MBABANE: King Mswati allegedly manipulated COVID-19 regulations to ban alcohol threatening multi-million investments by Eswatini Beverages and other liquor outlets after learning that the industry was generating more revenue, but few millions reached his pocket through shares and the traditional custom known as kwetfula(presenting gifts to the King)
An independent investigation by this Swaziland News uncovered that the decision to ban the alcohol was not taken by Cabinet but it came straight from the King, desperate pleas from influential Ministers to convince him to lift the ban allegedly fell on deaf ears.
Royal insiders disclosed that initially, the King wanted alcohol to be banned until November to force the investors to seek audience with him so he can demand more shares cash. Despite hosting his Umhlanga ritual reed dance ceremony in August 2020 in the midst of the epidemic, where hundreds of girls attended, he used the rise in the COVID-19 cases as a justification to ban alcohol.
On or around 05 September 2020, the King, through Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini announced the extension of the ban on the production and distribution of liquor for the duration of the month, he did not commit himself that the ban might be lifted thereafter.
“That decision will be informed by the behavior of this highly unpredictable virus over the course of this month” said the Prime Minister who was speaking on behalf of the King.
But an investigation by this publication revealed that prior to the announcement few Cabinet Ministers tried in vain to engage the King to lift the ban on alcohol due to public demand, but he refused.
“Actually, the King said he would think about the matter, the Ministers can raise it again in November, for now alcohol should remain banned. Ndvunankhulu-ke wabese utsi end of September ngoba avikela sitfunti seNkhosi angafuni nekuphaphula sive, kahle-kahle Inkhosi ayifuni buvulwe ngoba kunentinkinga with Eswatini Beverages (meaning: the Prime Minister then extended the ban until September to protect the King’s image and manage public opinion over the matter, the King wants alcohol to remain banned because of his business conflicts with Eswatini Beverages” said an insider in the corridors of power.
The political system in Eswatini does not allow the Prime Minister to take independent decisions but he takes orders directly from the King and make announcement and or speeches on behalf of the absolute Monarch.
Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini did not respond to our questions when asked to clarify why the King was frustrating the investors in the liquor industry, Cabinet new communication arrangement suggests that before speaking to the media, the Spokesperson should first seek ‘permission’ or consult Vuma Reputation Management, a South African Public Relations company that manages the flow of information and the reputation of the government.
But the Legal and Corporate Affairs department within Eswatini Beverages headed by Mpumelelo Makhubu published a statement on digital media that demonstrated the company’s frustrations over the matter, warning that the alcohol industry in the country was unable to survive the extended suspension of alcohol sales.
“If it continues, it will contribute to the growing poverty, hunger and mortality rates in the very communities it aims to protect. Thousands of people are at risk right now. It’s not just people at big alcohol brands that will suffer-this will have devasting effects on small taven owners, restaurant employees, bars and liquor stores as well as SMMEs, packaging and logistics companies across Eswatini. We urgently need to find a solution, and we are ready to help,” read the statement from Eswatini Beverages.
Speaking to this publication, Thamsanqa Hlatswako, the Secretary General of the Eswatini Liquor Association (ELA) said they will soon organize a protest march against the banning of alcohol, he said many businesses in the industry were collapsing.
“We have done everything we can to engage this government to consider lifting the ban on alcohol, but we failed hence now, we have no alternative but to engage the consumers over this matter” said the Liquor Association Secretary.
On or around September 2020, Finance Minister Neal Rijikernberg, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini and Commerce Minister Mancoba Khumalo addressed international journalists telling the world that Eswatini was open for investments, however the real situation in the country suggests that only King Mswati can decide the future of investment and a word from him is enough to force the government to frustrate investments that are not in the King’s good books.
The King is above the Constitution of Eswatini, he holds Executive, Judicial and Legislative powers and his word automatically becomes the law or an order that should be respected even by the highest court of the land.