Police officers in Swaziland are forced to walk or hitch-hike to crime and accident scenes because the government has not paid for fuel or vehicle repairs.
Criminals in some parts of the kingdom recently renamed Eswatini by absolute monarch King Mswati III, 'are having a field day, especially in Siteki, as police at the biggest police station in the region have no motor vehicles to attend to reported crime scenes on time', the Swazi Observer newspaper reported on Thursday (16 August 2018).
It reported, 'Traffic officers are said to be currently using their personal vehicles to mount roadblocks.'
Vehicles are off the road because of a shortage of transport and fuel, it reported. It added this was caused by the financial crisis presently gripping the government.
It reported, 'Traffic officers in Siteki have been left with no alternative but to hitch-hike their way to accident scenes. A number of vehicles belonging to the station are said to have developed mechanical faults and are being attended to at the local Central Transport Administration (CTA) depot.'
Currently, there are only two vehicles available to police at Siteki being used by the general patrol, crime investigation department (CID) and the traffic department.
The Observer reported, 'When reached for comment, Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba acknowledged that they were currently facing a serious shortage of motor vehicles in many police stations.'
In July 2018 it was reported police, fire and other emergency services in Swaziland were set to grind to a halt because of a fuel shortage for vehicles after the government failed to pay suppliers.
The Times of Swaziland reported at the time that a source revealed, 'It was highly likely that all government cars could soon be grounded, something which would affect essential services like the police, health sector, Fire and Emergency Services, among others.'
It added, 'Furthermore, the insider alleged that the shortage of fuel had been caused by government's cash flow challenges which had been experienced by the country since the economical meltdown started some years ago.'
The Times reported, 'Sources from some of the government departments which provide essential services in the kingdom attested to the looming crisis.'
In May 2018 it was reported that Swaziland was so short of resources that police were unable to secure voter registration centres and do their routine work at the same time. Police officers were said to have been left stranded at registration centres in the evenings because there were no vehicles available to take them home.
Police were unable to respond when a five-year-old was abducted and raped because they were on election duty, according to the Swazi Observer at the time. It said a toddler was with her mother at Mahlalini, an area in the outskirts of Nhlangano, when a man grabbed her and disappeared into a thicket where he raped her.
The Observer reported, 'The mother said police were alerted but the excuse they gave was that there was no vehicle at the police station as they were all assigned to the ongoing elections registration process.'
It added, 'Police spokesperson Superintendent Khulani Mamba confirmed the incident and further stated that there has been no arrest as the suspect managed to escape when means were made to apprehend him.'
Swaziland is broke and as of 30 June 2018 owed a total of E12.9 billion, the equivalent of 20.8 percent of the kingdom's GDP. Of that nearly E3 billion is owed to suppliers of goods and services. On 1 August 2018, the Swazi Government announced it had frozen all job hiring, promotions and creation of new posts because it was broke.
Despite the funding crisis, the Swazi Government still found US$30 million to buy the King a second private plane earlier this year. It also earmarked E1.5bn 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 E3 million to build Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini a retirement house. There are also plans for a new parliament building that would cost E2.3 billion.
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 months.
Meanwhile, King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as one of the world's last absolute monarchs wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus, that after VIP upgrades reportedly cost US$30 million. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts.
Seven in ten of Swaziland's 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. King Mswati has 13 palaces, two private jets and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.