Even before the dust has settled after the Swaziland Government said they could do without a R2.4 billion loan from South Africa, experts have predicted that more than 10 percent of Swazis will go hungry this year.
It would seem, Swaziland desperately needs the financial assistance from South Africa because much of the R12 billion windfall from SACU receipts and tax revenue, which gave a reprieve in the Swaziland government’s cash flow problems, will go towards settling debts accrued over the two years it had been facing a financial crisis.
This situation adds more urgency to appeals from the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) to President Jacob Zuma to take a tougher stance on the tiny landlocked neighbour, if the Southern African transformation agenda is to be taken forward.
The growing problems of Swaziland will also have a telling effect on South Africa’s transformation and development efforts due to the fact that the two countries have very close trade links. It could lead to a flood of economic refugees.
Already, The Mail & Gurdian reports there are at least 117, 552 Swazis that work or stay in South Africa. Based on 2007 census figures, the Swaziland Diaspora in South Africa is about 11.54 percent of the total Swaziland population.
Moreover, there have been numerous reports of senior citizens from Swaziland illegally crossing the border fence to fraudulently receive social grants in South Africa.
This is over and above the thousands of Swazi children, risking confrontation with South African border security forces (in the fringes of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal provinces); to attend school in South Africa.
That is why, according to the SSN, President Zuma would do well to drive for action regarding the resolutions taken in Mangaung about Swaziland.
South African business is also the biggest loser when it comes to the situation as there are many South African companies which have interests in Swaziland.
Swaziland Government figures have always indicated that more than 60 percent of the 1.2 million people live below the poverty line. The country’s Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole delivered a budget speech that did not make a significant dent on the poverty situation with which the Swazi people are faced.
Civic Society leader and independent economist Thembinkosi Dlamini noted; “the poor have lost….surely, it must be sad to be o to be poor and be born and live in Swaziland.”
It is indicated in the final and latest report of the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee that a total of 115 712 people face hunger borne of food shortages in the 2012/2013 period.
In 2011, it is stated in the report, 88 511 people faced food shortages. The rapidly declining economy of Swaziland has been fingered as the main cause for the rise in poverty and food shortages in Swaziland. Official statistics indicate that the economy has been growing at very low rates, averaging 1.95% over the last decade.
“In fact, it is the slowest growing economy in the SACU region. It has however retained its ranking as the fourth largest economy in the SACU region. It is classified as a lower middle income country with a GDP per capita rate of US$5,400 in 2011.
To this end, grants account for less than 2% of total government revenue,” said a leading economist working for a semi government institution in Swaziland.
There are fears that the number could rise markedly due to inflationary pressures as the lean or hunger season approaches.
“The lack of diversified sources of food increased the level of household vulnerability to food insecurity. The country’s dependence on commodity imports for consumption requirements is not encouraged as price shocks may reduce households’ access to food and increase food insecurity,” it is stated in the report.
Unpredictable weather conditions and erratic rainfall patterns in the last ploughing season have also been cited as the major cause of food shortages as cereal production declined compared to previous seasons.
Over and above that, the lack of reliable support services to enhance agricultural production, the negative impact of runaway HIV and Aids situation and other health challenges were cited as major contributory factors to the lack of food sustenance.
What worsens the situation is that food aid, mainly from the World Food Programme (WFP) and also the government has had to be shared among a wider audience, leaving some households with little or no food at all.
Professor Richard Rooney, writing on Swazi Media Commentary, recalled that in September 2012 the World Economic Forum, United Nations and the Institute for Security Studies in separate reports said the Swazi government was largely to blame for the economic recession and subsequent increasing amount of Swazis who have to skip meals was its fault.
Written by: Musa Ndlangamandla – Transform SA Ad Sales/Editorial Executive.
Musa is a senior journalist from Swaziland and until January 2012 he was Chief Editor of The Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers. He is a former advisor and speech writer to King Mswati III. Musa studied Law and holds a number of certificates from leading schools of Journalism. He has travelled to over 35 countries on assignment. He also writes as a freelancer for various leading publications.