Saturday, May 25, 2013


Starving people in Swaziland are being denied food by the government because it is punishing the kingdom’s members of parliament for passing a vote of no confidence against it, local and international media have claimed.

Food intended to feed destitute families, especially those headed by single women with children, has been deliberately left to rot in government warehouses, they said. One Swazi newspaper said, ‘[T]here could be a deliberate ploy at cabinet to systematically starve the people’.

Swaziland has a food crisis and in recent years up to a half of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population have relied on donated food to stop from starving.

Now, a scandal is being uncovered in Swaziland that points to the government deliberately withholding food from starving people, in the hope they will blame their local members of parliament for the problem.

The international news agency IRIN reported the problem is being blamed on ‘bad blood’ between members of parliament (MPs) and members of King Mswati III’s cabinet. This is after the House of Assembly passed a no-confidence vote in October 2012 against Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini, who is both a relative and appointee of the king. The no-confidence vote was later reversed.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, in an editorial comment said, ‘[T]here could be a deliberate ploy at cabinet to systematically starve the people’.

IRIN reported, ‘Although the country has institutions resembling those in democracies, Swaziland's parliamentarians do not enact legislation; rather, they approve policies of the king’s appointed cabinet.

‘But MPs are still responsible to their constituents - voter registration began a few days ago for this year’s scheduled elections, although a poll date has yet to be announced. Political parties remain banned.

‘Some observers believe the disruption of food supplies was meant as a lesson for the MPs.

‘Aaron Simelane, a Swaziland-based political commentator, told IRIN, “MPs are considered community development agents by the people who vote ... Swazis want their MPs to bring roads, jobs and aid to their communities, but MPs have no power to do any of these things. [The] cabinet has this power.

‘“The people do not know this, and when things aren’t done they blame MPs, who promise to deliver this and that to get elected. By withholding food aid, [the] cabinet is teaching MPs a lesson about power.”’

Local media in Swaziland reported that ‘hundreds of 50kg bags of beans, mealie-meal and boxes of cooking oil’ had been left to rot at the government central warehouse in Matsapha.

IRIN said the spoiled food included, ‘15,000kg of the staple maize meal, 25,000kg of beans and 600 cartons of vegetable oil.’

The Swazi Observer in an editorial comment stated, ‘[T]ons of donated staples like maize, beans and cooking oil were deliberately being allowed to rot at a government granary in Matsapha, while starving people had to contend with the pangs of hunger out there.

‘We may be forced to agree with the honourables [members of parliament], who are now claiming there could be a deliberate ploy at cabinet to systematically starve the people and obliterate them from the face of their army worm-ravaged areas.’

The Observer went on to say, ‘Or much sinister still, it is to alienate the present crop of MPs from their constituents, so they cannot be voted back to parliament, if that was to happen.

‘Are the hungry people being used to hit back at the MPs for their still-born vote of no confidence last year? When things happen in this manner, one starts to believe even the most far-fetched theories, which is why government should avoid such embarrassing situations at all costs.

‘That people are hungry out there is a given. Even those who send money home from towns have drastically reduced the amounts they send as a result of high costs of living and the triple-taxation they are forced to shoulder.’

The Swazi Government which is hand-picked by King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, caused a scandal in March this year when it was revealed it had sold maize donated for hungry people by Japan, for about US$3 million.

The money was put in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland. The Government has yet to publicly reveal exactly what the money was spent on. 

IRIN reported the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Swaziland provides food assistance at more than 1,500 neighbourhood care points, more than 200 secondary schools and 12 health facilities. In 2012, the WFP supply chain reached 327,000 people.

In 2007, more than half of the kingdom’s 1.1 population required food aid, IRIN said.

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