As many as 1,000 prisoners in Swaziland / eSwatini could be released from jail before the end of their sentences because the government cannot afford to keep them locked up.
The move follows reports that His Majesty's Correctional Services that run jails in the kingdom could not afford to feed all inmates. Electricity has been cut off because of unpaid bills and water has been rationed.
The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch, reported on Wednesday (13 March 2019) that between 600 and 1,000 inmates could be released.
According to official figures from Swaziland published by World Prison Brief, Institute for Criminal Policy Research, as of March 2015 the prison population in Swaziland (including pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners) was 3,610.
The Observer reported Correctional Services Deputy Public Relations Officer Mandla Sibiya saying special boards would meet to decide who could be freed before the end of their sentences.
The newspaper reported Sibiya said through these early releases the Correctional Services 'would save a lot of money that was otherwise spent on food and utilities'.
Swaziland is broke and public services across the kingdom have been cut. Children are going hungry at because school feeding programs financed by the government have run out of money.
In February 2019 it was reported food had run out at Hlatikhulu Government Hospital and patients were fed thin porridge. Previously, it was reported Mbabane Government Hospital had run out of food because of unpaid bills and patients only had apples and juice.
Health services across Swaziland are in crisis. In September 2018 it was reported at least six children in Swaziland had died from diarrhoea and many more were sick because the government was broke and could not pay for vaccines. It would cost US$6 for the vaccine to immunise a child.