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GOVT E30M SAVING ON FUEL VS PEOPLE’S LIVES

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MANZINI – Has the financially unstable government chosen to prioritise saving money at the expense of the lives of emaSwati?

This is one of the possible questions that could cross one’s mind after learning how civil society organisations, including trade union movements, have taken a swipe at government following the announcement of about E30 million savings on fuel. 

Early last week, the Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg, made a submission that government had realised about E30 million worth of savings on fuel in the past three months. The minister made this submission before the Finance Sessional Committee, through a report that was tabled by the Chairperson, Thandi Nxumalo, who is a Member of Parliament (MP) for Manzini South Constituency.

shocking

In their reaction to the minister’s submissions, the civil society organisations said it was shocking that government could declare savings in terms of fuel yet lives had been lost because of poor service delivery by the administration due to shortage of fuel. 

Their argument was that many peoples’ lives were at risk because of the shortage of fuel, amid the ongoing disagreements between government and the Central Transport Administration (CTA) over the organisation’s Trading Account.  In fact, they argued that the about E30 million savings was announced at a time when government departments, including those that were responsible to deliver essential services to the nation, were grounded because of shortage of fuel.

In that regard, the Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO) Communications Officer, Nkosingiphile Myeni, said they noted that government had financial challenges which were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

drained

He said they also noted mismanagement of fuel which had drained taxpayers over the years. 

“We also noted the action taken by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to decisively deal with the mismanagement of fuel at CTA. However, we are concerned that government has mentioned that it was able to make a particular saving on fuel, because we feel it was done at the expense of citizens,” the communications officer said.

He said while there were issues of mismanagement of fuel among other things at CTA, government should make it a priority that critical government services such as police, healthcare and all basic human rights, were properly taken into consideration.

declaration

In that regard, he said the minister of Finance could not therefore make a declaration to have made savings as the cost to human lives in accessing health service suffered and lives of patients were placed at risk.

He said a recent relevant case was that of a bus accident which took place at Hhelehhele, along the Manzini – Mafutseni Public Road, MR3 Highway. He said there were no ambulances to attend to the accident and as a result, injured passengers were rushed to hospital by good Samaritans, who used their private cars. 

It is worth noting that a police officer, who was one of the injured passengers, died while being treated in hospital. 

“The importance of ambulances in accidents is that the patients can get a proper first aid treatment at the scene and along the way to hospital. This situation is worrisome and cannot be ignored,” Myeni said.

Therefore, Myeni said they urged the government to propose a national plan on the refuelling of cars and strengthening any loopholes to misuse of tax payers monies. He said the public deserved to know how government planned to implement positive control measures.

serious

On the same note, the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) President, Bheki Mamba, said it was confusing and damaging that government was facing serious challenges of fuel shortages, yet it had announced about E30 million savings on same.

He said the ongoing shortage of fuel was directly affecting the delivery of health services.

“As a result, patients are dying because ambulances are grounded and there is a lack of drugs as they cannot be delivered to facilities,” the nurses’ union leader said.

He claimed that in some facilities, managers were using their little earned cash to fuel ambulances in hospitals to try to save the situation as patients’ lives were at risk.

“The announced savings were acheived at the expense of people’s lives. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms,” Mamba said.

He also added that they believed that the much talked about post COVID-19 economic recovery plan would be of no use if a human face was not put on it.

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