Friday, March 1, 2013


Swaziland’s Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini told newspaper editors that a major achievement of his government was to reduce poverty in the kingdom from 69 percent of the population to 63.

But, he was wrong on two counts.

First, although he did not reveal this, the statistic comes from a report called Poverty in a Decade of Slow Economic Growth: Swaziland in the 2000s, published in 2011. It looked at what had happened in the previous 10 years. Dlamini’s government came into power in 2008, so the report mostly refers to a time before he took office.

Second, and more importantly, the reduction in poverty is not at all impressive. The report released by the Swazi Ministry of Economic Planning and Development showed the  actual number of poor people in Swaziland fell from 678,500 to 641,000 within the decade. That is a drop of 37,500 over ten years. That averages out at 3,700 per year.

When the report came out there were still 641,000 people in poverty in Swaziland and at the rate of 3,700 per year it would take 173 years before all the people were out of poverty.

‘Poverty’ in the report was defined as households with an income of less than E461 (US$65) per month, per adult. Or US$2 per day.

The report also stated that every day nearly three in 10 people did not have enough to eat and the situation remained the same as at the beginning of the decade.

Dlamini and his government have a history of misleading the Swazi people and the international community about poverty levels in Swaziland.

In October 2010, the Swaziland Government doctored a report to the United Nations to make it seem that it may eradicate poverty in the kingdom by 2015. 

A report it commissioned to review the progress the government was making to achieve Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) said clearly and with evidence that it was ‘not likely’ to meet the target of ‘eradication of extreme poverty and hunger’.

When they saw the report the Swazi Cabinet decided to change the conclusion so that it read it could ‘potentially’ meet the target.

At the time, a source told the Times of Swaziland, the Cabinet ‘edited’ the report because they felt it would portray the kingdom negatively. The report with the Cabinet-ordered changes was sent to the UN. 

The source told the Times that Cabinet ministers demanded the changes because the truth ‘made it seem as if they were not doing their jobs’ and ‘might actually lead to their dismissal’.

Prime Minister Dlamini made his most recent claim about poverty at a meeting with editors.

According to a report in the Swazi Observer, ‘He said there was a lot that had been done by government but had never been noticed. He implored editors to make that information known so people would be aware of government’s achievements.’

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