12 July 2018

Swaziland: Govt Cash Crisis - Schoolkids Sent Home

Children a primary school in Swaziland/Eswatini were sent home because their parents did not help to pay its electricity bill.

Parents at Antioch Primary, Manzini, said the government had not paid the school its funds so it had no money to cover its operational costs.

Children were also sent home for not contributing money to allow the school's choristers to go to the SwaziBank Choral Competition, the Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Friday (6 July 2018).

The Swaziland Government is broke and owes more than E3 billion (US$230 million) to suppliers. Medicines at public hospitals have dried up and children across the kingdom are going hungry because the government has not funded school feeding programmes.

The Observer reported one parent who said they were called to a meeting at the school to be told that they would have to pay for the school's electricity bill and trip. 'It was not easy for them to oppose such because they felt like their children would be victimised,' it reported.

It added, 'The mother of two said she did not understand why her children had to be sent home for failing to pay electricity for the school and pay for a trip that they were not even going to partake in.'

The Government in Swaziland has failed to pay primary school fees across the kingdom. In June 2018 headteachers and principals told the Swazi Observer they were in huge debts and unable to pay suppliers. It said the problem was with the government which faced financial challenges. It reported one school principal saying education in the kingdom would continue to deteriorate if the situation did not improve.

The Swaziland national budget has been mismanaged for years. Swaziland is broke and the government is living from hand to mouth. Earlier this month Finance Minister Martin Dlamini told the House of Assembly as of 31 March 2018 government owed E3.28 billion. Dlamini said budget projections indicated 'exponential growth in the arrears'.

Despite the funding crisis, the Swazi Government still found US$30 million to buy the King a second private plane. It has also earmarked E1.5bn this year to build a conference centre and five-star hotel to host the African Union summit in 2020 that will last only eight days and it has budgeted E5.5 million to build Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini a retirement house. There are also plans for a new parliament building that will cost E2.3 billion.

The excessive lifestyle of King Mswati has also been under the spotlight. He now has two private planes, 13 palaces and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.

He wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party.

He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program has said it cannot raise the US$1.1 million it needs to feed starving children in the kingdom in the coming six months.

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