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WHEN WE COMPLAIN

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It is good to see that the Eswatini Government and USA Ambassador Lisa Peterson have ‘kissed and made up’, as it were, with the latter coming out to assure government of her country’s continued support in addressing the challenges brought about by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.


It’s safe to say these are the results of a fruitful meeting between Peterson and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Thuli Dladla, following public fears that the US ambassador may have just bought her ticket home, when she criticised government spending on the recent purchase of over 120 top of the range State vehicles.

She viewed this as a serious threat to future development funding. Speaking at the Mbabane Government Hospital on Tuesday, Peterson said her government would continue to stand firmly behind Eswatini and fight the HIV/AIDS threat together. That’s what good friends do.


balance


This is, no doubt, a big relief for the over 200 000 HIV positive population who have had a nervy few weeks, their lives literally hung in the balance at the thought of losing support that has given them a new lease on life, thanks to anti-retroviral treatment(ART) and related support.


The USA are the biggest funders of the programme through PEPFAR, having pumped in over E5 billion towards this challenge, resulting in an almost 50 per cent drop in new HIV infections - a feat that is now celebrated globally. This achievement is a result of several factors; key among them being the allocation of appropriate resources, utilising them efficiently and effectively, capacitating the role players and staying focused on the key mandate.


The renewed commitment by the USA will help this country keep the over 800 000 population HIV negative, so that the country could focus on other socio-economic challenges that require urgent attention. To succeed, however, we may need to adopt the model of the HIV/AIDS programme.


Top among national issues requiring focused attention is poverty alleviation so as to get the 63 per cent of our fellow citizens out of poverty. Our country needs to become food self-sufficient but we are not going to get there if we still go into a farming season with almost an entire fleet of tractors in one Rural Development Area (RDA), rendered non-functional.


centres


It’s like having all the vehicles that deliver ART stock to various centres broken down all at once. This smacks of poor planning and non-prioritisation.
Small scale farmers in Hluthi are rightly livid that 13 tractors at their RDA are grounded. Hunger related illnesses, or even death could find refuge here. We can’t afford to have more people die of hunger related causes following those of five elderly women of Nsalitje down South. The area’s indvuna complained about it but was shocked when, instead of sending out food packs to avert any further deaths in the needy areas, government sent the police to question why he was complaining. Seriously?


This is exactly why we have tractors grounded. We are so focused on non-priority issues that we forget to do what is important first, like getting tractors running so that we have less complaints and more happy citizens with food on their tables.


Complaints about the absence of police in responding to or dealing with crime are widespread, but we find ourselves using police personnel and resources to address food and hunger related matters in a country where we have a dedicated National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) set up and funded to investigate and address such matters.


Next we know, police will be questioning those who complain about losing relatives due to the shortage of drugs and food in hospitals. Worse, we could learn that the Hluthi farmers who are complaining about faulty tractors have been called to answer at a police station, even though they paid for the service.


Allowing police to focus on their scope of work would help us realise a crime-free society sooner rather than later. The Ministry of Agriculture would also attain the goal of a food self-sufficient society for this country long before 2022.


criminalizing


What we can learn from the Peterson-Dladla talks is that concerns can be raised and received without criminalising them if they are meant to build, not destroy. As a result, Peterson was able to join the Health Ministry in celebrating the awarding of full accreditation status on Strengthening HIV/TB Laboratory Quality Management Systems to two National Reference Laboratories at the Mbabane Government Hospital.


The status was awarded by the Southern African Development Community Accreditation Services (SADCAS) and has been achieved through the support of PEPFAR. This has been described as a huge achievement and the first of its kind in Eswatini. In part of her remarks, Peterson said: “Accreditation acknowledges an organisation for its competence and capability to perform tasks as per defined scope of work of that specific laboratory.”
Let’s take a leaf from this accreditation which was achieved by emaSwati who are competent and capable of performing well in their defined scope of work and apply it in every sector to enhance service delivery and eliminate complaints.


Peterson and Dladla have demonstrated that we are very capable of tolerating views that are meant to build, not destroy, this beautiful country. The good thing is, emaSwati are the best people to accredit themselves in this regard, having built this country through consultation, dialogue and consensus.

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