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Monday, 30 November 2009

NEGLIGENT MEDICS GIVE KIDS HIV

One in five Swazi children infected by HIV got it from the negligence of medical staff in Swaziland.


They did not contract the virus from their own HIV-positive mothers. In many cases the mothers of HIV-positive children in Swaziland are themselves HIV-negative.


A new academic research study to be published tomorrow (1 December 2009) to coincide with World AIDS Day says the children probably became HIV-positive because Swazi medical staff gave them injections with contaminated needles. The injections were often unnecessary.


The International Journal of STD and HIV, published by the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, looked at rates of HIV infection among children in Swaziland.


Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world with 26 per cent of the adult population infected. Life expectancy in the kingdom is now 32 years.


Using data from the Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey, the authors of the research found that one in five Swazi children aged two to 12 who are infected with the virus have HIV-negative mothers.


These children had experienced many more medical injections and vaccinations than their uninfected brothers or sisters. Most of these related to anti-malaria health programmes.


Africans are subject to a much higher proportion of injections and blood tests than patients in the West, according to a 1999 study for the World Health Organisation.


That research found that a wide range of common symptoms such as colds, ear infections, fatigue and tonsillitis were treated with injections rather than oral medication.


The study concluded that at least 50 per cent of these were unsafe, with needles being used repeatedly on one patient after another, without sterilisation.


Source Daily Telegraph, UK.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

FALSE DAWN OF SWAZILAND HISTORY

The joy in some progressive circles that has greeted news that Swaziland’s schoolchildren will be made to learn about the banned pro-democracy organisation PUDEMO in their history classes may be misplaced.


PUDEMO will form part of the syllabus in the new Swaziland General Certificate of Secondary Education (SGCSE), which has been devised by the University of Cambridge, UK.


Children will also be required to learn about how King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and his backers manipulated his way to the throne and how King Mswati’s predecessor King Sobhuza II tore up the Swaziland constitution and ruled by decree thereafter.


Or maybe they won’t. It seems true enough that a new history syllabus has been drawn up that centres on Swaziland's history, but it is far from clear what schoolchildren will actually be taught.


It was Winston Churchill who said that history is written by the victors. Or put another way history is written and taught from the point of view of those who hold the power.


In Swaziland, King Mswati and his hangers-on rule and it is not in their interests for people to learn that the king isn’t sent from God (as many of his supporters want us to believe) but his capture of the throne was as the result of a power struggle within the ruling elite worthy of any Shakespearean play.


Nor, will they let the children know that Swaziland is not a democracy and that groups like the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) are fighting for human rights in the kingdom.


I can’t see how history teachers in Swaziland who do not know the real history of their own kingdom will be able to teach such a syllabus even if they were allowed to.


Wandile Dludlu, president of the PUDEMO youth wing Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is quoted by the Times Sunday today (29 November 2009) saying the news of the new history syllabus is good news and too good to be true.


Sorry, Wandile. It is just that: too good to be true.

Friday, 27 November 2009

FANTASY WATCH – KING’S JET MONEY

Here’s a new round of my game Fantasy Watch. This one involves the return of a deposit paid for a new jet for King Mswati III and the promise that E400 million (about 40 million US dollars) would be given to Swaziland for development projects.


In June 2009, I cast doubts on a claim by Swaziland Finance Minister Majozi Sithole that he had secured the return of a E28 million deposit on an ill-fated (and probably illegal) attempt to buy King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, a private jet from taxpayers' money.


Sithole had claimed that he had secured a refund of the deposit (believed to be E28 million) plus interest on the money, plus extra money from unnamed donors. A total of E400 million was said to be available for ‘social upliftment’ projects.


Part of the deal was that the Swazi Government would not be allowed to touch the money (by the government’s own admission about E40m a month is lost to corruption in Swaziland), but instead funds would be made available through a trust fund administered by Prof Frans Whelpton, of the University of South Africa.


I and others cast doubts on the whole project and wanted to know where the money was coming from. It was widely reported that a company called DAFIN Asset Finance Limited had a large role to play in setting up the project.


Now Sithole has admitted that Swaziland might not get the E28 million jet deposit back nor will it get the development cash (reported now to be E450 million, an increase on the previously claimed E400 million, which was itself an increase on the E100m originally stated. But that’s fantasies for you, they just keep growing).


The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reports today (27 November 2009) that Sithole is in an ‘embarrassing situation’.


I bet he is. He trumpeted the triumph of getting the money for Swaziland and now it’s been revealed to be a figment of the imagination.


According to the Observer, the Swaziland Finance Committee reckons the whole thing has turned into a circus and the integrity of the people involved in the fictitious deal is questionable.


The committee wants Sithole and two MPs to go meet Prof Whelpton and DAFIN to find out what’s going on.


I’d save them the trip. I think we all know what’s going on.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

IS SWAZILAND A MAD STATE?

Swaziland not a mad country in some unstable stateheading to a letter from a reader published in the Times of Swaziland.


As any academic might be I was attempted to append the word ‘discuss’ to that statement.


For those who didn’t see the letter it comes from someone from the Netherlands who has never visited Swaziland but saw a documentary about the kingdom on television.


He didn’t say which documentary he watched but it was so powerful he felt compelled to write to the Times of Swaziland to say, ‘What I knew about Swaziland mostly circled around the absolute monarchy and so called liberators running around like chickens with no heads.


'If one was to believe most of what we hear of Swaziland, one would think it is a mad country in some unstable, revolutionary state.'


Now, he reckons he and his pals are coming to Swaziland for the FIFA World Cup next year (2010).


The letter prompted a response from the editor of the Times inviting people to ‘come visit, and experience the true royal experience, and the true beauty and tranquillity of this beautiful country’.


I hope the writer does visit Swaziland but avoids the five star hotels and instead visits the rural areas where more than 70 percent of the population live. Perhaps, the writer would care to live as an ordinary Swazi (70 percent are in abject poverty earning less than a dollar a day) in squalor without health care or clean water and at the mercy of tuberculosis and other disease.


Then he can visit some of the HIV sufferers (at 40 percent the highest rate in the world) and talk to the countless thousands of children who are now head of their household because AIDS has ravaged the Swazi population.


Then he can visit the people in prison whose main crime is poverty (they can’t pay the fine imposed upon them for often quite trivial offences so have to take a prison term as an alternative).


Then he can visit the one in three girls in Swaziland who are sexually abused by their relatives and discuss with them what a tranquil kingdom Swaziland is.


After that he can meet some of the women at Swaziland’s textile factories who are paid such poor wages they have to share one meal with three people, share a bed with six others and prostitute themselves to the local soldiers just to keep from starving.


Then he can go watch a game of football in South Africa with tens of thousands of other Europeans. He won’t see any Swazis there and hardly any black South Africans. They can’t afford a ticket.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

SEEING THROUGH AIRPORT FANTASY

I see we are being buttered up with excuses about why King Mswati III’s great fantasy - Sikhuphe International Airport - won’t be finished on time.


Readers playing the Fantasy Watch game with me will know that airport is expected to be completed and ready to receive its first flight in March next year (2010).


Now we are told this deadline is ‘unrealistic’ and was only set so that the airport could be used to transport passengers for the FIFA World Cup being played in South Africa next year.


The airport, a vanity project for King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, is nowhere near finished and the Swaziland Government is still trying to find E1.5 billion (about 200 million US dollars) to complete it (this works out at about E1,500 for each man, woman and child in Swaziland, in a kingdom where 70 percent earn less than one dollar a day).


This week Swaziland Senator Moi Moi Masilela started on the excuses.


He said the target of 2010 was unrealistic.As a result of the pressure we will end up building an airport that is not up to standard, something that would result in the tarmac collapsing when flights land.’


He told the Minister of Economic Planning and Development Prince Hlangusemphi during a Senate Portfolio Committee debate, Let’s not rush the airport in the name of meeting deadlines but we should take our time to avoid having a structure that’s of poor standards.’


There are also doubts that the new airport will meet standards demanded by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). If the ICAO doesn’t license the airport, planes will not be able to use it.


Senator Masilela needs to be careful. It was King Mswati himself who only last month announced that the airport would be ready in March 2010. The king told an audience in Kuwait, ‘The completion of Sikhuphe International Airport in March 2010 will further improve our [Swaziland’s] standing.’


Whoops. Of course, the airport was never (is never, will never) going to be completed in 2010 and since no organisation is prepared to fund the airport’s completion it’s a fair bet it never will be finished.


As I said before, the whole Sikhuphe International Airport is just a sad fantasy of King Mswati and the people around him who are too self-interested to tell the king he is wrong.