The Swaziland (eSwatini) Government will not send food to the starving and destitute in towns and cities during the extreme lockdown that it has imposed in the fight against coronavirus.
The decision comes as Manzini, the main commercial city in the kingdom, has been locked down by the army and police and is surrounded by roadblocks. People on the streets are being arrested for loitering.
Unknown thousands of the 110,000 population have lost their jobs because of the lockdown and have no money or food.
On 22 April 2020 the Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini announced the government would feed more than 300,000 people from 63,000 households across all four regions of the Kingdom. The total population of Swaziland is about 1.3 million. He pledged the assistance would be delivered within two weeks.
Now, National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Wandile Mavuso has confirmed that people in urban areas would not get food from the government.
He explained on state radio that the government was directing its efforts only to rural areas.
The Times of eSwatini reported people including vendors who earned their living through selling fruits and vegetables on the streets, car wash employees who earned E10 per car, drycleaners employees, hair-dressers and salon owners, those employed at cellphone shops, hotels, restaurants and security guards, among others, had no income and could not get food.
It said, 'A study has shown that most of these people are tenants [living in flats] on the outskirts of towns and cities and currently have no other source of income.'
It reported Mavuso saying, 'We will not include tenants in the relief plan. We will not be going to the flats.'
He added the government would only work in places where there were 'local structures' in place. This would include chiefs and those who worked with chiefs. Mavuso said this would ensure that 'deserving beneficiaries' were identified.
Swaziland is ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch and he appoints the chiefs as his local representatives.
Since the Prime Minister made his pledge to feed 300,000 people the Swazi House of Assembly rejected a plan put forward by Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku to send people money instead of food.
The plan was to spend about E270 million (US$14 million) with government distributing about E45 million per month to 301,762 people across the kingdom.
Masuku said the scheme would give people the choice on what food to buy and stop them gathering together to receive parcels and risk catching coronavirus (COVID-19). He said it would also save on the cost of delivering food.
A number of members of parliament thought the plan was open to corruption and money might not be used for the intended purpose of buying food.
A final decision on how to proceed with the food relief has yet to be made.