Grants for people with disabilities in Swaziland / eSwatini are to be cut because the government has run out of money.
Now, only 20 people in each political constituency (known locally as tinkhundla) will get benefits.
There are 59 tinkhundla in the kingdom for about 1.2 million people. In 2016 the then Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini estimated 114,000 people were living with disabilities in Swaziland.
E8.7 million (US$600,000) was set aside in this year’s national budget for the grants. In 2017 that figure was E25.5 million, according to budget estimates for 2019 – 2022.
President of the Federation of People with Disabilities in Swaziland (FODSWA) Sipho Dlamini said he had been told by Swaziland’s Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku the cutback was because of the ongoing financial crisis.
He told the Times of Swaziland (28 May 2019) his organisation would work closely with local leaders to choose who gets the grants.
Sipho Dlamini said people with disabilities were not adequately represented in parliament. The Times reported he said it was because of this that issues of people with disabilities were not given the attention they deserved.
People with disabilities in Swaziland are poorly treated. A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.
‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’
It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.
‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’
Since that report the Disability Act of 2018 introduced financial grants, but the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, is in economic meltdown. Public health centres and hospitals have run out of medicines, schools are without supplies and children are going hungry because feeding programmes have stopped. All because the government, which is handpicked by the King, cannot pay suppliers.
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