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Starving Swazis Exploited

category southern africa | economy | non-anarchist press author Tuesday April 15, 2008 15:53author by Swazi Media Commentary Report this post to the editors

Swazi people threatened with starvation are being forced to pay cash to receive food aid that has been donated free of charge by international agencies.

In the latest example of corruption in a kingdom eaten away by the cancer, the Swazi News reported (12 April 2008) that people in the Mkhiweni area must pay E2 to get food or they go hungry. (In Swaziland about 70 percent of the population earn less than E7 per day.)

The Swazi News reports, 'It has been gathered that the E2 is a prerequisite for residents to be listed as beneficiaries for donor food.'

The newspaper quotes a resident, who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, saying,

'The E2 payment is something that has been going on for some time. When it was introduced it was said that it was meant to hire a car for the area's traditional authorities to attend food rations. We can hardly afford this amount. That we qualify for donor food rations means we do not have the money to buy food, and this just leaves us confused.'

The Swazi News reported that residents were called to a community meeting where the money was demanded from them.

One resident told the Swazi News,

'It is inhumane. In the meeting the authorities of the area said they would take even 50 cents. It's pathetic, but we pay up [rather] than miss out on the rations.'

In Swaziland about 600,000 people - about two thirds of the total population of the kingdom - are reported to have received international food aid in the past year.

The Disaster Task Team in Swaziland, responsible for donated food, is investigating the matter. The news of this obvious corruption will almost certainly tarnish Swaziland's reputation further in the international community. Already the World Food Programme is finding it difficult to get donor agencies to meet the cost of food aid to the kingdom.

Swaziland also has a poor reputation in the international community for its inability to use money wisely.

On the same day as the Swazi News article (12 April 2008), its rival newspaper the Weekend Observer reported Swaziland Prime Minister Themba Dlamini saying his government was embarrassed that it had not utilised the E36 million (about 5.1 million US Dollars) that it had itself earmarked to spend on HIV AIDs drugs. At the same time as it failed to spend this money, the government was asking foreign institutions for cash to help in the fight against AIDS. (Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world).

The Weekend Observer quoted the Prime Minister at a business meeting saying,

'I am embarrassed. I do not have much to say. This reflects certain weaknesses in the management system. I will ensure that I get an explanation from those involved.'

Surely, if it is a problem with the 'management system' the Prime Minister, as the 'senior manager' of Swaziland, ought to take the blame.

Swazi journalists - and some others - often complain that Swaziland has a poor image abroad and they put the blame for this state of affairs squarely on 'misreporting' by the media. I don't suppose it will take too long for the international media to pick up on the two stories I have written about here.

And when they do, and Swaziland is rightly shamed, please don't blame the messenger this time.

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