Mbabane: ‘A hungry man is an angry man,’ so goes an old adage which rings true to what the country is potentially facing.
Without the proper allocation of the food promised by government through the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), the custodian of the registration and distribution of the food parcels, commentators say there is the risk of violent eruptions across the neediest sectors across the country.
Trade Unions Congress of Eswatini (TUCOSWA) Secretary General, Mduduzi Gina warned that he foresees imminent riots as the distribution of food to the hardest hit emaSwati continues.
Gina said government should have it in mind that what happens in other countries where grocery stores are looted –can also happen in Eswatini. According to the unionist, this can happen if, for instance, when a worker who has been laid off will be exempted from the food distribution on the premise that he or she has been working. “Employment should not be seen as a tag, but a status of remuneration and if a worker has been laid off especially, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he should, as a matter of right of life be counted among those who will benefit from the food parcels,” said Gina, adding that he was utterly upset when he learnt from one of the local publications that a certain textile worker who had been laid off could not be registered and listed as a beneficiary.
Gina mentioned that even before the outbreak, there were those of the workforce who went without food due to meagre salaries and government should work on such a background in the food distributions. The secretary general said government should have the same wisdom used in collecting the data of those qualifying for the food relief to determine who should really get the parcels, or else, the country is bent on food riots as seen in other countries. “It would only be reasonable for government to take this as serious advice,” said the SG.
Gina went on to say that he continuously gathers from people especially in hard hit areas like in the Lubombo region that government’s prohibition of free movement has deprived them of livelihoods. He said people have no option, but to adhere to government’s call to stay at home with police patrolling communities every second.
According to some affected people, despite reports of declining criminal levels due to the outbreak, the time where the opposite will happen is quickly approaching. “We will fight each other up with the greediness equalled to that of monsters of the seas that swallow up the helpless fish upon which they subsist,” said a source who preferred anonymity. He said it will be a question of the ‘Have not’ ambushing the ‘Haves’ all in their quest to feed their families. This is all because people have reverted to having nothing and living from hand to mouth, said the workers’ federation secretary general.
The food parcels are meant for people who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic like those laid off at work or the small business people who cannot reach out to promote their products. With the squabbles having started at Parliament among politicians over who should or should not get the parcels, Gina said it cannot be ruled out that the quarrels will filter down to the ordinary people in the street who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 regulations as set by the government.
A number of people who were interviewed by this publication stated that they had already started feeling the gnawings of hunger and are weighing their options on the next move.
The NDMA suggested that politicians should not be directly involved in the registration of people who have been hit hard by the pandemic, and that did not sit well with some of them because they wanted to be hands on in identifying the needy at their various communities.
Politicians and local authorities were only expected to assist the task team in identifying the most vulnerable people during the trying times, said NDMA CEO Russell Dlamini. The agency has trained officers from different non-governmental organisations to work with the politicians and the local authorities, the inner councils, caregivers and Bucopho beTinkhundla during the course of the assessment.
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