MBABANE: Senior Government officials, Cabinet Ministers and State journalists who were collectively benefiting millions from public coffers when traveling abroad on ‘State duties’ were allegedly financially crippled by the current COVID-19 international travel restrictions.
As a result, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the World Health Organisation(WHO) discouraging unnecessary travelling, Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku left the country on Saturday to represent King Mswati during the official opening the Kazungula Bridge in the Republic of Botswana, Masuku, together with his bodyguards will cash a traveling allowance from taxpayers money.
When announcing the trip through a press statement dated 08 May 2021, Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini said the Kazungula Bridge links Botswana and Zambia through the Zambezi river and will promote regional and continental integration.
“This infrastructure will promote regional and continental integration and facilitate the implementation of shared development programs such as the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. The official opening of the project will be held on Monday 10 May 2021 at the project site in Kazungula”, read the statement in part.
Information in possession of this Swaziland News suggests that senior Government officials, the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and State journalists would pocket over E100,000.00 each from public coffers as traveling allowances, a majority of those who benefitted travelled with the King.
Reached for comments, Wandile Dludlu, the Secretary General of the People’s United Democratic Movement(PUDEMO) said as an organization, while they understood that the project connecting Zambia and Botswana would promote regional and continental integration, they did not understand why the Acting Prime Minister opted to travel and waste taxpayers money instead of participating in a virtual event to save costs.
“You ask yourself what’s the significance of him going there because he won’t even cut the ribbon that marks the official opening of the Bridge, he will just be standing. But then, as an Acting Prime Minister, it’s his opportunity to loot for himself and he must systematically do so through these trips.We are in the era of technology now, if you compare the costs of participating in the event online instead of traveling to Botswana, then you can understand that it’s about looting” ,said the PUDEMO Secretary General.
An insider within the corridors of power told this publication that the travel restrictions to other countries particularly in Europe and the Middle East grounded many senior government officials whose lifestyle was sustained by the extra money they benefited as traveling allowances.
“The situation is really bad, sometimes you get a call from a whole Principal Secretary seeking financial assistance to buy electricity units. What happened is that some of them upgraded their lifestyles before the COVID-19, their children are in private schools and their financial standing was boosted by these international trips among others and then the virus blocked everything” ,said the insider.
Eswatini, a tiny Kingdom situated in Southern Africa and ruled by multi-billionaire King Mswati who is counted among the richest Monarchies in the world has about 70% of the population living below the poverty line, the health system has collapsed with no working equipment as a result of government's failure to fulfill social obligations.
Acting Prime Minister Senator Themba Masuku(pic: inte))