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Friday, 5 June 2020

Thousands of job lay-offs hit Swaziland as coronavirus lockdown continues

About 9,000 people in Swaziland (eSwatini) are about to lose their jobs because of the coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom.

Labour Commissioner Mthunzi Shabangu said that 57 companies had applied to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for permission to lay-off the workers.

He said, ‘It is evident that more people are yet to lose their jobs, because we have been receiving requests through and through.’

By law the companies are required to get permission from the ministry to lay-off workers but Shabangu told the eSwatini Observer that some had done so without notification.

The lay-offs are considered temporary for the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis but there is no guarantee that workers will get their jobs back. The workers will receive no wages during the lay-offs.

Meanwhile Swazi senators in the portfolio committee complained that a E90 million (US$5.3 million) relief fund set up to give assistance during the coronavirus lockdown was not helping micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). 

They asked for a meeting with key ministries, including finance, labour and social security, housing and urban development and commerce, industry and trade to discuss possible solutions.

Director of MSME Mluleki Dlamini presented senators with a proposed model for MSME Finance Relief which he said was currently being developed by government.

Elsewhere, the Swazi Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade has closed 52 businesses for failure to observe the partial lockdown regulations. The lockdown began on 27 March 2020.

Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo said in a statement that some companies deliberately contravened the measures. These included not having protective clothing or sanitisers.

See also

Tens of thousands of jobs at risk in Swaziland as coronavirus pandemic continues
Coronavirus lockdown costs thousands of jobs in Swaziland, people evicted from homes
Swaziland to destroy 224,000 bottles of beer because of coronavirus lockdown

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Swaziland PM, ministers break own regulation on crowds at coronavirus awareness event

The Prime Minister of Swaziland (eSwatini) and government ministers broke their own lockdown restrictions when they held a coronavirus awareness event.

Up to 150 people attended, according to local media, when rules ban gatherings of more than 20.

The event took place on Tuesday (3 June 2020) at Mhlambanyatsi Constituency.

With PM Ambrose Dlamini were Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg, Minister of Tinkhundla Administration and Development David Ngcamphalala and Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs, Harries Bulunga.

Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi told the Times of eSwatini she had been promised that the rules would be followed. She confirmed the regulations were breached.

In other coronavirus developments in Swaziland:

CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS at Lubombo Referral Hospital have complained about a lack of food. Some fear it is being stolen before it reaches them. 

THE MINISTRY of Commerce, Industry and Trade confirmed that the manufacturing, distribution and wholesaling of alcohol remained banned during the partial coronavirus lockdown in the kingdom. This was after reports that large quantities had been imported from South Africa.

MORE THAN 100 government employees at the Central Statistics Office had their one-year contracts for the eSwatini Annual Agricultural Survey suspended because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Tens of thousands of jobs are in danger because of the outbreak.

See also

Tens of thousands of jobs at risk in Swaziland as coronavirus pandemic continues
Swaziland coronavirus tests halted as technicians demand protective equipment
Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown
Swaziland to destroy 224,000 bottles of beer because of coronavirus lockdown

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Swaziland coronavirus tests halted as technicians demand protective equipment

Coronavirus medical laboratory technicians in Swaziland (eSwatini) stopped work in protest that they were not given personal protective equipment while they were working. 

Separately, regional response teams who are tracing people who have come into contact with the virus stopped work demanding extra risk payments.

As a result all coronavirus (COVID-19) tests were halted across the kingdom on Monday (1 June 2020). More than 60 technicians at Mbabane Government Hospital – the only coronavirus testing facility in Swaziland – delivered a petition directed to Director of Health Services Dr Vusi Magagula.

They argued they had risked their lives from the start of the coronavirus crisis and still did not have personal protective equipment (PPE), including head covers, eye shields, masks, scrubs, disposable coats, aprons, shoe covers, sanitisers, soap and a sink. 

They said if they did not get the PPE they would shut down all 97 public laboratories in the kingdom. There are 267 technicians.

The Swazi Government does not consider the technicians to be an essential service during the coronavirus crisis and therefore they are not supplied with PPE.

Meanwhile, regional response teams in the Manzini and Shiselweni regions stopped work in protest after failing to get responses from the Ministry of Health to their demands for risk and overtime payments. Contact tracing and screening were halted.

They are also concerned about a lack of lack of PPE and their own regular testing.

On Monday the Ministry of Health announced the third death in Swaziland from coronavirus, a 42-year-old man from the Manzini region. A total of 293 people have tested positive so far.

See also

Swaziland short of coronavirus protective equipment for health workers as prices soar

Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown

One-year-old tests positive for coronavirus in Swaziland

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Swaziland policeman shoots boy, 15, playing football during coronavirus lockdown

A 15-year-old boy was shot and wounded by police in Swaziland (eSwatini) when he played football with friends on open ground during the coronavirus lockdown.

A lone policeman approached a group of boys playing football on a dusty field near Gege.

The Times of eSwatini reported their game was being watched by two adults. It said the police officer allegedly fired his weapon to disperse the spectators.

‘The startled youngsters are said to have trampled on each other as they ran away, while one of the boys aged 15 reportedly sustained a serious injury after he got shot during the skirmish.

‘The youngster was struck by a bullet in his left arm while running away from the police officer.’ He was detained in hospital.

Police are investigating the shooting.

Swaziland has been on a partial lockdown because of coronavirus (COVID-19) since 27 March 2020. Gatherings of more than 20 people are banned and people are urged to keep a distance of one metre from one another.

The Swazi police and other security forces have been criticised for their brutality during the lockdown.

National Police Commissioner William Dlamini acknowledged the problem during a press briefing on 24 April when he said, ‘We assure the nation that all security officers have been reminded that their duty is to assist, not abuse.’

There had been a number of reports of police, army and correctional service personnel beating people during lockdown. 

In April security forces reportedly whipped a destitute woman in Eteni when she was on the streets desperately trying to get food for her three children.

Mbabane lawyer Sabelo ‘Mngo’ Mngomezulu was left with broken ribs after soldiers assaulted him, two women were whipped with sticks by police and a man was hospitalised after police beat him about the head with a baton. 

An 85-year-old woman collapsed and died when security forces raided her home because they thought she was selling alcohol. 

Armed military police officers also forced members of the public to do press-ups when they were found at a bus rank in Manzini during the coronavirus lockdown.

Some businesses had claimed they had been asked to pay bribes to police and army in order to remain open.

On 15 April Swazi Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini endorsed police beating people during the lockdown. He told a press briefing, ‘If you are found to be violating these regulations, the law will definitely take its course, we won’t compromise on this. Maybe those who were assaulted were found to be on the wrong side of the law by breaking the regulations put in place by government. We would like to encourage members of the public to abide by these regulations, there shouldn’t a need for the law enforcement to force you to respect these regulations.’

See also

More reports of police and army violence against civilians as Swaziland coronavirus lockdown continues
Swaziland armed police, army intimidate people to obey coronavirus lockdown. Woman, 85, dies

Swaziland security forces whip destitute woman searching for food during coronavirus lockdown