Swaziland’s Ministry of Home Affairs had its electricity cut off on Monday (26 March 2018) because it owes ‘millions of emalangeni’ on its power bill, a newspaper in the kingdom reported.
It is not the first government ministry in the kingdom to be blacked out because of unpaid bills.
The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (27 March 2018), ‘Operations at the ministry came to a halt at around 9am.’
It added, ‘People had to use phone lights to navigate through the dark offices and hallways of the ministry and they had to use the stairs as the lifts were not an option under the circumstances.’
The Observer reported, ‘A source asserted that the ministry owes millions to the Swaziland Electricity Company (SEC) and it is for that reason that the latter decided to cut the power yesterday.’
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Anthony Masilela told the newspaper, ‘If the power blackout is caused by the ministry owing the Swaziland Electricity Company then it lies with the accounts department because I did sign a cheque that was meant to settle any outstanding balance with SEC and I’m yet to check with them on what happened.’
Earlier in March 2018, it was reported law courts, police stations, libraries, media houses, border posts among others in Swaziland were disconnected of electricity because the government had not paid its bills.
It was estimated that it owed the SEC about E15m (US$1.2m). In total the Swazi Government owed its suppliers more than E3bn.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, reported at the time power was restored after a day but the government had not paid its bills but was negotiating payment terms.
Finance Minister Martin Dlamini in his budget speech on 1 March 2018 said, ‘Government arrears as on February 1st, 2018 stood at E3.1bn.’ He added ‘Government, however, acknowledges the accumulation of arrears to suppliers and has prioritised the management of these.’
Services across Swaziland have been grinding to a halt because suppliers have not been paid. School have run short of food for children who rely on it to avoid malnutrition; health centres and hospitals have run out of medicines and vaccines.
Meanwhile, the budget included provisions for a E1.5bn convention centre and hotel and E5.5m for a retirement house for the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini.
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