10 July 2018

Swaziland: Students Stuck As Govt Not Paid Fees

Students who have completed their exams at the University of Swaziland (UNISWA) will not get their results because the government has not paid their tuition fees.

More than 3,200 students - almost half of all students at the university - owed fees, a newspaper quoted UNISWA Registrar Salebona Simelane saying.

The Swazi Observer reported Simelane said the university would withhold results until fees had been paid.

It emerged that 'millions of emalangeni' was owed in fees by the government. The newspaper reported on Monday (9 July 2018), 'UNISWA Registrar Dr Salebona Simelane made it clear when asked on what would happen to those students who were government-sponsored and had not paid their tuition fees. Simelane said it did not matter whether a student was self-sponsored or sponsored by government.'

It added, 'The registrar said the university would exercise the same measure across the board and would not be lenient with any party, whether government sponsored or not.'

The Observer reported students were angry with the decision. 'The students stated that they did not understand how they owed fees when it was government who was paying.' The students thought that since their allowances had been paid so had their fees.

Swaziland is in financial meltdown with the government living from day to day. In his budget speech in March 2018 Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said government owed E3.1bn (US$230 million) in total to its suppliers for goods and services.

On 14 June 2018 he told the House of Assembly there was not enough money to pay public servants' salaries or to pay government suppliers and things were set to get worse.

In June it was reported that children collapsed with hunger in their school because the government had not paid for food for them. The kingdom had previously been warned to expect children to starve because the government had not paid its suppliers for the food that is distributed free of charge at schools. The shortage was reported to be widespread across the kingdom.

Last week Swazipharm Swaziland's largest distributor of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment to the healthcare system of Swaziland, including government hospitals, private hospitals, local government, clinics, humanitarian organisations, private organisations, missionaries, pharmacies and chemists, reported it had almost run out of supplies of medicine and provisions because the government had not paid its bills.

Despite this crisis, in his March 2018 budget Dlamini announced E1.5bn (US$125m) would be set aside his year to build a conference centre and five-star hotel to host the African Union summit in 2020 that would last only eight days. E5.5 million is budgeted to build Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini a retirement house, and plans are being made for a new parliament building that would cost E2.3 billion.

While the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, one of the world's last absolute monarchs, grinds to a halt the government found US$30 million to buy the King a second private jet plane.

Seven in 10 of the 1.1 people in Swaziland live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. Meanwhile, King Mswati and his family live in excessive luxury. The King wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. This was days after he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts.

King Mswati also has 13 palaces, two private jets and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars. His family regularly take international shopping trips costing millions of dollars.

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