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THE ILLUSION OF PRIVILEGE

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Rioting pupils risk scholarships!

I mulled over this statement for a long while and I failed to understand it. It did, however, reveal the level of ignorance that abides in privilege. It brought to mind the level of State polygamy and misogyny that has ruled Eswatini and her economy. It underscores the need to separate the scholarship fund and a lot of other initiatives meant to develop the community from the traditional systems that are based on value laden propositions. We have a government and ministers who chose to intimidate rather than solve the problem.

The scholarship fund is capitalised by State funds, by our taxes and it should yield maximum benefit to the general population. I find it disturbing that the minister threatens to withhold scholarships from emaSwati protesting for universal coverage of the scholarship project. It goes to show the lack of accountability in this country and the fact that the power is so centralised among those who are so detached from the daily lived realities of emaSwati. Instead of solving the issues the country contends with, the authorities turn to buying coercion and submission.

Idea of democracy

In as much as government views democracy as an idea, not an ideal, I must say it is a good idea. The current system has so much power centralised in certain echelons, decentralising the power would help improve resource allocation. If the minister was elected into the post he occupies, I do not believe he would have made these statements. Currently, the longevity of one’s political ambitions rests with the appointing authority and not with the electorate. Such a system cannot produce socially just outcomes for the whole population, it will only work for a few.

Devolution is the key

The concentration of power is not good for the economy and the social cohesion of the nation. If one minister, who got appointed into office just yesterday, feels so powerful that he can dictate who gets a scholarship that is funded through public funds is an indicator of how big the problem is. It reveals a scenario of the tail wagging the dog. Studies show that in situations where power is concentrated on non-elected leadership, corruption and rent-seeking thrives. We need to cultivate a system that ensures that elected officials thrive to work for the electorate. This system will result in a fair distribution of resources because transparency and accountability are critical to economic growth.

Depoliticise scholarships

The utterances by the minister show just how politicised the government resource purse has become. We need to separate State political institutions from the scholarship fund, youth fund, rural development fund and all other government programmes that are meant to help emaSwati. In an ideal society, access to government programmes is neutral, it does not depend on political affiliation, religious beliefs and or any other socio-political variables.

We need to ensure equitable access to public programmes and it is uncalled for that such programmes are used to buy submission. The role of umphakatsi should only be to confirm residence and or domicile. It should not be left to the umphakatsi to decide whether one deserves the stamp or not. Whether one chooses to attend any traditional ceremony should not be used to determine whether they are deserving of the stamp or not. We need to develop systems that ensure equitable access to State programmes and not be used to purchase submission and allegiance.

Address discerning voices

Instead of using his position to threaten emaSwati, the minister and Cabinet should use their power and positions of influence to help steer the country into a peaceful equilibrium. They sit close to those in power and to those who need to do something about the current state in Eswatini. I urge the authorities to address the discerning voices before it is too late. As we speak, the current academic year hangs in the balance and government has been indifferent.

There is no clear plan to solve the problem of youth unemployment, no plan to solve the unemployment problem, government is surging forward with the construction of a new Parliament which frankly at the present moment we do not need. All these issues do contribute to the current state of affairs in the country. The indifference to the calls of the people is really concerning and makes one wonder if at all we have a government that wants to solve issues and effectively saying to the people ‘we do not care about you’!

Unifying the country

Constitutionally, it is the role of the Monarch to unify the country and divisions have never been this apparent in the country. Can those in power who sit closer to the sovereign use their influence to help the country call a dialogue or at least do something that will engender a new sense of calm while we figure out a long term solution. This uncertainty is not good for the country and the economy, if anything it is contributing to a radicalisation of the nation.

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