- Failed to respond effectively to unrests
- Education system on its knees
- COVID-19 pandemic affected Government operations and delivery
Mbabane: The year 2021 has finally come to an end and what a tumultuous year it has been. As a country, we have seen challenges right from the start. Some of the challenges we inherited from the previous year as we started 2021 without a Prime Minister following the demise of the late Premier Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini due to the dreaded Covid 19 virus. The Coronavirus pandemic has continued to set the trend in matters related to the livelihoods of all emaSwati and indeed their governance as there isn’t a sector that has not been affected by it.
The Prime Minister was not the only senior government member to be afflicted by the virus. Two of his Cabinet Ministers, Minister of Public Service Christian Ntshangase and Minister of Labour and Social Security Makhosi Vilakati were also victims of the scourge.
In true national resolve, emaSwati buckled down and entered the year determined that despite a brutal and merciless second wave of the Covid 19 virus that annihilated and decimated our families we would continue with our lives.
Although learning had come to a standstill, parents driven by the desire to see their children back in school prepared for the opening of schools which eventually happened for the first time in March 23, 2021.
The country continued to grapple with a series of lockdowns, the strengthening, and easing of restrictions some of which affected travel and subsequently the tourism industry.
As if this was not enough, disagreements between the ruling class and elected legislators culminated in the worst civil and political unrest the country has ever seen. Two legislators were arrested for allegedly inciting the violence which led to the deaths of up to 80 civilians and the destruction of public and private property that included the arson attacks on schools. The third legislator is still at large and he has been declared a fugitive by the state’s judicial system.
Schools had to be closed again as the unrest invariably affected the learners and the public transport system broke down as the transport operators seized the opportunity to voice out their own grievances.
Intervention by the regional body the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has helped to ease the tensions among the populace and as we prepare for a National Dialogue that is due to start in 2022, it is pertinent that we draft a report card to determine how our Cabinet Ministers performed during this turbulent year.
Prime Minister, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini (SCORE: 6/10)
We start with Prime Minister, Cleopas Sipho Dlamini. The man has been at the helm since July 16, 2021. He came to the job highly recommended following his sterling career in the financial sector. Assuming the apex portfolio in the Civil Service just days after the civil unrest was nothing less than a baptism of fire. Despite opposing political forces tearing at each other’s throats, the man has been able to maintain a cool head. It’s clear that his objective is to steady the ship and to revive an ailing economy. 6/10
Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku (SCORE 3/10)
Masuku is the man who has been in the wars this year. His woes were started after the death of the University of Eswatini Law student, Thabani Nkomonye. At the time Masuku was the Acting Prime Minister and Thabani is alleged to have been gunned down by security forces. The act sparked the petitioning of Tinkhundla Centre’s by the youth who demanded answers not only for the circumstances around Nkomonye’s death but for police brutality. Masuku ordered that the petitions should cease to be delivered, an act that set the stage for the public to question government leadership and gave birth to the civil unrest that plagued Eswatini for the better part of the year. 3/10
Minister of Home Affairs, Princess Lindiwe (SCORE 5/10)
The timing of the report card could not have come at a better time for the Minister of Home Affairs. With her announcement that the Ngwenya border gate will be opened for 24 hours she has improved the Ministry’s profile. She has cemented the economic aspirations of the people of Eswatini and South Africa, a move that will bring immeasurable socio-economic benefits to the people. 5/10
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Thulisile Dladla (SCORE 5/10)
Dladla has made an attempt to improve international relations in different spheres including dialogue with the country’s international friends such as the Kingdom of Morocco and the Republic of India. Earlier in the year, she initiated discussions with the Republic of Mozambique to assist in the peacekeeping efforts following the insurgency by Muslim extremists in Cabo Delgado. 5/10
Minister of Finance, Neal Rijkenberg (SCORE 5/10)
Neal Rijkenberg is the man who has been entrusted with the nation’s purse strings since 2018. This year has seen him deliver his third national budget. The total budgeted expenditure for 2021/2022 financial year is E 24, 043,966. In August he delivered the Supplementary Budget which was mainly to cater for the Reconstruction Fund to assist small-medium enterprises and other businesses that were affected during the June unrest. This was contained within the E 24 billion budget for 2021/2022. 5/10
Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi (4/10)
There is no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the health sector of Eswatini. To this extent Minister Lizzie Nkosi has had to bear the brunt of the scourge. Under her tenure, she has managed to introduce the AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine under the Covax programme. The total number of vaccinated emaSwati is slightly above 28%. This is among the highest percentage rate on the continent and must be commended. However, she has failed to cover herself in glory following recent reports that there are severe shortages of drugs in most if not all the hospitals and health centre’s in the country. 4/10
Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Tambo Gina (SCORE 3/10)
This year the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development hosted the first meeting of the recently established Eswatini Development Cooperation Forum. The meeting had two sessions. One on socio-economic issues and the other on the COVID-19 response and experience. Such forums have been a legacy of Dr. Thambo Gina’s tenure at the Ministry. Unfortunately, these forums have not translated to tangible economic benefits for the ordinary man and woman in the streets and the rural areas. 3/10
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Pholile Shakantu (SCORE 5/10)
Pholile Shakantu has mentioned that the Ministry of Justice is working on various legislation meant to improve the social standing of women in Eswatini. One of the key functions of the justice system is to level the playing field by ensuring that both men and women enjoy equal protection of the law. In this regard, the Ministry is exploring opportunities for the establishment of family courts to expediently resolve family disputes & gender-based violence issues. A tour of Hlatikhulu where she identified the site for a soon-to-be-developed magistrate court demonstrates that she’s attempting to achieve these objectives. 5/10
Minister of Sports Culture and Youth Affairs, Harries Bulunga (SCORE 6/10)
Harries Bulunga has always been in the forefront of using sports to transform the lives of livelihoods of communities that he has served. This year we have seen him involved in the launch of the MTN Premier League of Eswatini 2021/2022 season. He was equally present at the MTN Swaziland Arts and Music Association (SWAMA) Music Awards a concept created to celebrate and recognize musicians who have contributed to the growth of the music industry in the Kingdom of eSwatini. His participation in sports and cultural events in the country knows no bounds. 6/10
Minister of Information, Communication, and Technology, Princess Sikhanyison (SCORE 2/10)
As the most privileged Cabinet Minister, the Princess is in a position to transform the communications landscape in Eswatini. In a visit to the Eswatini Communications Commission early in 2019, she encouraged the Commission to continue working towards making sure that the Communication in the Kingdom is kept at a standard that will make the country competitive with the region and the continent. We are all still looking forward to this eventuality. 2/10
Minister of Education and Training, Lady Howard Mabuza (SCORE 2/10)
A fair assessment of Lady Mabuza’s year would have to mention that she has been a victim of circumstances as the administration of the education ministry faced insurmountable challenges. First, there was the closure of schools as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Then there was the civil unrest situation right in the middle of the year just when the Ministry was attempting to create some semblance of normality to the school calendar. However, the abrupt opening and closing of the schools without satisfactory explanation have been unacceptable. Parents are not happy.
Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Moses Vilakati (SCORE 6/10)
The tourism ministry without a doubt was one of those that were heavily affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic forced severe travel restrictions, not only in Eswatini but to all countries regionally and worldwide. Travel restrictions have been implemented as recently as November and into the month of December. In an attempt to be proactive, the Minister of Tourism & Environmental Affairs, Moses Vilakati launched COVID 19 health & safety guidelines for Eswatini tourism. The Guidelines were a commitment by the government and the tourism industry to conduct business in a way that preserves life while advancing economic growth. 6/10
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, Peter Bhembe (SCORE 4/10)
The most significant activity undertaken by Minister Peter Bhembe has been the completion of the Lavumisa 10MW solar plant. This is the first Solar PV plant to be owned and operated by the Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) and the first utility-scale solar PV plant in the country.” Eswatini’s diversified approach to electricity generation means the country will be less dependent on importing power and focusing more on locally generated and sustainable power options. 4/10
Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe (SCORE 5/10)
Chief Ndlaluhlaza Ndwandwe officially launched the 2021 nationwide rehabilitation of 400 km of roads worth E48 million. The project began with the rehabilitation of the 20kms Luganganeni-Kukhanyeni road. The government also continues to conduct the rehabilitation of roadbeds across selected unpaved district roads in all four regions of the country. The public has seen evidence of this initiative although there is a great deal that still needs to be done. Ndwandwe has urged all road users to travel with caution as they use local road infrastructure during the festive season.
Minister of Tinkhundla Administration, David Ngcamphalala (SCORE 5/10)
Ngcamphalala has consistently visited the different Tinkhundla centres throughout the course of the year. Earlier in the year, he visited Timphisini, Ntfonjeni, and Mayiwane Tinkhundla to sensitize the community residents on COVID 19. It must have felt personal therefore when later in the year sixteen Tinkhundla Centre were either burned or vandalized. Since then anybody seen trespassing at a Tinkhundla Centre after nightfall does so at his own risk. 5/10
Minister of Agriculture, Jabulani Mabuza (SCORE 3/10)
The pandemic among other things affected supply chains, restricted movements, and re-organized or reduced demand of some agricultural food commodities. This resulted in many farmers and farming enterprises experiencing profit losses, some were forced to shut down operations and lay-offs were inevitable. 3/10
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Manqoba Khumalo
Minister Manqoba Khumalo’s stand-out moment during the course of the year occurred after he took a tough stance following the civil unrests in June. Khumalo labeled members of the Multi Stakeholders Forum protesting at the borders in Lavumisa Oshoek and Matsamo as terrorists. In an attempt to spin the facts Khumalo told the South African Television news network eNCA that only 27 people lost their lives when in actual fact they far exceeded that. He said the protesters were destroying livelihoods and the government was attempting to stop that.
Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Prince Simelane (SCORE 4/10)
In October, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development announced that following the ongoing tensions the government had decided not to issue permits to protesters. He stated that they were suspending the issuing of permits in order for the economy to recover as it could not do so if marches were the order of the day. He said as a result of the protest action many people were left without employment and innocent people were caught in the crossfire. 4/10
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Phila Buthelezi (SCORE 2/10)
“As a LiSwati man married under customary law, whether I have a girlfriend or married to 20 women is not the public’s business.” This is the statement made by the Minister of Labour and Social Security Phila Buthelezi as he reacted to the strong criticism he received on social media recently. The statement raised eyebrows among many feminists in the country especially as the statement was made just days after Buthelezi had ascended to the Ministerial position. 2/10
Minister of Public Service, Mabulala Maseko (SCORE 3/10)
Newly appointed Minister Mabulala Maseko has come out to categorically state that any civil servant who wants to join a political party must leave government employment. This is his first public statement and he has emphasized that civil servants who join political parties might result in them fighting the same government. 3/10