Mbabane: Philani Maswati, Queen Ntfombi Tfwala’s charity organization is selling masks to the public. According to an advert placed on the organization’s official Facebook page the masks cost E10 each. According to the advert the proceeds from each sale of the masks will go towards the support of the impoverished. The design comes with the country’s flag sewn at its far end.
However, this does not hit well with a group of business women who felt the making of the masks is an opportunity that should have been given to them, and in fact, the group, which consists of business women from around Mbabane were approached by the Small Enterprises Development Company (SEDCO) and made known the opportunity to make money.
A member of the group who preferred anonymity alluded to the fact that SEDCO provided the opportunity as part of their mandate to raise small businesses in Eswatini, but they were abundantly disappointed to learn that an organization of the caliber of Philani Maswati had seized the opportunity and deprived the group of their sought after livelihood. *Sibongile said she’d expect that organization freely distributes the masks as a charity organization; it doesn’t matter that the proceeds from the sales would go to helping the needy.
“The opportunity was seized from us before we could even sew the first mask,” said Sibongile, who added that on getting the news from SEDCO they were overjoyed since they would be able to provide for their families. She said in the wake of COVID-19 the situation at home was dire and such opportunities as presented by SEDCO to sew masks had come at the right time. “Business is slow and as everybody knows the market has crumbled, so, prospects such as the making of masks should have been reserved for the small businesses,” said Sibongile.
Even the masks have been received with mixed feelings on the part of the public, provoking a response from one of the organization’s volunteers, EBIS’ radio personality Gcebile Mvubu who issued that people should hold back their support if they so wished, instead of being negative towards the project whose intent is to help the most vulnerable of Emaswati.
FESBEC’s Hezekiel Mabuza decried the stance on government not to rationalize the allocation of the making of the masks, saying government erred in not setting certain standards. He said government should come up with a regulation and set up policies regarding the making and the sale of the masks. Mabuza said when making the ruling for the making and sale of masks government should have had it mind to set standards which would qualify their use. He said SMEs should have in fact been given the priority to avoid the limiting of the economy of the country. “Despite COVID-19 being a national catastrophe it has brought business opportunities which require the prioritization of beneficiaries,” said Mabuza who added that organizations with a strong financial muscle would be limited by government’s regulation on the making and the sale of the masks. While there is an urgent need to prevent the spread of the virus there should also be rationalizing of the business opportunities with which the pandemic has come.
Mabuza noted business acumen in the rural areas saying the making of masks should have been concentrated in those areas which would broaden the country’s economy. He said across the four regions there should be activity in terms of business in the wake of COVID-19. On another hand, Mabuza said as FESBEC they are following the use of the E90 million relief fund which government set aside for small business, which take effect end of April.
Chairman of Philani Maswati Lutfo Dlamini could not be reached for comment when sought.