UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
Edition #2 2 June 1998
1. A. SWAZILAND FINALLY GETS EASTERN RAIL LINKS TO DURBAN, MAPUTO 1. B. SWAZILAND SIGNS 3-YEAR INTERNET AGREEMENT TO "WIRE" RURAL AREAS *
2. SWAZILAND HAS TOP TEN AIDS INFECTION RATE IN WORLD 3. NURSES GIVE PATIENTS FREE MEDICAL AID IN DEFIANCE OF GOVERNMENT 4. AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY EXPECTED TO DROP TO 33-YRS BY 2005 5. COSATU DENIES THREATENING TO CUT ELECTRICITY TO SWAZILAND 6. FIRST STEPS TOWARDS ESTABLISHING AUTONOMOUS AUDITOR GENERAL 7. SWAZILAND PENSIONERS ARRESTED FOR COLLECTING PENSIONS IN S.A. 8. ODDITIES AND CURIOSITIES FROM AFRICA'S LAST ABSOLUTE MONARCHY* 8. A. LESOTHO FETISH FOR DONKEY MEAT ENDANGERS SWAZILAND'S DONKEYS*
8. B. SWAZILAND'S SOCCER TEAM SNUBS MALAWIAN FRIENDLIES.
1. A. SWAZILAND FINALLY GETS EASTERN RAIL LINKS TO DURBAN, MAPUTO
Southern Swaziland citizens are finally able to catch passenger trains directly to their nearest mega-cities; of Durban in South Africa, and Maputo in Mozambique without first detouring 600km through Johannesburg.
The new service, connecting Swaziland at Mpaka railway station, is the first ever passenger rail service along the Lobombo route and is being run by South Africa's SPOORNET specialist carrier, Main Line Passenger Services (MLPS). Swaziland Railway's (SR) director of traffic Stephenson Ngubane said SPOORNET had negotiated the service with the government of both Swaziland and Mozambique after realising the tourism and business passenger potential for the route.
The train currently runs from Durban to Maputo via Swaziland, hugging the spectacular lagoons, dunes forests and gorges of North Coast Kwazulu Natal, before taking the shortest route through gorges in the Lowveld region of Swaziland and on to Maputo. The train consists of sleeper class accommodation, toilets, an air conditioned lounge cab, luggage compartment and a fast food catering service.
MLPS business manager Bheka Manana said: "We are very excited about the whole project and we are going to use the upgraded train as a benchmark of our other coastal services. The new service is already running three times a week and will be officially opened early next month.
1. B. SWAZILAND SIGNS 3-YEAR INTERNET AGREEMENT TO "WIRE" RURAL AREAS
Swaziland has signed a three-year agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the provision of internet access to communities nationwide, making the small kingdom the 10th developing world country to benefit from the programme.
The agreement will enable a team of five UNDP members to survey and assess the kingdom's existing information technology.
Internet capable computers, paid for by UNDP, will be provided to each of Swaziland's 55 constituencies for use by school pupils, farmers or anyone wishing to obtain immediate information on specific subject requests. UNDP director Richard Cabey said, however, that the success of the programme depended on the completion of Swaziland's electrification grid and the installation of a telephone system in deep rural areas.
2. SWAZILAND IN WORLD TOP TEN FOR AIDS INFECTION
Swaziland is amongst the top 10 countries in the world in terms of AIDS infection, health minister Dr. Phetsile Dlamini, said on last Monday. Dr Dlamini said that although she did not have accurate figures yet, "recent figures on this killer disease are quite frightening".
School pupils and tertiary students have been identified as the group most at risk, with education minister Solomon Dlamini saying that the Lubombo region was particularly hard hit. At least one high school in the area, he said, had 15 percent of pupils testing HIV positive.
Stressing her concern at the rapid spread of infection in both rural and urban areas, Dr Dlamini said she was extremely concerned that a number of social welfare and sex education Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), such as TASC in Manzini, had not received any funding from government.
Dr Dlamini attributed the cut in funding to communication problems between government and NGOs and also to the lack of a memorandum of understanding between the public and NGO sector. Government simply needed to know how its grants would be used and that normal accounting practices would be followed, with regular audited reports, she added.
3. NURSES GIVE PATIENTS FREE MEDICAL AID IN DEFIANCE OF GOVERNMENT
The public scored free medical assistance from at least nine government clinics last week as nurses protested against the lack of security at rural clinics.
Although nurses at a few clinics continued to collect the E1 per patient fee, the majority of clinics heeded a call from the Swaziland Nurses Association not to charge patients until security measures at clinics are stepped up.
"Our clinic was attacked by gunmen who severely injured our night watchman. The community has to take responsibility when the government doesn't do anything about it," explained a nurse at one of the clinics.
Patients got free treatment at Nkaba, Egebeni, Zombodze WaMagugu, Mliba Nazarene, Nkwene, JC 1 and Hlutsi, Vuvulane, Bulandzeni and New Heaven clinics
Principal Secretary at the heath ministry, Myekeni Vilakazi, said on Wednesday last week he was "extremely disturbed by the prevailing insecurity in the health facilities" but warned that the government would not allow patients to continue to receive free health care. He said that mobile ticket vans, where patients would pay for services, would be deployed to improve security at clinics and to remove the temptation for criminal attacks on clinics themselves.
4. AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY EXPECTED TO DROP TO 33 YEARS BY 2010
Average life expectancy of southern African citizens is expected to halve by the year 2010, with most people dying by the age of 33 years, World Health Organisation (WHO) experts said last week.
The current average life expectancy is 60 years for Swaziland and other regional citizens. WHO epidemiologist, Dr. Amani Mgeni, said at a clinic ceremony in Thokoza on Monday last week that plummeting health indicator projections for regional countries, including those with fast growing economies such as Botswana, indicated that life expectancy was diminishing rapidly because of AIDS and a resurgence of diseases such as malaria.
He said that projections already indicated that 40-70 percent of infant mortality rates are associated with AIDS and added that Swaziland had a particularly high HIV positive rate in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) patients.
"The fifth sentinel surveillance survey in 1996, and that's two years ago already, found that 36 percent of STD patients here have HIV. This year, the sixth survey will almost definitely tell us an even more depressing story," he said. Stressing the close association between HIV or AIDS and diseases such as TB, STDs and Malaria, he added that TB was already the leading killer of youth and adults in Swaziland.
Fifty percent of TB fatalities are killed in their most economically productive years (20-49 years of age).
5. COSATU DENIES THREATENING TO CUT SWAZILAND ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES
The Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (Cosatu) distanced itself from a Workers Day threat by its members to cut electricity supplies from South African utility company, Eskom, to Swaziland unless the Kingdom's ban on political parties is lifted immediately.
The threat was made by George Nkadimeng, vice-president of the SA Trade Unions Coordinating Council at a function in Swaziland on May 1. He told the large crowd that Cosatu, which is a powerful alliance partner in South Africa's ruling African National Congress party, would cut electricity supplies to Swaziland for one month to disrupt the country's October elections.
The cut was, he said, in protest at the banning of political party participation in the elections. Cosatu public relations officer Nowetu Mpati, however said on Tuesday last week that Nkadimeng had not had a mandate to speak on behalf of Cosatu at the function.
She said Cosatu also distanced itself from other remarks made by Nkadimeng at the function. Nkadimeng had told surprised delegates and union members at the function that Cosatu asked him to tell the Swaziland government to stop writing letters to President Nelson Mandela complaining about Cosatu's joint goods blockade of border posts earlier this year.
Cosatu and the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions prevented all delivery trucks from entering Swaziland over three day periods in protest at the kingdom's ban on party politics. Mpati said though Cosatu supports the SFTU's boycott call, Nkadimeng had no right or mandate to speak on Cosatu's behalf.
She said Cosatu had no intention of cutting electricity to Swaziland as this would violate government-to-government agreements. Cosatu would continue to support the SFTU, she said, but would do so through peaceful means and would do nothing to undermine Swaziland's monarchy.
6. FIRST STEPS TAKEN TOWARDS CREATING AUTONOMOUS AUDITOR GENERAL
The first shaky steps were taken last week to create a completely independent Auditor General in Swaziland. The move, outlined in a draft Bill due to be debated in Parliament, seeks to establish autonomy for the current AG, Mathokoza Dlamini, and his successors. The move is expected to make the AG more effective in his bid to ensure government honesty during the administration of public property and funds.
The draft Bill has been signed by acting Attorney General, Martin Dwamena, and has already been gazetted. If passed, the Bill will give Dlamini powers to summon people whose accounts are being audited, to appear before the AG. Officials will also be obliged to produce all books, records, vouchers and documents.
The incumbent AG and his deputy will also be immune from criminal and civil prosecution in their personal capacity in respect of any actions they take in the line of duty and in good faith. The Bill comes in the wake of repeated concerns registered by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the AG should have autonomous status.
The Bill stresses that the AG will seek to instill a 'value-for-money' budgeting culture in Swaziland and will also upgrade the position and status of the AG by increasing his salary to the same scale as a judge of the High Court. The AG can only be a Swazi citizen who has never been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty and has never been declared bankrupt.
The gazette stated that the Auditor General will have; "the right, without payment, to investigate and to make extracts from any record, book, document and other information of an institution whose accounts are being audited or inspected by him. The right to investigate whether any service obtained, property, money, stamps, securities, equipment, stores, trust money, trust property and other assets of an institution whose accounts are being audited by him have been obtained in an economical manner, and are applied efficiently and effectively".
He will also have the right to investigate and to enquire into any matter, including the efficiency and effectiveness of internal control and management measures, relating to expenditure and the revenue of an institution whose accounts are being audited or inspected by him.
7. SWAZILAND PENSIONERS ARRESTED FOR COLLECTING PENSIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA
An unspecified number of Swaziland pensioners were arrested by South African border police earlier this week for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain old-age pensions in South Africa.
All those arrested have relatives in South Africa and currently lived inside Swaziland near the southern border with South Africa. They allegedly used their South African relatives to obtain South African identity documents, in addition to their Swaziland passports, and used the ID books to collect pensions.
Swaziland police said on Tuesday that the pensioners crossed the border with their Swaziland passports every month but used their bogus South African ID books to claim pensions. The pensioners are being held at Pongola police station in South Africa and will appear in court to answer fraud charges on June 23.
8. ODDITIES AND CURIOUSITIES FROM AFRICA'S LAST ABSOLUTE MONARCHY:
8. 1. LESOTHO FETISH FOR DONKEY MEAT
A booming market for donkey and horse meat in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho has seen high numbers of the animals being rustled out of Swaziland.
Residents of Mahlangatsha who use donkeys and horses for transport, since there is no public transport in the area, are the most affected by the rustling.
The area's elected headman, Mthondo Vilakati, said he used to have a substantial number of donkeys and horses, but that these had dwindled. He now grazes what is left of his herds in his tightly fenced residence.
"So far we have lost four horses and a large number of donkeys which were probably driven out of their kraal at night," said Vilakati. He said the theft of other livestock, such as cattle and goats, had also increased.*
"It is unfortunate we haven't yet established community police to arrest such thieves," said Vilakati. The Member of Parliament for the area, Jekwa Dlamini, said efforts were being made to resolve the problem.*
8. B. SWAZILAND NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM FAILS TO TURN UP YET AGAIN
Swaziland's national football team failed to arrive for a series of friendly games in Malawi at last weekend, costing their Malawian hosts US$28 000 in car hire and hotel expenses.
Spokesman for the Football Association of Malawi, Steve Padambo, said the team phoned an hour before their expected arrival in Malawi, to announce that they would not be arriving because the Swazi government had not paid for their travel expenses.
"Can you imagine, calling at the eleventh hour. I am very disappointed and demoralized," Padambo said.
He said the team would be expected to reimburse the
Malawians for the US$ 28,000 in expenses incurred for
car hire and hotel bookings. A complaint had also been
forwarded to the Confederation of African Football,
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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