Hungry for good government in Swaziland

Once again, a story from Swaziland has suddenly caught the media’s attention. each year. It is an alarming fact – but the other statistics are far more shocking:

Richard Lee's picture

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Strategic communications for WWF

July 31st, 2013

Once again, a story from Swaziland has suddenly caught the media’s attention. each year. It is an alarming fact – but the other statistics are far more shocking:

  • 30 percent of children are stunted;
  • 40 percent of workers are physically affected by malnutrition;
  • 37 million working hours were lost in 2009 due to malnutrition-related deaths.

 

In any normal country (how often do I write that in these blog posts), these appalling statistics would see the media blasting those in charge, would see opposition politicians screaming for change, and would see the government kicked out at the next election.

But not in Swaziland where these facts – and their devastating long-term consequences – have absolutely no bearing on anyone in government. Indeed, these astonishing statistics were released by a government functionary just six weeks before the country's general elections (or rather undemocratic ‘selections’). In any (yup – you guessed it) normal country, the government would never have announced these figures at this stage. They are far too politically damaging.

Except in Swaziland.

Where the parents of all those stunted children cannot vote for an MP – let alone a government – of their choice. Where all those physically weakened workers have no real say over how they are governed.

Where hundreds of thousands of people have been relying on food assistance for a decade.

Where the years of social, political, judicial and economic crisis have no impact on the affairs of the state – because the state is run in an absolute fashion by King Mswati III and his cronies. And guess what – none of the reports that I have seen mention what is responsible for the hunger that is harming Swaziland’s economy.

And it is simple. There is a crisis of governance in Swaziland. That is why so many children’s futures are being wrecked by malnutrition. That is why so many workers cannot do the jobs they were hired for because they are too hungry. These are symptoms of the governance disease.

And nothing will change until Swazis live in a healthy democratic state where they can vote for the government of their choice and participate in decisions that affect their lives – and where those in power are accountable for their failures.

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