A top civil servant in Swaziland has said that the sale by the government of maize donated by Japan to feed hungry people in the kingdom was not an anomaly.
It was revealed this week that nearly 12,000 metric tonnes of maize intended for humanitarian purposes had been sold through the National Maize Corporation on the open market and the E24 million (US$3 million) raised was put in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.
Now, Phephisa Khoza, editor of the Swazi News, reports that the sale was not considered by government to be unusual.
Writing in her own newspaper (16 March 2013) she reported Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Principal Secretary Bertram Stewart, saying that selling the maize donated by the Japanese Government was not an anomaly.
The Japanese Government has not commented publicly on the sale, but Stewart claimed Japan knew about the sale. He said money raised was to be spent on subsidies for farm inputs for farmers.
In Swaziland three in ten people are officially classified as malnourished and they rely on humanitarian food aid to stop from starving.
What Stewart did not explain was why, if the Japanese Government wanted to assist farmers with subsidies, it did not do so openly.
Senior Royal, Prince Hlangusemphi, who is Minister for Economic Planning and Development, has yet to make a public statement on the sale, which is seen in some quarters as a scandal.
Earlier this week, the Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, called the government decision to sell the maize ‘callousness’. In an editorial comment it said, ‘to let down its needy citizens is such a low down, dirty shame’.
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