want to defend their turfs, and never want to learn, motivate and mentor, if not reinvent. This past week, the national commissioner did something that was unheard of previously in the culture of the police—an apology. And this was not just an apology like that of Phila Buthelezi that leaves you scratching your head. This was an honest apology, careful though it was.  The police chief owned up to poor police work, shoddy by all standards and shocking at this day and age. He disclosed the contest of an inquiry that he had set up to probe claims that police has not responded to distress calls that had been made to the emergency line, 999. 
The community at Fonteyn in Mbabane said they made 70 calls, when under attack from a person that had gone berserk and posing danger. There was death, as a result. Subsequently, a second person died.
The police chief did not only set up the commission, but he went further to give the report, publicly. Then he apologised. He has also promised that disciplinary action will be taken against those officers who might have been on the wrong.
That is all the public wants. We want responsive leadership. We want leadership that says you are answerable to the public. The national commissioner has demonstrated that he is not afraid to accept the frailties of his charges, or the police service—whether or not these maybe be symptoms of rot within the leadership. I salute him for this, and I urge him to not be persuaded against it by those who refuse to be made accountable.
I also urge him to not be discouraged when the same people who criticise do not give him the pat on the back when the police do good. We know the difficulty of leading such an organisation, and that as I have always argued, the manner in which police officers are recruited, means there will be many rotten tomatoes than good ones. What we want is that even when they pursue the sex workers and lock them up, they do it in same vigour as when the very police are at fault. Perhaps what we only ask of him is that the people around him learn from this, and support him in this endeavour to make the police accountable to the public they serve.

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