19 February 2016

Swaziland: King's Drought Blunder

Only weeks after Swaziland's absolute monarch King Mswati III told his subjects the drought in his kingdom was over, his government has declared a national emergency.

King Mswati had said the drought was over when his regiments took part in the Incwala ceremony. The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on 1 January 2016 that the King had 'pronounced an end to the drought situation'.

It reported, 'The King said the drought situation changed as soon as the water party (bemanti) was commissioned to fetch water in the Indian Ocean in Mozambique.

'"When the water party was commissioned (kuphuma kwesigubhu), the heavens responded and we saw rain coming down and things changed. From there onwards we saw a difference as rain began to fall and the valleys became green. We have our irrigation system coming straight from God. We do not need drip irrigation because God has always shown that He has powers to bring us rain. We use drip irrigation just for the sake of it, otherwise God is the one who provides us with irrigation water," the King said.'

The newspaper added, 'As he pronounced an end to the drought situation, the King predicted a bumper harvest and urged all Swazis to go and work hard in their fields.

'"God will bring down the rains to water your fields. The country's main focus should be on food security and we are confident we will achieve this. Time has come for us to have plenty food and stop running to our neighbours to ask for food donations," he said.'

But King Mswati's complacency has led to a devastating delay in taking action. Swaziland is now at crisis point.

The European Union in Swaziland reported on Thursday (18 February 2016), 'The drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon has severely affected Swaziland resulting in the loss of more than 40,000 herd of cattle with more than 300,000 people in the country (about 25 percent of the population) facing severe food shortages.'

Barnabas Dlamini, the Prime Minister of Swaziland who was personally appointed to his post by the King, officially declared a national emergency on Thursday. He said over the next two months the Swazi Government would need E248 million (US$16 million). In total, government would need about E2 billion to address the situation over five years, the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only independent daily newspaper, reported.

The Prime Minister did not say where the money would come from. Only last week (18 February 2016) King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, ordered the government he hand-picked to slash budgets as the kingdom faced a financial crisis following a reduction in receipts from the Southern African Customs Union.

Swaziland, where political parties are not allowed to contest elections and groups campaigning for democracy are banned as 'terrorist' organisations, is to seek financial aid from overseas - mostly from multi-party democracies.

EU Ambassador to Swaziland Nicola Bellomo said the kingdom immediately would seek E143 million from the 'donor community'.

He said the EU would support the government's efforts to mitigate the impact of the drought situation.

Swaziland

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