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I have always held the view that unemployment is not the major cause of crime. Most of the people who commit crime do so out of greed and sometimes laziness.

They resort to crime to cut corners. There is glaring evidence all around us that many poor people are actually honest and hardworking. Crimes like fraud are even more inconceivable in their minds because they require a certain level of education and intelligence. In Eswatini, where the poverty rate is demotivating at 63 per cent, it is inspiring that there are thousands of poor citizens, who have never stolen anything or robbed anyone of their valuables.

Instead, these men and women embark on income generating endeavours on a very small scale. They sell fat-cakes, vegetables, peanuts, sweets and homemade ice lollies. One can start any of these businesses with less than E500 and, if able to manage their finances well, go on to achieve bigger things. Many successful businesspeople today started off as mere vendors. I know a couple of them who are tycoons today and drive the latest cars and have shares in major companies. In any case, even if one does not make it into the millionaires’ club by starting from the bottom, one is able to make an honest living.

I was humbled a few days ago when I saw a man who looked like he was in his late 20s or early thirties, selling samoosas on a busy industrial road. He was smartly dressed with his shirt tucked into his pants.
He was waving at passing motorists and showing them his cake-tin full of the pastry. I could see cars and pedestrians waving back at him, showing willingness to buy. On the flipside, many armed robbers and thieves are from well-off families and commit crime because they are used to getting cash without doing much work.

They then decide to rob banks, businesses and even individuals. Year in and year out, reports of the Office of the Auditor General (AG) bring us proof of how employed and well-paid public officials steal money from government.
The people involved in these scams have formed syndicates that involve even low-level employees like cleaners and security guards. They are all in on it. Sometimes, even politicians are involved, together with senior government and parastatal officials, as well as junior accountants.

Everybody gets a share of the spoils, while the public purse is milked dry, to the detriment of marginalised people like unemployed youth, the elderly and disabled, who should be getting reasonable living allowances from government, instead of the minimal social grants they are currently receiving. It is common knowledge that many civil servants and parastatal employees are millionaires, who do not have businesses. Others have stolen so much money that they have been able to start their own businesses – which also trade with the same government they work for. This is a fact that even the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) are well aware of.


In fact, I can bet my last E10 that the ACC has a number of files with the names of such people. What boggles the mind is why these culprits are not prosecuted. We would not want to think that they are let off the hook because they are linked to much bigger, untouchable fish. We do not want to believe that they are enjoying the fruits of their criminal activities in peace because they bribe law enforcement officials. That would make things worse.

It would spell doom for the fight against corruption, a subject His Majesty the King never tires of including in his annual speeches when he officially opens sessions of Parliament. Politicians, civil servants, State security agents and their accomplices are lining up their pockets with ill-gotten cash from monopolising tenders, selling government property and taking bribes to forge documents or look the other way when crimes are being committed. AG Timothy Matsebula has once again released his latest report on government expenditure.

These reports are normally tabled when the Minister of Finance delivers his budget for the year. In his Consolidated Government Financial Statements report, Matsebula revealed that at the Central Medical Stores, there was missing stock worth a shocking E5.8 million as at the end of March 2021. This figure was arrived at by comparing the difference between stock that was counted physically and the balance in the government accounting system.
The Ministry of Health had not furnished Matsebula’s office with a loss report.

Heads of department are legally expected to institute investigations into each loss or damage to stock at the government stores. It was against that background that Matsebula advised Dr Simon Zwane, the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, to prepare a loss report, as well as an investigation report on the missing stock of medical drugs. Much like the Central Transport Administration (CTA), the CMS has become one big fattening ranch for corrupt individuals.


Investigations are too slow and arrests are few and far between, making one wonder where the drawback is. Is there pushback from influential people? I have said before that the mushrooming of street pharmacies around the country needs to be seriously looked into, especially to find out where they source their stock. Otherwise, the missing E5.8 million drugs are just a tip of the iceberg.

Taking into account that such losses have been recorded over many years, it is obvious that some people out there are now millionaires, courtesy of medical stock that should go to government hospitals and clinics.We have also learned of the disappearance of E27 million from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Something smells fishy here.This is too high an amount to just disappear without a paper trail.

There is a lot more, which would require more space than I have today to articulate. However, it is not enough to rely on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to shine a light on these discrepancies in the public purse. The ACC, despite its legal challenges, and the police should be investigating these things. Honest and law-abiding public servants should be the complainants. 

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Should government pay E1 500 unemployment grant?