17 May 2018

Swaziland: Patients At Risk As Govt Bills Unpaid

Hospitals across Swaziland have been left without security guards exposing them to criminal activity because the government has not paid its bills.

Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Simon Zwane confirmed that some companies that were owed money had withdrawn their staff.

Among those affected were the Hlatikulu Government Hospital in Shiselweni and the Nhlangano Health Centre, the Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (16 May 2018).

It reported, 'At Hlatikulu Government Hospital, a female patient who had intravenous tubes hanging almost got raped after a stranger sneaked into the female ward.' There was also a report of attempted theft in the kitchen.

A police spokesperson told the newspaper officers were patrolling health facilities as part of their routine duties but had not taken over the jobs of the security guards.

Zwane told the newspaper the Government was trying to pay at least some of its bills.

Government bills go unpaid across the kingdom. Children have been told by teachers to prepare themselves for starvation as the government failed to deliver free food to schools over the past year. At the heart of the crisis is the Swazi Government's inability to pay its suppliers. In the March 2018 Budget, Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said the government owed E3.1 billion and was trying to find a way to pay its bills.

As a result of unpaid bills, suppliers have stopped delivering food, and medicines. Electricity supplies to government offices, law courts, police stations, libraries, media houses, and border posts were cut.

Meanwhile, King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, lives a lavish lifestyle. On 19 April 2018 he wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit studded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg to a party for 700 guests. Days before he took delivery of his second private jet. This one, an A340-300 Airbus had a purchase price of US$13.2 million, but with VIP upgrades it reportedly cost about US$30 million, paid or out of state funds.

The King also has 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. His wives regularly travel the world on shopping sprees costing millions of dollars. Meanwhile, seven in ten of the 1.1 million population live in abject poverty on incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day.

Swaziland

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