Friday, January 10, 2014


King Mswati III of Swaziland incorrectly told his subjects that ‘hard work and prayer’ would stop hunger in the kingdom.

In a speech when dispersing regiments at the end of the Incwala ceremony, the King ‘noted that not every Swazi enjoyed a good livelihood but this could be overcome through hard work and prayer’, the Sunday Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King reported.

He said, ‘There should be no poverty in the country but every person’s prayers and wishes should come to fruition’.

‘As you go back to your respective homes, go and plough the land so that we can have a bumper harvest. Because we want to achieve first world status, we need to first have plenty of food.’

The Observer reported. ‘The king’s speech when dispersing the regiments is his first in the New Year and normally sets the tone for the country and gives the direction in which the nation needs to drive towards.’

The King’s call for prayer to overcome hunger is at odds with the evidence that shows government policies are largely to blame for the food crisis in Swaziland. King Mswati, as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, handpicks the Prime Minister and members of the government.

Exactly one year ago (January 2013),the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee in a report predicted a total of 115,712 people (one in ten of the population) in Swaziland would go hungry in 2013 as the kingdom struggled to feed its population as the economy remained in the doldrums.

The report said problems with the Swazi economy were major factors. The kingdom was too dependent on food imports and because of high price inflation in Swaziland people could not afford to buy food. About seven in ten people in Swaziland live in abject poverty, earning less than US$2 a day.

This was not an isolated statement. In 2012, three separate reports from the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies all concluded the Swazi Government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing number of Swazis who had to skip meals.

The reports listed low growth levels, government wastefulness and corruption, and lack of democracy and accountability as some of the main reasons for the economic downturn that led to an increasing number of hungry Swazis.

The Swazi Government was also accused in May 2013 of deliberately withholding food donated from overseas as aid from hungry people as a policy to induce them to become disaffected with their members of parliament and blame them for the political situation in the kingdom. Newspapers in Swaziland and abroad reported the government wanted to punish the kingdom’s MPs for passing a vote of no confidence against it.

It was also revealed that the Swaziland Government had sold maize donated as food aid by Japan for hungry children in the kingdom on the open market and deposited the US$3 million takings in a special bank account.

A report in July 2013 called The Cost of Hunger in Africa, which was prepared by the government of Swaziland working together with World Food Programme, found that around 270,000 adults in the kingdom, or more than 40 percent of its workers, suffered from stunted growth due to malnutrition. As a result, they were more likely to get sick, do poorly in school, be less productive at work and have shorter lives.

Poverty is so grinding in Swaziland that some people, close to starvation, are forced to eat cow dung in order to fill their stomachs before they can take ARV drugs to treat their HIV status.

In 2011, newspapers in Swaziland reported the case of a woman who was forced to take this drastic action. Once the news went global, apologists for King Mswati denounced the report as lies.

But, a video obtained by Think Africa Press revealed the hardships faced by Sophie Magagula, living in Siteki. In the video Magagula explained that she needed to have food with her anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, but with food scarce, she was forced to eat anything she could find - including cow dung - to continue her course of medication. The video showed her mixing the cow dung in readiness for eating.

In July 2012, Nkululeko Mbhamali, Member of Parliament for Matsanjeni North, said people in the Swaziland lowveld area had died of hunger at Tikhuba.

In a New Year statement released on Tuesday (7 January 2014) the Prime Minister of Swaziland Barnabas Dlamini supported the King’s words on poverty. He said, ‘In line with the strategy presented by His Majesty, the Administration’s Five Year Programme of Action, that will be presented to Parliament following the Speech from the Throne 2014, will focus on our making more, and growing more, as well as increasing the provision of services such as tourism. And where we identify edible products for export we will aim to add value wherever possible in order to raise the financial return from our entry into the global supply chain.’

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