Graduate interns bring fresh ideas

November 19, 2023

Clerk to Parliament, Bennedict Xaba

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

It’s a hive of activity as the legislature prepares for the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Members of Parliament for the 12th Parliament of the Kingdom of Eswatini. It’s a busy period for parliamentary staff as they do all it takes to ensure that the event, which was happening on 06 October, runs smoothly. The Clerk to Parliament, Benedict Xaba, is also on his toes coordinating activities to be performed by various stakeholders. 

Xaba says that to carry out its representation, legislative and oversight functions, Parliament requires the support of the Parliament Service Staff.

“In many instances, people focus on the Honourable Members, but we also have the Parliament Service Staff whose work is to service the parliamentarians,” says Xaba. “Whenever there is a debate, it is due to the background work done by the staff. Therefore, without an adequate parliament service staff, Parliament becomes very weak.”

To be effective and vibrant, according to Xaba, Parliament – which includes the House of Senate and House of Assembly – needs a staff complement of 70. However, owing to the government’s hiring freeze because of a lack of resources, Parliament found itself operating with 50 staff, resulting in a backlog in many departments.   

Given the need for additional staff, Parliament signed up for 20 graduate interns under Eswatini Youth Empowerment Programme (EYEP). The programme is a partnership between the government, the private sector, academia, and civil society organisations and is supported by UNDP. EYEP aims to contribute towards reducing youth unemployment – currently at 58% for the age group between 15 and 35 years and intervenes through two components – graduate placement and artisanal skills training. 

“We work with various stakeholders, including the different ministries. Therefore, we need a variety of skills from social sciences, law, IT, and others,” he says. 

Appreciating EYEP, Xaba says there has been a significant change in Parliament since the arrival of the interns in July because they have new ideas and are full of energy contributing to a different culture of the organization. 

“I wish to keep them because they are bringing new ideas and joining them with our experienced staff is taking the organization forward. For example, they organised outreach programmes where we visited a school, and the interns addressed Form 5s about the work done in Parliament,” he says. 

Graduate interns at Biolab Eswatini going about their duties.

UNDP/Ayanda Nhlabatsi

Biolab Eswatini, a laboratory established by local businesspeople in response to the demand for lab services brought by COVID-19 to ensure local testing and analysis capability, signed up for five graduates. Sibusiso Hlatshwayo, Biolab Director, says EYEP resonates with the company’s mandate in that it exists to offer quality services and, simultaneously, wants to address youth unemployment. 

“It’s a mutually beneficial programme in that it has allowed the industry to plough back to society while gaining access to the young talent,” says Hlatshwayo. 

He says the added advantage is that EYEP does the matching and selection via a digital platform, creates transparency in organisations, and ensures they receive the quality of graduates they seek. 

“We look at the CVs, and they’re bringing different strengths in terms of the education they received and the level of exposure because some studied in the country and others abroad. This system has also ensured that we avoid a situation where directors hire their relatives,” he says.   

The director of Ritog Investments, Phumlani Dlamini, an engineering and manufacturing firm based in Matsapha, says as a short-staffed SME, EYEP presented an opportunity to bring qualified graduates to the company. Ritog has three qualified interns in graphic design, marketing and health and safety. 

“It’s interesting to work with these young people, especially because this company is youth-led, and they bring a good energy mix to the table,” he says 

Three months since the interns started the organization is reaping the benefits through its visibility and customer satisfaction. 

The fact that EYEP pays the graduates monthly stipend is the cherry on top, he says, because it allows small businesses with limited resources to tap into the young talent.