Our people dying of hunger – lowveld MPs
Some members of parliament are alleging their people have died due to hunger, a claim unbeknown to the deputy prime minister’s office which is responsible for disaster management.
Matsanjeni North MP Nkululeko Mbhamali said hunger was rife in his constituency such that some deaths at Tikhuba have been reported. He alleged that he confronted the DPM on the problem of hunger but the latter promised to provide answers in parliament, something he is probably yet to do. Mbhamali said the people had heard of rice donation by the president of Taiwan and, therefore, were demanding that their members of parliament should be making sure the rice reaches them.
On the food-for-work programme Mbhamali lamented that this work had been given to World Vision, which up to now has not implemented it in his constituency. He said he personally wanted the food-for-work programme implemented with immediate effect but did not know the procedures. He alleged that he called World Vision Swaziland about the Tikhuba situation and was promised that the latter would come to make an evaluation of community projects and thereafter ascertain the number of people affected. He said there were four chiefdoms under his constituency and these were far apart. He further alleged that it was very difficult for residents to move from their homes to the chiefdom headquarters in order to be interviewed by World Vision officials because they had to part with as much as E15 for transport.
Mbhamali also complained that the DPM used to give relief food aid to MPs to distribute at their own expense but now he has decided to give to non-governmental organisations like World Vision that charged government for the service.
“I don’t know what I’ll do now that people are dying. There was this feeling that MPs had a campaigning urge by giving out food to constituencies but the reality is that people are dying. They call us demanding the food-for-work programme but World Vision is still busy making studies.”
Matsanjeni South MP Qedusizi Ndlovu, interviewed briefly, echoed similar sentiments saying wherever he went people begged him for food. He said prior to the present DPM there was an assessment for each area but there was this new programme whereby all Tinkhundla were assessed as being of the same degree of need and, therefore, were given the same amounts of food to distribute yet the situation on the ground demanded other interventions.
He said it was important for each inkhundla to be evaluated separately instead of generalisation.
“This puts us under extreme pressure but previously areas with no or little rains were given priority, getting food according to their needs.”
On a different note at Hlane the food-for-work programme has come about as great relief. MP Mduduzi Magagula said the situation had been desperate prior to the programme.
He, however, noted that the programme came with conditions such as elderly persons who can’t work due to some internal health problems were not eligible because they were considered non-vulnerable. He said an able-bodied looking person may not be able to walk to the community project to work for food because of the internal sickness.
Similarly Joseph Souza of Lugongolweni said his constituency suffered a great deal because of insufficient rains, only cotton farmers managed to pull through. He said, however, the food-for-work programme was very successful and pulled the people out of starvation. Apart from that the programme got people to rehabilitate community infrastructure such as roads and fencing off of the communal grazing lands.
He implored government to consider investing in agriculture for the community to embark on income generating projects.
He cited the case of Sitsatsaweni where he said the area had ample water and the youth was prepared to undertake agriculture related businesses instead of relying on food handouts.
Samkeliso Dlamini, the director of the national disaster management agency denied that his office, falling under that of the DPM, ever withdrew issuing of food to MPs but that government, through guidelines for food distribution that were already out. “Government, through the national disaster management policy, adopted food-for-work which is currently being implemented by World Vision as one of our mandate.”
He said concerning those reported to have died he was not aware and would be glad to know as to which MP reported about those suffering from hunger. “In fact food-for-work is open to communities in particular those in the drought-stricken areas and government is moving away from free food.
Each community is required to identify community development projects which they want to undertake and then bring that proposal to my office which is then analysed and the community engaged before they start the work-for-food.
The office usually sends World Vision to meet the communities as implementing partner and agree on time lines, supervision and how they are going to get the food.”