10 December 2017

Swaziland: 8 in 10 Elderly Are in Poverty

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN
Women walk down a road in Swaziland's eastern Lubombo District.

More than 80 percent of women aged 60 and over and 70 percent of men in Swaziland live in poverty, according to a new report.

This comes at a time when the Swazi Government has run out of money and cannot pay elderly grants (pensions) to all people in that age group.

The figures are contained in the National Strategy and Action Plan to End Violence in Swaziland: 2017 to 2022.

About seven in ten of Swaziland's 1.3 million population live in abject poverty defined as having incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. The report said poverty among people aged 60 or over was highest compared to other age groups.

The Swazi Observer newspaper on Thursday (7 December 2017) quoted the report, 'Whilst the elderly are now receiving social grants, they continue to be subjected to other forms of abuse as they are neglected by family members, abused physically and emotionally within society.'

The findings come as the Swazi Government which is not elected by the people but handpicked by King Mswati III who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch said it could not afford to pay elderly grants to people who reached the age of 60 this year. About 4,000 people are affected.

A media report in Swaziland estimated that the government needed about an extra E20 million (US$1.4 million) to pay for the new pensioners and another E40 million to meet a shortfall to pay the existing 66,000 people already receiving the pensions.

The Government said it had no budget to pay the new pensions. It has a budget of E282 million for the elderly, but with the reviewed monthly grant, rising from E220 to E400 has meant that this budget became insufficient, the Observer on Saturday reported in November 2017.

Although the government did not provide sufficiently for the elderly in its 2017 budget it did increase spending on the Swaziland Royal Household by E200 million (US$14 million) to E1.3 billion. The increase was ten times the amount needed to pay for the new elderly grants.

King Mswati lives a lavish lifestyle, with at least 13 palaces, fleets of top-of-the-range Mercedes Benz and BMW cars and at least one Rolls Royce. He has a private jet airplane and is soon to get a second.

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