By Mantoe Phakathi
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Rose Ssebatindira, has commended the openness of the Parliament of Eswatini in embracing digital technologies for working remotely.
Addressing the House of Senate on Mar. 08 at Happy Valley Hotel, Ssebatindira said she believed that Parliament was creating a legacy that will last long after the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided. The Upper Chamber was attending a workshop where it was embarking on reviewing its Standing Orders to comply with working online. The Lower Chamber also underwent a similar process with the support of UNDP.
“I congratulate The Kingdom of Eswatini as it joins many other countries whose parliaments have reviewed their legislative framework and brought forward amendments to address legal and procedural barriers to remote or hybrid working,” she said. She was referring to countries like Brazil, Finland, Latvia, South Africa, and Spain.
She further announced UNDP’s provision of additional ICT equipment - video conferencing, laptops, Android tablets and a backup server - to further advance working virtually as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The need for parliamentary proceedings to be broadcast live wherever possible and recorded accurately for posterity is more important today than ever before,” she said.
Ssebatindira said she was glad to see the effective utilization of the ICT support provided to Parliament this far, which is an important milestone in the partnership towards the longer-term goal to advance Parliamentary effectiveness and the country’s priorities to achieve the SDGs, in particular SDG 16.
Speaking at the same event, Senate President, Ps. Lindiwe Dlamini, reminded the Senators about the process of reviewing the Standing Orders adding that it is a process that will take longer than a few days. She also emphasised the need for Parliament to evolve and adapt to the 4th Industrial Revolution as demonstrated by other jurisdictions who have adopted virtual sitting.
“In that regard, it would be amiss of me not to extend our appreciation to UNDP for providing training for us on some of those virtual platforms,” said Dlamini, adding: “It is surely gratifying to see how Senators have adapted to using that platform (Zoom) as we have been able to conduct a healthy number of meetings through same.”
She also expressed her gratitude to UNDP for agreeing to make another presentation and training at the workshop.
The Clerk to Parliament, Benedict Xaba, speaking through his deputy, Zanele Gamedze, expressed his gratitude to King Mswati III for his vision of making ICTs the cornerstone of Eswatini’s development. He also thanked the Senate President for her leadership in facilitating E-Parliament.
“E-Parliament is a programme that aims at providing enhanced legislative and parliamentary services through innovative state-of-the-art ICT tools and solutions such as Zoom conferencing and webinars to name a few,” said Xaba.
He also expressed his gratitude to UNDP for its partnership demonstrated through the various training and technical support.
Mantoe Phakathi is the Communication Specialist at UNDP Eswatini.