As Swaziland (eSwatini) extended its coronavirus partial lockdown for another month to 19 June 2020 information emerged that the Swazi Government had failed to make progress with two plans to support businesses and feed 300,000 hungry people.
Swaziland, which is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, went into lockdown on 27 March. There are restrictions on travel, the size of gatherings and which shops and businesses can open. Schools and colleges are also closed.
Shortly after the lockdown began the government announced plans to help business. The Sunday Observer reported no money had been paid out to businesses from a E90 million (US$5 million) fund. At least 18 businesses were reported to have applied for money but their requests were being tied up by the Eswatini Revenue Authority which is checking their tax status.
There were also concerns raised by Business Eswatini that the maximum E8 million annual turnover threshold to qualify had been set too low and many needy businesses were ineligible to apply.
Business Eswatini Chief Executive Officer Nathi Dlamini told the Observer, ‘However, if the threshold had been pegged higher, a number of business entities particularly those from the hospitality, transport and logistics sectors would have immediately availed for this facility.’
The funds were supposed to be emergency payments to allow businesses to stay afloat during the lockdown.
When he announced the scheme Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini said, ‘This relief will be directed to businesses that have continually supported the development of the country by complying with their tax obligations, which means they have filed and paid their taxes on time up to the 2019 tax year.’
Eswatini Revenue Authority Director Communications Vusi Dlamini told the Observer nothing had been paid out so far because it was still conducting compliance checks.
Separately, a plan to feed at least 300,000 hungry people across Swaziland seemed to have stalled.
The Swaziland News, an online newspaper, reported on Monday (18 May 2020) that E500 million had been donated for relief from private companies, non-governmental organizations and international partners, but so far no food had been distributed.
It reported, ‘It has been disclosed that government only distributed donated food from Taiwan to few individuals and nothing convincing has been done with the multi-million cash donations including the E100million approved by Parliament.’
The Swazi Government had set a deadline of 6 May to feed more than 300,000 people through the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
Wandile Mavuso, NDMA spokesperson later confirmed that people in urban areas would not get food. He explained on state radio that the government was directing its efforts only to rural areas.
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