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As the nation surges deeper into political doldrums, the space for centrist views gets displaced by the minute, leaving only space for views on either polar ends.

We have just entered yet another phase of the unofficial holidays, the only twist this time around is the unenforceable court order and the few government buses deployed and manned at the barrel of the gun. I have been pondering the likely reasons why the policymakers deemed this move a plausible course of action and what other policy alternatives were there at their disposal. I ask this because we are now a people running on fear, we fear an eminent riot which could result in the loss of lives and damage to property, what are we then communicating by getting the army and police officers with guns to ferry the public between nods?

A new low

The current unfolding events communicate that we have indeed reached a new low level in the security situation in the country. At this point the situation is likely to spiral downhill from here on. The observed situation is only seen in war-torn countries where civilian transport needs to be escorted by an armed brigade to fend off insurgence should the threat become real. This is an unheard off occurrence in a supposedly peaceful and stable environment. The fact that government had to stoop to the level of providing free transport between nodes is testament to a failed state. A government trying so hard to present to the world some semblance of normalcy in the country and these efforts are failing dismally. The world watches with keen interest and the world can see that not all is well in Eswatini; it is only the Government of Eswatini that seems to think all is well. The signals are cutting across the globe and everyone interprets the signals in their own right.

The signal

Sadly the economy and commerce read these signals and will soon begin pricing these signals and making the relevant adjustments. These adjustments are not going to favour the economy and commerce; we are likely heading to a situation of negative growth in 2023 if we do not arrest our problems as a country. The deployment of the army on homeland signals a very delicate security situation which requires businesses and investors to respond to accordingly. Furthermore, it signals that there is no end in sight to our problems as a nation. We will soon begin to see capital flying to destinations that are more stable and where it will feel safe. Capital will fly to more predictable operating environments with a stable cash-flow projection environment. The current state of affairs hampers the country’s ability to attract direct foreign investment as the unpredictable security situation does not bode well with investors. Imagine planting your money in a country where you cannot even count the number of productive days. Eswatini already had a lot of holidays from a commerce stand point, now doubling those is not something that foreign investors will look into favourably.

Commerce response

Running a business in Eswatini has become quite an extreme sport, emanating from the looming threat of violent protest actions likely resulting to looting or the impromptu holidays making it difficult for businesses to plan production. The norm has been for businesses to empty their shops on the eve of the commander’s holidays or investments in security. All these costs find a way to the final price that we pay for the commodities at the shelf. Also, the holidays will make it difficult for firms, more especially retailers, to recoup the additional security costs and additional transport costs of moving commodities in and out of the shops. This cuts into the profit margins that businesses make and will result in downsizing of the labour force. This is one of the factors that will drive the economy into negative growth territory. Furthermore, the security premium will reduce the competitiveness of our commodities in the global market since they will be priced a bit higher, this will make it even difficult for commerce to survive in the international market. We note how commerce gets grounded during the impromptu holidays, this is not good especially for businesses in the import and export business as global shipping has strict deadline. These also results in loss of confidence on goods from Eswatini since the supply chain is not guaranteed.

The losses

The most painful outcome of the current Eswatini story is that the effects of this standoff between the two political polar ends, is that the effects are shouldered by the poorest of the poor. The capitalist will feel the pinch but they can absorb it, their pockets are deep enough. Imagine that street vendor who relies on people moving around to sell their wares. Imagine that bus conductor who gets paid on a daily basis, how will they make ends meet. As the political long game is being played, we must remember that a majority of our people cannot afford this long game, theirs is an emergent and fast game.

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