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Following the protest by patients at Mbabane Government Hospital regarding the lack of drugs and essentials to care for patients, I was really pained that this situation continues yet Cabinet and the Human Rights and Integrity Commission are in place.

I would like to raise a few points specifically for the Human Rights and Public Administration Commission. Section 163 of the 2005 Constitution states:
* There shall be established within a year of the first meeting of Parliament after the commencement of this Constitution, a Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration in this Chapter referred to as ‘the Commission’.
* The Commission shall consist of – a commissioner for Human Rights and Public Administration; and (b) at least two deputy commissioners for Human Rights and Public Administration as may be necessary for the effective discharge of the functions of the commission.
*The members of the commission shall be appointed by the King on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.

Some functions of the Commission are:
A) Investigate complaints concerning alleged violations of fundamental rights and freedoms under this Constitution;
B) Investigate complaints of injustice, corruption, abuse of power in office and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of official duties;
C) Investigate complaints concerning the functioning of any public service, service commission, administrative organ of the government, the armed forces in so far as the complaints relate to the failure to achieve acceptable delivery of services or equitable access by all in the recruitment to those services or fair administration by those services;
D) Take appropriate action for the remedying, correction or reversal of instances specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) through such means as are fair, proper and effective, including – i) Publicizing the findings and recommendations of the commission; ii) Negotiation and compromise between the parties concerned; iii) Causing the complaint and the findings of the commission on that complaint to be reported to the superior of an offending person or institution; iv) Referring matters to the director of public prosecutions or the attorney general for appropriate action to secure the termination of the offending action or conduct, or the abandonment or alteration of the offending procedures.

According to the Human Rights Watch on Human Rights Commissions in Africa; “The role of a human rights commission is not to replace or duplicate other State institutions with enforcement powers, such as the Legislature, police, or the Judiciary. Its role, rather, is to push other State bodies to uphold their responsibilities with regard to human rights promotion and protection.”  The issue of shortages of drugs in public health facilities has been a recurring problem, but it has worsened in the current administration. I recall that during the worst fiscal crisis in 2010, the then Cabinet took a decision to ring-fence the Ministry of Health budget to ensure that it was not affected. This was to ensure that lives were not lost due to the fiscal crisis. However, this administration has not acted decisively in addressing the drugs shortage crisis in spite of various petitions delivered by nurses to the Ministry of Health and Prime Minister’s Office.


As the Human Rights and Public Administration Commission is fully operational, though facing challenges such as enabling legislation and resources, why is it silent? Your mandate, as a commission, is to ‘investigate complaints of injustice, corruption, abuse of power in office and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of official duties’. Why, as a commission, are you silent as the lives of emaSwati are at stake? How many lives should be  lost to  motivate you to conduct an investigation, which should involve healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, the nurses’ union and patients to mention a few.

Are you aware that in the 2005 Constitution a commitment was made to very liSwati as it says; “The fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual enshrined in this Chapter are hereby declared and guaranteed namely – respect for life.” This crisis is an affront to the protection of rights of emaSwati. As commissioners and relevant officials, what is preventing you from conducting an open enquiry and publish your findings? Are you aware that your silence makes the commission complicit in this this act?  Why is the commission not taking the nation into its confidence and share the constraints you are facing? Are you also an institution that feels insulated by accountability and integrity? The architects of the Constitution included the Bill of Rights because they realised that the protection and guaranteeing rights of citizens is sacrosanct. Abhijit Naskar was right when he said; “Those who violate humanity and those who tolerate inhumanity are both equally guilty.” Pleased act!