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LAST week I mentioned that there is a need to overhaul government’s personnel for the country to move forward. I still feel that some of the people in government offices are not going to help the country come out of the economic crisis despite the positive moves by the prime minister and his Cabinet.

The previous Parliament brought to light the many positives there were in dagga production. This was opposed because many do not have any idea of manufacturing the end result of the product to be produced. We are always thinking of abuse of dagga and forget about the other products that would benefit the country.

Currently the focus is on the medical benefit that the plant has and we are failing to concentrate even on the other products that it has. A story was published where we were told that someone is producing hair products using the plant. We have been told that there is a soap that can be produced from dagga. We have been told that dagga can produce a high quality thread that can bring into being durable garments. But some government officials did not support the ideas, yet such ideas are what we need not only to come out of the economic crisis but to also sustain our economy.

As a country we are failing to fully benefit from our natural resources and sometimes we even lose what we already have because we are giving away the natural resources. We have an example in Botswana, which saw an opportunity to benefit from its natural resources and their currency today is very strong as a result. Can’t we model Botswana in as far as this is concerned?

Botswana realised that for them to maximise their gains from diamonds, it had to execute the end results in that country. We have places like Maloma that is producing coal and the coal is exported as a raw product at very low prices. And before we know it, the coal is used to produce electricity in neighbouring countries. We then buy that electricity at high prices.

The Eswatini Electricity Company always tells the nation that it needs to increase electricity tariffs because it buys electricity from Eskom at a high price. Eskom is selling to us, at high price, a product from our natural resources that we sold raw.
It pains me deeply when I think of the iron ore at Ngwenya. The ore was transported day and night at the expense of our roads. At the end of the day, emaSwati never benefited from this natural resource.

As I penned this, companies in the country are importing steel products from other countries at high prices. This is the very steel produced from our iron ore. With the steel industry it is even worse because government is taxing the companies yet they are assisting other countries to protect their steel industries.

South Africa has a steel industry that it is protecting and, therefore, it taxes steel imported into that country at high rates to protect their industries. What is Eswatini protecting because it does not have a steel industry? Instead of allowing the steel to be brought into the country at cheaper rates so that more emaSwati could be employed and then tax them, we stop the employment opportunities through high taxes.

This is the same thing with the gold mined at Lufafa. The people of Hhelehhele do not have good roads yet there is gold that is being mined in their neighbourhood. That explains why it is not easy to find a person of that area owning a gold product yet gold is being mined in the area. The mine does not benefit the community because even the few who are employed are not properly remunerated to make a difference.
I want to praise government for realising that water is a natural resource that can be utilised to help in the economic development of the country. This I say because recently we have seen some dams being constructed.
This is good but I wonder why it does not do the same with the other natural resources. But even with the dams, the problem is that whenever they are constructed, we think of nothing else but sugar cane cultivation. Cultivating sugar cane was quite viable in the past but there are challenges now. Why then do we not diversify and think of other things to do with the dam water.
Clearly we are heading for a drought year and food scarcity will be common. Why not utilize the water we have in the dams for big scale production of other crops. Instead of importing maize, while denying people to get same from other countries, we could use our water resource and land to produce the food we need. As long as we have not looked at the people in government offices we will continue lamenting until we expire. Even the current PM with his plans will not succeed.

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