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Like his South African counterpart, Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg has the money to finance the 2023-2024 national budget, which is good. The challenge will always be how to spend it. The auditor general’s annual reports provide an in-depth measure of how well or bad our taxes have been used by those entrusted with the responsibility and it often makes for disheartening reading.

The past year’s report is no different. What is telling, though, with the current report, is the deeper cost of the country’s security situation that is eating away at our resources that should otherwise be serving much needed social and national development obligations.


An E8 million car rental bill for the security forces to quell the unrest seems excessive in the eyes of the ordinary citizen. There is no denying that all people, apart from those propagating the violence, wanted safety in an environment that had become extremely volatile as acts of terrorism reigned supreme, but such figures agitate us towards raising the necessity of it all and how it could have been avoided.

It adds on to the E500 million that has gone into the Reconstruction Fund aimed at resuscitating the businesses and government infrastructure that were destroyed during the June-July 2021 unrest. The impact of the job losses to thousands of emaSwati has been devastating, making it hard to fathom how the affected have been able to cope since then, in the midst of a rising cost of living. Crime has risen in some sectors and communities have resorted to self-help by meting out street justice to address it.

With some companies, they have reported an increase in theft and robberies running into millions, with one company reporting that it has had to hire over 120 guards overnight, daily, to guard essential irrigation infrastructure since the unrest began.What cannot be quantified in monetary terms, though, is the cost to the loss of lives brought about by the status quo. Some have lost breadwinners, which compounds the pressure for social support required of government.


This is some of the strain that the budget delivered by the Finance minister has to absorb and go on to ensure, once disbursed, that it makes the right impact on the ground to avoid a repeat of the destructive upheavals. A E30 million allocation for a national dialogue has also been necessitated by the prevailing situation. Some parliamentarians feel we haven’t spent enough and want more allocations made to the security forces to foot their day to day expenses. The Housing and Urban Development Minister, Prince Simelane, wants more security personnel hired.

He also spoke of his wish to have the Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services personnel provided with guns and bulletproof vests, to deal with the security threats they are exposed to when attending to emergencies. It is all well and good to desire safety for the people but the best guarantee is investing more in peace building and service delivery initiatives, not guns.

We need to look into financing structures that build social cohesion. The death of the SMART Partnership forum is regrettable and what we are seeing today is one of the consequences. Platforms that promote frequent engagement between those who are led and those who lead should not be considered a waste of funds and the best way to look at it is the amount of destruction and loss of lives over the past two years. This could have been avoided if people were able to keep talking to one another, allowing consensus building to pave a way forward.


The role of the tripartite social dialogue forum is also imperative and can cushion a lot of the pressure arising from industrial disharmony that can filter out onto the streets. Community dialogues and crime prevention programmes are where some of the money should go, because this is where pressing national issues that have a direct impact on the citizens can help shape the national budget, not guns.

It is a peaceful environment that attracts investors for the jobs that we need, not a military State. If we want to attract tourists, they need to find welcoming tour guides, not Caspirs parked at the gates. Their safety needs to be guaranteed by the hospitality of the people not the hostility of armed forces. This is chief among reasons for the African Union’s call to silence the guns, which has been reiterated by His Majesty the King when opening Parliament recently. Silencing the guns in Ukraine could have a huge impact on food prices globally if we haven’t been able to become food self-sufficient by now.

We can silence the guns by giving due consideration to the high cost of living by easing the 33 per cent unemployment rate in the country, which is one of the instigators of instability, alongside poor service delivery.
These cannot be resolved by hiring more State security personnel to quell public protests and crime arising from these shortcomings, but rather through good governance.


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