SOBANTU IN RUSSIAN HOSPITAL
MBABANE – General Sobantu Dlamini, the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) Commander, was this past week admitted into a private clinic in Russia after he fell sick while on official duty.
As a result, the 62-year-old army commander was not part of the Swazi delegation that returned to Swaziland on Monday because he was still undergoing medical treatment in the land of Vladimir Putin.
He had travelled to Russia with officials who included Andreas Mathabela, the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Defence.
Russian President Putin’s military and foreign policies have recently been a subject of United States and European Union (EU) criticism.
Russia is the largest country in the world, bordering European and Asian countries as well as the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. It is not a member of the EU.
The Army Commander and PS Mathabela, alongside some senior military officers, were in Russia for about two weeks on state duties.
As army commander, Dlamini works on a three-year contract, which expires next year.
Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, confirmed that the country’s army commander was admitted into a Russian clinic after falling sick while he was on state duty there.
The minister confirmed the matter after sources close to the army commander had raised concern over the secrecy regarding his health and how he was responding to medical treatment in a foreign country.
Another concern was that he was alone there as other members of the delegation had returned home.
Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze doubles as Minister of Defence.
He allayed fears that Dlamini was in a critical condition, pointing to the fact that the government of Russia provided full support for the kingdom’s supreme soldier.
The minister said a team of medical experts were assigned to ensure the army commander received first class medical treatment at the expense of Putin’s government.
He did not state how long the army chief had been in hospital but estimated that it might have been three days.
When this newspaper interviewed the minister on Wednesday, he said Moscow reported to Hospital Hill that General Dlamini had fully recovered and was ready to fly back home.
He said the Swaziland Government had already paid for his return ticket. He was, therefore, expected home last Friday.
“I don’t know where exactly you got the information, but for purposes of putting the record straight here, we can confirm as a ministry that the army commander fell sick in Russia while he was on state duty,” said the minister.
“Thanks to the Government of Russia which ensured he was rushed to a prestigious private clinic at its expense. We would like to allay fears and report that he is now in a stable condition and will return home on Friday.”
Times SUNDAY sources had said the army commander was in a critical condition when the Swazi delegation left him in Moscow.
The minister said he did not know the type of sickness that had confined Dlamini to bed.
“It is common knowledge that a person’s sickness is confidential and cannot be disclosed to the public,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Madoda Mkhatshwa, the USDF Public Relations Officer (PRO), had flatly denied that the army commander was admitted to a hospital.
He was interviewed before this newspaper got hold of the foreign affairs minister.
When this newspaper telephoned him on Wednesday, Lieutenant Mkhatshwa claimed he had spoken to General Dlamini about four hours earlier. He denied that his boss had been admitted to hospital at all.
Mkhatshwa described the assertions that the army commander fell sick in Russia as ‘blue lies.’’
He said apart from his military duties, he sometimes handled the army commander’s personal issues, suggesting that he would have known if he was sick and admitted to a clinic in Russia.
“What I know is that the army commander is on state duties abroad. I can’t disclose why he was in that country because military work is confidential,” he said.
General Dlamini hails from Nkhaba. He is a relative of Bongani ‘Sgcokosiyancinca’ Dlamini, the Chief Executive Officer of the Swaziland Television Authority (STVA) and Thulani Dlamini, the former MP of Nkhaba.
On the other hand, the STVA boss cryptically requested this journalist to ask government if the family had been informed of the army commander’s trip to Russia or his falling ill. He declined to respond to other questions.
Thulani, the former Nkhaba MP, said he too, was unaware that his brother was admitted to a Russian hospital.
He said he might not know because he had been away from home and returned on the day he was telephoned to comment on the matter.
“This is the first time I am hearing it from you,” he said.
T.V. Mtetwa, the acting Governor of Ludzidzini Royal Residence, said he had not been informed of the army commander’s sickness.
However, he seized the opportunity to thank the Russian Government for taking care of the Swazi army chief.
He further thanked God, ancestors and what he described as ‘the Angels of the Swazis’ for healing the USDF Commander.
“Amen, Hallelujah if the Army Commander has recovered!” said Mtetwa, a former Commissioner of Police.
The USDF vehemently refused to disclose why Swazi army superiors and administrators were in Russia.
The Times SUNDAY can mention that Russia is the only country, so far, that keeps America and powerful European states like Britain, France and Germany worried about their safety and that of the world.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Russian Federation has been in possession of the vast majority of the then USSR’s weapons of mass destruction complex. Over the past two decades, Russia has implemented arms control agreements and participated in threat reduction programmes that have dismantled and downsized substantial parts of its arsenals and made inventory numbers more transparent.
The New York Post reported recently that Russia was modernising and recapitalising its entire arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
Although the retirement of aging Soviet-era capabilities provides much of the impetus for these efforts, Russia also views modernisation as a means to counteract the conventional superiority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), as well as a way to retain its status as a major military power.
Given its extensive weapons of mass destruction capabilities, Russia’s active participation in non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament efforts is a prerequisite to their global success.
It has also been established that trade ties between the EU and Russia were already at a low ebb. The EU accuses Moscow of a string of restrictive trade practices including policies to protect the Russian car industry.
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