Friday, May 29, 2020

Tens of thousands of jobs at risk in Swaziland as coronavirus pandemic continues

Tens of thousands of jobs were likely to be lost in Swaziland (eSwatini) because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to predictions from trade union and business leaders.

More than 18,000 workers in the Swazi textile industry were in danger of losing jobs or having salary cuts, according to Warnder Mkhonza, Secretary General of the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland (ATUSWA).

Swaziland has been in partial lockdown because of coronavirus (COVID-19) since 27 March 2020. Many businesses were closed, but some, including textile factories, have been allowed to reopen.

Mkhonza said textile workers already earned ‘close to nothing’ and many textile firms had not followed government regulations set up for the coronavirus crisis about how to deal with lay-offs. He said workers who had returned to work had their salaries cut by half.

Separately, Business Eswatini Chief Executive Nathi Dlamini said it was inevitable that there would be job losses once the pandemic was over.

He said the pandemic had deprived Swaziland of revenues including tax income and employment. He said business performance had fallen to its lowest imaginable level.

In other coronavirus developments in Swaziland:

The COVID-19 Regional Response Teams reported that people in rural areas were not taking the pandemic seriously as they believed it was something that only affected urban areas. In one case a crowd of more than a hundred people had gathered for a soccer match and none wore masks. People took advantage of the setting and went about doing businesses such as selling food and beverages to the crowd.

MBABANE GOVERNMENT Hospital support staff said they were at high risk of contracting COVID-19 as they were not provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). They also said that a bus used to transport them to and from work was never fumigated.

AS OF 28 May 2020 there had been two reported deaths and 279 people tested positive for COVID-19, according to official figures from the Ministry of Health.

See also

Coronavirus lockdown costs thousands of jobs in Swaziland, people evicted from homes

Swaziland short of coronavirus protective equipment for health workers as prices soar

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Swaziland short of coronavirus protective equipment for health workers as prices soar

Swaziland (eSwatini) is short of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line health workers during the coronavirus crisis because suppliers have doubled their prices, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said. 

Once a tender for equipment had been agreed suppliers asked for prices to be increased and often more than doubled.

NDMA Procurement Officer Phesheya Dlamini told the eSwatini Observer, ‘Within a week of award, the prices had increased a hundredfold [doubled] to an extent that three companies came back to us requesting a price increase of over 100 per cent of the quoted price.

‘For instance, the supplier of gowns had initially said he would supply us the gowns at E197 each.  He, however, came back and requested to at least supply at a revised price of not less than E400. The only supplier that did not have a problem was the one who had quoted E1,300. Similarly the company that was to supply gumboots ended up failing to do so because of the price hike.’

The Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula said suppliers were struggling to deliver goods on time and some coronavirus (COVID-19) supplies were not available as countries rushed for them due to the pressing demand.

Doctors, nurses and other health workers have had to treat coronavirus patients without correct PPE during the continuing pandemic. On 22 May 2020, Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said 33 health workers had contracted the virus in Swaziland.

She added, ‘This suggests that in this fight health workers are not spared from this pandemic as they could [be] gripped by anxiety and fears.’

Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini called frontline health workers ‘our frontline soldiers’. He said, ‘In this war against the pandemic that has been plaguing the globe healthcare workers are in the firing end. They are the ones who are bravely protecting us against [the] deadly invisible enemy.’

Separately, voluntary workers in the community were told they should strip off their clothes and wash them outside their homes after each day’s work to avoid taking coronavirus into their homes. 

Participants at a workshop in the National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTCP) were told this was because PPE was not available.

See also

Swaziland nurses’ union calls for closure of major hospital in fight against coronavirus

Coronavirus: Swaziland hospitals in crisis, PM forms emergency task groups

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Swazi state opposes bail for activist who criticised absolute monarch, faces sedition charge

Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, the Swaziland (eSwatini) democracy activist arrested for sedition after he was quoted in a news report criticising absolute monarch King Mswati III, had an application for bail opposed at the Swazi High Court.

Detailed papers have yet to be filed in the case. Ngcamphalala asked to be released on bail until the court case was heard. In Swaziland, defendants are often held in jail for many years awaiting trial. He told the court his two children had been reduced ‘to mere beggars’ while he was locked up.

Ngcamphalala was arrested on 1 May 2020 and charged with an offence under the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act 1938. The bail application is still pending.

Ngcamphalala who is President of the Swaziland Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was charged for comments he made in an a article published by Swati Newsweek, a news website.

In the report Ngcamphalala was quoted saying, ‘We want government to change people’s lives, the Swazi Monarchy must know its place. We respect the King, but respect is earned and when pushed into a corner; we will be forced to retaliate. We unapologetically stand for multi-party democracy.’

In Swaziland, King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and government ministers as well as top judges and civil servants. Political parties cannot take part in elections and groups campaigning for democratic reforms are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

In April, Eugene Dube, the Swati Newsweek editor, was arrested, tortured by police and threatened with a charge of treason for publishing the report.


Ncamiso Ngcamphalala, President of the Economic Freedom Fighters-Swaziland

Separately, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe) has drawn attention to two Swaziland journalists, Zweli Martin Dlamini and Eugene Dube who fled the kingdom to South Africa, fearing their lives were in danger.

In statement it said, ‘Dlamini, the editor of Swaziland News, had in April written a story that King Mswati had contracted COVID-19. The police reportedly visited his home where they allegedly harassed his family members.

‘On the other hand, Royal Police visited Dube’s house, at least three times, seeking to interrogate him because the authorities were upset that he was reporting about the activities of an opposition group.

‘The police, on the other hand, claim they wanted to arrest Dube, the editor of Swati Newsweek because he had contravened COVID-19 lockdown regulations. He was detained for nine hours on 23 April, but Dube said the police did not question him on the alleged contravention of lockdown regulations.’

‘We urge the eSwatini authorities to guarantee the safety of the two journalists.’
Dube has written about how he fled from the Swazi police and hid out in a forest for five days.

See also

Swaziland journalist critical of King flees, hides in forest five days

Swaziland journalist critical of absolute monarch, beaten, arrested, faces treason charge

‘No media freedom’ in Swaziland, Reporters Without Borders annual report states
Swaziland journalist ‘tortured by police after criticising absolute monarch in newspaper articles’

Newspaper editor flees Swaziland for second time after arrest and police torture