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EDITORS FORUM QUESTIONS & ANSWERS – APRIL 2017

 

Question 1

The Border Restoration Committee has indicated that Swaziland’s land claims incorporate Johannesburg (Sophiatown) and Pretoria. Can His Excellency update us:-

  1. How recently His Majesty’s Government engaged with the Government of South Africa and whether they are receptive to these claims.
  2. What is the mechanism used by the two countries to engage on the land and boundaries issue.
  3. The Committee also indicates that they are pursuing a land claim with Mozambique. Has His Majesty’s Government engaged with that of Mozambique and what are the areas that Swaziland claims from Mozambique.

 

Answer

 

As alluded to by the Border Restoration Committee in a press conference it held with Editors recently, this is a sensitive matter which is being allowed to go through the required processes in a decorous manner. Any further information regarding the process can be released by the relevant body.

Question 2

 

Government is showing great political support to the revival of Royal Swazi by continued funding of the project. It has released E16million, in addition to E20million previously released. Yet there is no sign that the project will take off the ground anytime soon.  

 

  1. Given that this project has been delayed by at least a year since it was originally scheduled, is His Excellency not concerned that these delays, experienced first with completing the airport, and now, launching the airline will affect international confidence in the country’s competence in the aviation industry and Can His Excellency say why the airline is not taking off.

 

As a background, the Government took a decision to revive the National Airline, among others, to make use of the new Airport. The Royal Swazi National Airways (RSNA) came with the proposal that we hire reputable consultants to assess the viability of reviving the airline. Blue Crane Aviation were hired as consultants and recommended that the country could benefit from a 50 seater aircraft that would service regional routes only. Another proposal was presented to Cabinet that a Management consultant be brought on board. A company from Canada, Unicorp was therefore engaged and they came with a different recommendation than an even bigger aircraft that would service international routes such as Dubai and Mumbai be leased. We trusted their proposal and they were given a budget. Things started getting off the rails when a newly registered company called Global Hub was engaged to lease the plane yet they had no experience of hiring or operating an aircraft. They could not therefore meet the requirements of getting an Air Operations Certificate (AOC) demanded by the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA). This resulted in the owners of the leased plane repossessing their aircraft.

Cabinet has since instructed the Board of the Royal Swazi National Airways to do a liability assessment to find out ways of recovering the money that had been received by Unicorp and Global Hub. Secondly, the Board has been instructed to conduct a needs assessment to determine whether the current staff can be retained or some maybe released. We therefore cannot take a decision on the future of the project until the results of the two assessments are released.

 

  1. Can His Excellency clarify who are the operators or technical advisors, and what is their experience

 

Refer to the above response

 

 

 

Question 3

Could the Honourable Prime Minister present the feasibility study and outline the viability of Swazi National Airways that could justify continued subvention in the midst of huge losses by airlines across Africa, particularly SAA whose losses have doubled the past year.

According to a study that was done by Blue Crane Aviation in 2014, the airline business model is amiable and profitability projections promise a viable business that can actually self-sustain within a reasonably short period of time. Unfortunately the revival exercise that was conducted up to now failed because the airline could not get an AOC from SWACAA.

 

  1. Given that millions have been spent yet we still do not have a plane, could the PM explain how much has been lost to the deal and how the country aims to recover it.

As alluded to above, the Board of RSNAC has been instructed to conduct a Liability Assessment exercise that will reveal the amount that Government has already spent on the project and the possible means to hold the people involved accountable for any misappropriated funds.

  1. There are reports that government could face a legal demand for the balance owed to the company engaged to source an aircraft for the national airline due to breach of contract. Why did government enter into a deal of this nature and how do we intend to defend this suit?

It is premature to discuss this issue at present, as that will pre-empt our course of action.

  1. Cabinet has reportedly instructed the Public Works and Transport Minister to reduce the wage bill at the national airline. How many people are to be affected by this?

A Needs Assessment exercise is now in effect.

  1. Has Cabinet considered suspending operations of the airline until such time that a viable strategy is in place?

Results of the Liability and needs assessment will determine the next course of action.

 

Question 4

Swaziland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2012. The following year the PM launched the Swaziland National Disability Policy. What is the status of the Disability Bill after it was tabled in Parliament last September?

Answer

The Disability Bill has been tabled in Parliament by the Deputy Prime Minister. Currently the Bill is with the DPM’s Office Portfolio Committee where it is going through a consultative process with relevant stakeholders.

Question 5

 

Good rains and the agriculture incentives scheme have helped produce a very good maize harvest this season.

 

  1. What are the current estimates of the harvest.

A total of 120,000 MT is the estimate harvest for this season.  This is based on the total ha ploughed by the Government tractor service, private tractors, and the use of other farming technologies during the farming season.

 

  1. What arrangements have been made to store the grain to build a food bank.

The estimated yield is below the demand for the country, which is estimated at 140,000 MT. This means the current capacities at household and national level can accommodate the estimated harvest. However the Ministry of Agriculture continues to encourage the following to be done

  • At household level, farmers are being encouraged to rehabilitate and construct improved cribs to accommodate the expected harvest.
  • They are also encouraged to practice proper harvesting methods that limit the loss of harvest during harvesting and transportation stages to the cribs.
  • The use of crop protection pesticides is also encouraged for maize in the cribs.
  • Further, farmers are being encouraged to improve household storage of grains through purchasing of new grain tanks and citing them properly to avoid losses during storage.
  • The Agriculture Ministry is also promoting that surplus maize be sold to National Maize Corporation

These messages have been broadcast in a number of radio programs and during field days.

 

Question 6

 

The explosion of the Asian population is a great concern among Swazis. Initial reports from an investigation by a Parliament Committee also suggested a growing concern that Swaziland has become a human trafficking hub.

  1. Is government concerned at the flood of Asians. What action is it taking?
  2. Despite the alarming preliminary findings especially at the airport, the Parliament committee investigation simply disappeared and nothing has been heard of it since. As minister of Parliament affairs, is His Excellency aware if this investigation was completed and where is the report?

Answer

The report in question is still going through the Parliamentary processes and cannot be pre-empted before the Committee presents it to Parliament.

Question 7

 

In His Excellency’s term, Government produced a seminal study on strategies and a roadmap for reaching Vision 2022.

 

  1. The PRSAP recognized education as critical and identified curriculum reform to create future employers by strengthening the practical or vocational subjects in schools. To what extent was this strategy implemented?

 

The Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland through the Ministry of Education and Training has been able to strengthen the practical/ vocational subjects in schools through the Pre-Vocational Education Programme which has components of ICT, Entrepreneurship, Technical Studies, Business Studies, Home Economics and Vocational Agriculture.  The programme boasts of a range of skills in these subject areas.  It must be noted that the entrepreneurship component equips the learners with skills to be either future employers or be employed whilst the ICT component ensures that the programme embraces the use of technology.  These two subjects are compulsory for all learners doing the Pre-Vocational Education Programme.  In the four electives: Technical Studies, Business Studies, Vocational Agriculture and Home Economics the learners have to choose one.

In the 2017 academic year, the Government is further strengthening the Pre-Vocational Education Programme by partnering with Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) in order to ensure that the subjects are accredited by CIE to ensure quality and access to further training globally.  This will allow all learners to make the vocational programmes a career of choice.  The accreditation initiative will begin implementation in 2019 for writing CIE accredited examinations in 2020.

The new initiative opens an opportunity to expand the number of schools offering the programme and to expand the range of skills in every school offering the Pre-Vocational Education.

It must be noted that where the Pre-Vocational Education subjects are not available, the education system still offers the light high school practical subjects in those schools which include Modern Agriculture, Consumer Science, Design and Technology, ICT, Business Studies and also include Commerce and Accounting. 

 

  1. This year Government introduced Christian education into the schools curriculum, and allocated E20 million to start the programme as a priority. Given that slow economic growth is the single-most important national challenge, what informed the view that introduction of Christian education would contribute towards national priorities?

 

It is very true that Government took a decision that, with effect from January 2017 school year, schools shall teach only the Christian religion from Grade 1 to Form 5, but shall retain the teaching of multiple religions at the tertiary level.

Introduction of all religions at school level is not a decision that was taken by Cabinet and nobody seems willing to take responsibility. Therefore Cabinet took a decision in line with the values of the Swazi society to ensure that Religious Education is based on Christian values up to Form 5 with immediate effect. It is common knowledge that you cannot feed a child all kinds of foods at an early stage in their lives. The rest is incorporated when all the basics have been covered in accordance with the norms of that society.

 

  1. Is government not concerned that prioritizing Christian education over other faiths is a violation of the constitution? 

 

The Circular instructing schools to use Christianity as the basis of Religious Education does not in any way prevent anyone from the enjoyment of his or her freedom of conscience or worship as envisaged in the Constitution. Persons, in particular, learners of school-going age, are still at liberty to enjoy their beliefs, religions and freedom of thought and conscience alone or in community with others.

The teaching of the other religions shall be left to parents to decide whether to teach their kids their religion or not in their private homes. The mere fact that the Religious Education subject will focus on Christian values, does not mean that learners who subscribe to other religions will be indoctrinated; schools do not indoctrinate. The fact that Religious Education will be mainly based on Christian values, does not necessarily mean that teachers or educators will teach with the aim of converting those who do not subscribe to Christianity to be Christians. The subject will be taught objectively and provide the history of Jesus Christ. Teachers are not preachers but are only trained to teach a curriculum which has educational objectives and not to convert people.

 

Question 8

 

Will the Prime Minister accept another term in office when the current cabinet term comes to an end in 2018.

Answer

The prerogative to appoint a Prime Minister rests with the King and Ingwenyama in accordance with the Constitution. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to start positioning myself and indicating whether I am or not available for another term.

 

Question 9

Cannabis is reputed to be the next big thing in health care and medicine. Several countries including Germany and several states in the USA have legalized cannabis for medicinal and in some cases, also recreational use. Since cultivation of insangu is one of the noted competences of Swaziland, is Government taking any action for legal reform to take advantage of this growing global market. 

Answer

 

As you are already aware, the issue of legalizing dagga has been raised in Parliament. However, the position of Cabinet is that dagga is illegal and that hasn’t changed. Cabinet will not support moves to legalise dagga. As a country we need to be very cautious and not be easily carried away lest we find ourselves opening floodgates to the abuse of dagga than for medical use. 

 

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