Like any country in the world, Eswatini is sailing through an unprecedented period of suffering. EmaSwati are afraid of being infected by a deadly virus that is not only killing their loved ones but destroying what is left of the economy and jobs. Undoubtedly, people are hurting, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to this misery.
At difficult times such as these people tend to look to their government or whoever is in charge for direction, solace or just reassurance that things will get better soon. While reassuring them of the ray of hope, they also want to see decisions being taken and executed. This is what emaSwati are yearning to see in this period and nothing else. Just when the rampant virus started to sweep through the country in March, we saw government springing into action like a male dog who had been mistakenly caressed its scrotum, implementing nationwide strict lockdown after a state of disaster was declared.
One must say, that was the good decision and truly, it gave us a brief flicker of hope, that we were taking the right step into the right direction in combating the coronavirus. The lockdown was supposed to give government time to prepare and plan ahead how the economy would be reopened, but at the face of it, we seem unprepared and its like Cabinet was focusing on counting the number of dead bodies of the people who succumbed to the coronavirus, instead of conducting studies of how the economy would be opened going forward, without a resurgence of infections.
When reopening the economy, it became clear that Cabinet was cutting and pasting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decisions. We experienced a situation where reopening of some sectors of the economy by South Africa was implemented as is in Eswatini.
Take for example the lifting of the ban on the sale and distribution of alcohol. PM Mandvulo was quick to implement a ban after Ramaphosa did same. Interestingly, Ramaphosa provided a logical reason-alcohol consumption was resulting in violence which subsequently put pressure on the health facilities as people injured mostly in traffic accidents were flocking the hospitals which were already full with patients treated Covid-19 patients. On the flipside, Eswatini backed the closing of the industry with WHO studies which show no relation between alcohol consumption and the spread of the coronavirus. That alone showed there was no one who was tasked to do an empirical research on the matter and that resulted in them making horrendous and baseless decisions which they back by Googled studies.
By so doing, that has left them exposed on how good they are in making fallacious decisions that are killing the country’s economy that is already off the proverbial cliff. What are we supposed to do or make of them except to be bemused and depressed? All these has incited me to draw one conclusion, these country is being governed by a lot of men and women who never cease to astound themselves to make costly decisions at the detriment of poor emaSwati mostly those in the alcohol distribution value chain. We cannot be grateful for people like these.
On Wednesday, when moving South Africa to Alert Level 1, President Ramaphosa laid bare the reasons why emaSwati should not be grateful for people like these (Mandvulo and team).
Ramaphosa did these through announcing the easing some of the restrictions on economic and social activity as it is reasonably safe to do. Notably, these are the same economic sectors which are still closed in the country. This giant of a man who, since the outbreak of the coronavirus has been for many, the epitome of success, disclosed that the easing of restrictions was motivated by a robust analysis of the situation on the ground regarding the spread of the coronavirus.
While Mandvulo and team continue tucking their tails between their legs and appear to be doing something regarding the relaxation of restrictions, Ramaphosa exposed them by easing of restrictions on gatherings. He said ssocial, religious, political and other gatherings will be permitted, as long as the number of people does not exceed 50 percent of the normal capacity of a venue, up to a maximum of 250 people for indoor gatherings and 500 people for outdoor gatherings.
He also announced borders and airports, allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October 2020. He further relaxed the consumption of alcohol.
The sale of alcohol at retail outlets for home consumption is now permitted from Monday to Friday, from 09h00 to 17h00. Alcohol will be permitted for on-site consumption in licensed establishments only and with strict adherence to the curfew.
Surely, this one paragraph Mandvulo and his crew didn’t want to hear or to read because it makes them look stupid and politically naïve. I guess this decision by Ramaphosa left them red-faced.
The reopening of borders coupled with the extension of hours to consume alcohol has left Mandvulo and team with an egg on their faces. They are cursing their gods because it is clear they are now fighting a losing battle regarding the consumption of alcohol in the country. Believe you me, they will struggle to fight the smuggling of alcohol from South Africa which started in March. They cannot be able to dismantle the black market now as alcohol continue pouring from all directions.
The only thing they can do is to open the industry soon before it gets too late because the continuous ban which is supported by silly reasons is giving more reasons to Ab-In-Bev to consider divesting in the country, a costly blunder that can leave over 20 000 emaSwati jobless.
If Cabinet is blinded and hoodwinked by some forces who believe and advocating for the pulling out of Ab-In-Bev under the guise that it can present an opportunity for Tibiyo TakaNgwane to takeover, better hum the song by 550 Rondy- “You Will Never Succeed.” If they can survive, you may come to me so that I can show you a flying pig! This is a complex industry which had to be run by companies who had been in the game for years. Akuphiswa umcombotsi la!