Swaziland
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SQUIRMING IN HUMILIATION!

Two humiliating incidents currently stand out on my part. The first one has to do with the medical drugs shortage being experienced countrywide. I honestly didn’t want to pen down anything about this but I thought I would be doing a disservice to the thousands of emaSwati who cannot get a Panado from a public hospital to numb their pain. It’s a total disgrace to say the least.

What is more shameful and appalling is that we seem not to know what exactly is causing the shortages. Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg has always maintained that he often prioritised the Health Ministry when it came to releasing funds. Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, on the other hand, is blaming the cumbersome procurement processes as well as the untimely release of funds to procure the drugs. What is of public knowledge also is that there has been a lot of theft of the medical drugs, to the point that a forensic investigation has been commissioned by the auditor general. So, what exactly is the problem?

Perplexing

What is even more perplexing is that this is not a new problem, so if anyone wanted to solve it, it could have been dealt with way before I even hit my teens in 1998. The other serious incident that I wanted to harp on involves Princess Sikhanyiso, in her capacity as Minister of Information, Communication and Technology. To this day, I’m still cringing and squirming in humiliation regarding the stunt she pulled during a high level yet private political dialogue.

The European Union (EU) and the Government of Eswatini held their 22nd Political Dialogue on June 2, 2023, at the Royal Villas. The Times SUNDAY reported that the dialogue was classified as ‘private’, meaning it had ‘no public role’ or ‘was not for public consumption’. The minister, however, kept her phone logged on to her Instagram and actually debated on whether to log off or not. That’s the first part of the disrespect that the minister exhibited to those in attendance and it should not be brushed off lightly.

Presentation

What actually gave me goosebumps was when one of her officials, Principal Secretary Phesheya Dube, escorted her into the holding room and briefed her on the EU’s expectations in terms of her presentation. Part of her remarks (still on her Instagram what what) were stating that organisations (such as the EU) should be focusing on assisting the country with funds in the agriculture sector to eradicate poverty as compared to the political dialogue meeting.

My analysis of this statement, honourable minister, is that you care less about the politics of the country yet you hold a political position. In any event, I’m positive you’re quite aware that the political landscape of any country does have a bearing on its economic status or situation, so no matter how hard you may try to divorce the two, it’s almost impossible. The fact that the minister has self-doubt on her abilities in the political sphere should be a cause for concern and a dangerous declaration, which was cemented further by her labelling of the discussions during the dialogue as ‘hard core stuff’.

The EU, through its Ambassador Dessislava Choumelova, expressed her shock on the minister’s conduct and rightly so. An apology may have been eventually extended to excuse the minister’s behaviour but the fact that it was not made public leaves somewhat of a bitter taste. It was honestly one of those moments when you put yourself in the shoes of the other party and start analysing the context of what the minister said. You then get to realise that maybe she needed to be oriented further on issues of politics and diplomacy.

For those who may think I’m merely picking on the minister, not at all. I can recall two instances where I think she showed bravery. The first one was during the political unrest where she recorded an audio that was wildly played on national radio, pleading for calm, where many others had stepped on the sidelines, wishing to be as far away from this country as possible. Some criticised her for the statement but I feel she did well, not that it changed anything at the time. The second instance where I think the princess played the right card was when she gave some clarification that her ‘royal blood’ did not land her the ministerial position. Whether you believe her assertion or not is another issue, but the fact that she tackled the elephant in the room and put it out there that her credentials were colourful for the position was courageous.

Dialogue

But after what she did during the private political dialogue, I’m starting to scratch my head. I’ll be honest, I think a written apology to the EU and other stakeholders who were present during the dialogue should be extended to them. If I had it my way, this apology would also be made public, even on Instagram. For the benefit of the minister, the EU is not only about ‘giving’ money or that it can be used as a shortcut to our troubled agricultural industry. If you read more about it, you will learn that it is a unique economic and political union between 27 European countries and has extended its helping hand in various fields to many countries. Let us not do things that are likely to draw unnecessary attention to us as a country. This should be a moment when we tap more into what our development partners can help us with in terms of resolving our political mess.