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MANZINI - There was huge disappointment as about 5 400 needy Kwaluseni Constituency residents were left out of the ongoing COVID-19 food aid programme, forcing the initial registration to be discarded.

New registrations will be done as allegations of malpractice surfaced regarding the initial exercise.
Kwaluseni constituency is located in the densely populated Matsapha, which is referred to as the industrial hub of the country and about 13 100 people registered for the food aid programme by government.

However, after the registration process, the politicians of the constituency (MP, constituency headman and chiefdom councillors) were told that only 7 700 people would benefit from the programme.


According to Kwaluseni Member of Parliament (MP), Sibusiso Mabhanisi Dlamini, after the registration, they met with a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which is heading the whole process under the inkhundla and it gave them the number of people who would benefit.

The MP said they tried to reason with the NGO to appeal to government to at least treat Kwaluseni differently. He argued that the about 13 100 people who registered under the inkhundla desperately needed food because when registering them, they ensured that only those who were needy or those whose income was affected due to the outbreak of COVID-19, would benefit.

Again, the MP argued that Kwaluseni should be treated differently under the COVID-19 food aid programme because in the constituency, there were two main types of residents; people who were born and raised there and tenants who came from the four regions of the country. 

He said most of these people worked at Matsapha Industrial Site  while others were employed in surrounding areas like Manzini and Ezulwini. He added that a majority of them had been stuck in their rented flats without an income since the partial lockdown started on March 27, 2020 as they were placed on unpaid layoffs.

“They could not go home because at work they were told that they would be recalled anytime. Again, they were not allowed to travel because of the partial lockdown,” the MP said.
He added that even though some of them, especially those who were employed in the textile and apparel sector were recalled to work, they were working reduced hours. He said this meant that the salary they were getting was not enough to take care of them. In fact, he said with the salary, they could not even pay rent.

On top of that, the parliamentarian said some of the workers who resided at Kwaluseni were living with their families, including school-going children. He said that was why schools like Matsapha National School, formerly known as Swazi National School, had so many class streams as the demand for classes was huge.
Again, he said there were university students, from the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) to be specific, who came from underprivileged families and they remained in their rented flats to continue with their studies and research projects. He said such students also registered because the monthly allowances they were getting were not enough to sustain them through this trying times of COVID-19.
Once more, he said vendors in the constituency were also facing financial challenges as they were getting support from the workers, who were on unpaid layoffs and or were now working reduced hours.

“They also had to register for the food aid programme,” Dlamini said.
Logoba Chiefdom Councillor (Bucopho) Musa Tembe, who is also hands on in the matter, said they had been in constant contact with the team heading the food aid programme, over their plea.

He said even though there was no positive response at the moment, they had been promised to get feedback soon.
He said they were patiently waiting for the response because they were having sleepless nights as the destitute residents visited them daily to enquire about the food they registered for.

It is worth noting that recently, this publication reported that people living in the urban area (towns) would not benefit from the COVID-19 food aid programme. This was despite the fact that the commercial hub of the country (Manzini) was in a stringent lockdown as the Manzini Region was identified as an epicentre for COVID-19.
Again, during the month of April 2020, the head of government, Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini publicly announced that the administration would distribute food parcels to more than 300 000 people from 63 000 households across the country. It is, however, worth noting that the population of the country is about 1.3 million.

Last week at Makhewu in kaLanga in the Lubombo Region (rural area), elderly people who had registered for the food aid programme, were allegedly sent from pillar to post and they eventually returned home empty-handed.
It has since emerged that the registration exercise under Kwaluseni will have to be re-done following a litany of allegations. “We have decided to do the registration afresh.”

This is what the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Russell Dlamini said regarding the issue of food aid for Kwaluseni constituency.


Dlamini was not clear why they decided to redo the registration, but he mentioned that the NGO, which did the initial registration, had been replaced.
However, a source close to the matter alleged that there were suspicions that the registration process was flouted and that was why NDMA decided to redo it. The source alleged that the suspicions were that the programme had been used to campaign for the 2023 national elections. 

It is worth noting that this publication had reported allegations that certain individuals  were using the food aid programme to campaign by choosing their own beneficiaries, without following the laid down procedures.
Efforts to get a comment from the NGO proved futile at the time of compiling this report.

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