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AVERT THIS DISASTER

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A programme by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) on national radio on Wednesday evening, which was basically cautioning us on safety precautions to minimise the impact of disasters, gave yet another indication of rising levels of unhappiness among the populace.

During the public call-in time, strong voices of discontent were directed towards government with regards the way elderly people are treated in this country, particularly on the issue of delayed elderly grants.


Many of the callers strongly believe that our social and economic ills are the consequence of God’s wrath for the deliberate neglect of the elderly people. They cited the drought, cattle deaths, starvation, drug shortages, etc. I chuckled at the irony of a programme on disaster turning into a bit of a disaster.

And it came as no surprise when the host remarked ‘tajika tintfo,’ which means ‘the tables have turned.’ He tried hard to guide the callers on the topic of the day with little success until one woman called to say she was not experiencing any drought or hunger in her area so government could not be blamed for the extreme weather patterns.


The other irony to the show that I found quite striking was how the different climatic conditions in this country resembled the distribution of national wealth. It is raining cash for some of the privileged few while dozens of others can barely see a cent come their way. The elderly certainly fall within the bracket of those in the drought hit areas because they haven’t had a disbursement for the past five months.

Earlier on Wednesday, government had issued a press statement announcing that elderly grants would be issued this month dating back five months to July. The obvious question is; how have the elderly been able to get by over the past five months? Raising this question triggers a whole lot of other questions affecting several sectors of our society that are feeling the brunt of the current undeclared financial crisis.


Just recently Swazis needing specialised treatment under the Phalala Fund and the Civil Servants Medical Referral scheme were reported to be dying because of a E170 million accumulated debt that has led South Africa medical service providers refusing to accept patients under the schemes.


Our hospitals and clinics are running short on supply of drugs. The business community is also bleeding with unpaid invoices for services rendered to government. Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini has once again assured the service providers that government would settle its debts with them.

He issued this statement as he filed his tax returns with the Swaziland Revenue Authority (SRA) on Wednesday. There was no indication of when this would happen, which doesn’t change the status quo. The PM is fortunate to be in the group of the privileged few who are able to pay their taxes.


 It is farming season and farmers are also angry that the Ministry of Agriculture is struggling to provide farming inputs as promised. Members of Parliament on Wednesday gave the minister a two-day ultimatum to deliver the required fertiliser. Apparently the ministry has only been able to deliver seeds and ammonium nitrate, makhabeni, while in some areas farmers were told to fetch the inputs from distant depots which costs over E1 000 for transport.


Recently the minister said the farm inputs were ready but lamented that the farmers were late with payment. He said 331 tractors were available but 130 of them needed repairs.
Clearly these challenges confirm the prevailing cash flow crisis and this suggests that there is no guarantee that the elderly will all be paid their meagre grants. There is also no guarantee that the businesses will be paid anytime soon either.


Sadly, this also suggests that relatives of patients hoping for specialist treatment in South Africa under Phalala Fund and the Civil Service Medical scheme should rather be saving up for funerals.
This is part of the pain and anger that presented itself on national radio on Wednesday evening. This was a programme educating people about disasters. Come to think of it, we cannot say their concerns about the financial disaster we face were misplaced because this form of disaster is causing serious social challenges that are coming with the loss of lives.

Perhaps it’s time NDMA paid Cabinet a visit. This is a matter that raises the red flag, once again, about the serious cash flow challenges facing government.

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