Thursday, December 29, 2011

Update on nhlanhla

The student grant has not materialised this year so if I had not continued to support him, he would have starved. Just a fact. I have paid him about an average of 100 euros a month. Prices in Swaziland are similar to south Africa and not far removed from European prices. This is something that people fail to understand. They think that because a sponsored person is in Africa, that they should be able to exist on a couple of dollars a day. These people need to review their thinking. He needs to eat, needs money for transport and money yes, to keep in touch by the internet.

I really think that people in Europe have no idea how people in a country like Swaziland exist. I have tried to fundraiser for the last year or so and frankly I only ever receive promises.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shameful neglect of the poor


Mbabane — Swaziland's parliamentarians are questioning the purpose of a social safety net covering children, the elderly and the disabled. One dismissed it as little more than a public relations exercise, but in the teetering economy the recipients often depend on these small grants and pensions for survival.

"Why do we continue with this assistance [to orphans and vulnerable children, (OVC), pensions and school fees for primary school students]? It seems as if we are trying to impress some people here," said parliamentarian Patrick Gamedze in the assembly on 13 October. His colleague, Nichodemus Mashwama, also called for an end to government payments for primary school students, although this is stipulated in the constitution.

Other MPs backed Mashwama's call for a constitutional amendment to abolish government payments aimed at achieving universal primary education. Some questioned why MPs should be held accountable for school fees, old age and disability pensions, and grants for OVC when government had no money to pay for them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Swaziland: Mswati Back in Pretoria - for a No-Strings Bailout

Swaziland's absolute ruler Mswati III was back in South Africa this week to try to persuade Pretoria to proceed with the R2,4-billion (USUS$307-million) loan promised to his cash-strapped regime, but minus the terms and conditions on democratic change.

His clampdown on the Swazi pro-democracy movement has been intensifying since the week of exuberant anti-government protests in early September, closely mirroring Mswati's growing reluctance to entertain even the vaguely worded democratic reforms required by South Africa as its condition for granting the loan.

Mswati has balked at signing the memorandum of understanding attached to the loan. The MoU closely follows the 3 August 2011 statement by South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, reinforcing its prescriptions on fiscal reform (Vol 29 No 21). Its stipulations on democratic change are fluffy by comparison, with no mention of the sorts of proactive steps Mbabane should take to move towards democracy, such as unbanning political parties.

Instead the MoU reiterates Gordhan's call for "broadening the dialogue process to include all stakeholders" and his description of the role of the Joint Bilateral Commission on Cooperation, which would meet a few times a year to oversee adherence to the loan conditions. Mswati has rejected both requirements.

The MoU remains unsigned. South Africa has consequently not paid the first of the three tranches of the loan, originally envisaged for the end of August.

From Read more here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corruption Exceeds Social Services Budget


Mbabane — Swaziland's Minister of Finance, Majozi Sithole, has told the Senate that each year the country loses nearly double the annual social services budget to corruption, and non-governmental organizations are not being spared.

"Because of these practices service delivery has suffered," Sithole told the upper house, composed mostly of appointees of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, on 10 October 2011.

The donor-dependent country sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa is on the brink of insolvency and its financial crisis means that social services from schooling to pensions have either been discontinued or severely disrupted.

Sithole estimated that about R80 million (US$10.6 million) a month was disappearing - amounting to about R960 million (US$128 million) annually - while the government's 2010/11 budget allocated R562 million (US$75 million) to social services, including R182 million (US$24.2 million) for education and R252 million (US$33.6 million) for health.

Read more ...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Swaziland: 'Smart' Denial Amid Creeping Paralysis

Though the aftermath of the robust anti-government protests of early September has deepened government paralysis and created a more volatile situation acrss the country, Swaziland's government continues to play for time.

The government is keeping itself afloat - barely - by borrowing from the country's central bank, despite entreaties in August from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) not to do so and to repay as soon as possible the outstanding emergency credit line it secured from the bank.

In addition to the pillage of the central bank, the Swazi government has also dipped into the country's emergency fuel fund to pay its public sector wage bill, a situation that is unsustainable beyond October.

The more it borrows from the central bank, the greater the distance the government is putting between itself and its ability to meet the conditions on fiscal continence attached to the R2.4-billion loan it hopes to receive from South Africa. The first part of the loan was supposed to have been paid in August, but the government of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last fully fledged royal despot, has so far resisted signing the Memorandum of Understanding on the loan's conditions, which include democratic reforms and strict adherence to the IMF's recipe for fiscal restraint. These conditions are anathema to Mbabane.

What moves there have been on opening up to change have tended to be clumsily arranged forums for some sections of civil society. Lately, though, even these seem to have dropped by the wayside. The latest effort at engagement was more true to established form - the Smart Partnership National Dialogue, held in mid-September at the Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre. Though a regular event on the royal calendar down the years, this year's conference was billed as the leading channel of debate on the country's political and economic troubles.

Mswati described the dialogue as an event "designed for individuals and not organisations", which put paid to any chances that the event would engage Swaziland's increasingly restless civil society. Though the king's organisers balked at inviting opposition parties and organisations to the conference, individual members were ostensibly welcome, but those from the pro-democracy organisations, including the newly formed Swazi
Democratic Party, said they would not attend anyway.
In the end it was only the Swaziland Council of Churches' Convention of Civil Society, a pro-government formation boycotted by trade union movement and the People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), that looked as if it might turn up to the king's "dialogue" with a list of proposals for democratic change. But it too threw in the towel when it was told that it would not be heard.

Instead the king used the event to lambast the IMF, the media and the political opposition for failing to take a proactively positive stand in solving Swaziland's troubles. He urged the business community to get Swaziland out of its financial mess, among other things by pioneering mineral prospecting. He referred to attacks on the lack of detail on the South African loan, but gave no indication that the loan was still on the cards.
The tiny landlocked kingdom of about a million people is beset by crises on a number of fronts. It is fiscally insolvent due to the sharp decline in Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) revenue since the end of last year, unsound spending on capital projects urged by the monarch, a top-heavy wage bill of 18% of GDP, and helter-skelter corruption. There is a constant leakage of state funds to sustain a rapacious royal family, including the king's 13 wives. The country also faces a developmental meltdown, with the world's highest levels of HIV and TB, 70% poverty and 40% malnutrition.
No matter which way it turns the government is stymied. The judiciary remains hamstrung by a strike by lawyers over the appointment of Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, seen as one of the king's men, following the dismissal of the more independent-minded Supreme Court Judge Thomas Masuku. In a further fallout from this controversy, Mswati's prime minister, Barnabas Dlamini, fired David Matse, the country's justice minister, on Thursday. Matse was sacked for his refusal to get rid of Masuku.

Matse is the second justice minister to be fired in a year, after Ndumiso Mamba was caught red-handed in a hotel room with the king's 12th wife Nothando Dube, a former Miss Teen Swaziland.
With the health sector hard hit by the absence of drugs for chronic and acute diseases, schools unable to open due to lack of government funding, and bus and taxi workers vying hard for custom, hair-trigger protests are increasing. This was seen in the violent clashes between over 1 500 transport workers and the police in and around Manzini last week, which was sparked by the arrest of taxi operators for operating outside their designated limits.

Outside the main urban centres residents have been quick to protest and rally against the authorities, as has happened over the continued closure of schools.
With no ready cash to pay for many schools to open and pupils to enrol, school principals and ministry of education officials have raided the education grant for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) to use it to enrol other children. The government recently received R15 million (-1.5 million) from the European Union for its OVC budget, and it is uncertain how the money was spent. The OVC fund is short anyway of R80-million.
The education ministry says that it will ensure that all primary and high schools will open by the second week of October, but admits that it does not have the funds for teaching aids, food and necessities to enable any of the schools to function. It also announced that it does not have cash for petrol for the fleet of ministry vehicles to tour the schools and take stock of the situation.

The education system has been further rocked by claims that teachers routinely tortured children at Mhlatane High School in Hhohho. The allegations are contained in a report by the Swazi office of the NGO Save the Children, which has been submitted to the United Nations.

Swaziland is due to appear before the UN Human Rights Committee in the first week of October, when it is expected to respond to the allegations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pretoria's Conditions Tie Mbabane's Hands

The relative restraint shown by the Swazi government during the five days of rolling protests across the country last week demonstrate Mbabane's increasing recognition that survival hinges on how it is seen to be handling the democracy demands of its citizens.

Though many within the Swazi pro-democracy movement initially lambasted South Africa for agreeing to the R2,4-billion (US$351-million) bailout for Africa's last monarchic autocracy, they recognise that the first basket of conditions attached to the loan, dealing with general democratic reforms, has forced the Swazi government to give a freer rein to opposition protests.
Swaziland remains in desperate financial straits that well exceed what the loan from South Africa could cover. Despite profligate spending on capital projects deemed by international finance institutions to be unwarranted, budget payments of some R300-million each year to the royal household, and footing Africa's highest public sector wage bill - of 18% of GDP - the government is unable and unwilling to reverse its fiscal demise. On top of this, the roughly one-million-strong population suffers the world's highest HIV and TB rates and a devastatingly low average life expectancy of just 31 years.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

No fees, no school.

Mbabane — The future education of Swazi children remains uncertain, as public schools across the country have not reopened for the new term because government has not been able to pay for their upkeep.
Swaziland's cash-strapped government has yet to pay the 13.5 million dollars it owes in school fees for the Free Primary Education Programme (FPEP) and for orphans and vulnerable children. Government pays for pupils in grades one to three under FPEP, and for the entire schooling of orphans and vulnerable children.

Principals use this money to pay for support staff and other running costs of their schools, which include water and electricity, and phone bills. They also use the money to buy teaching materials, like chalk. But principals across this small landlocked country in Southern African have decided to keep schools closed until the money owed has been paid.

Over 300,000 pupils attending public schools are affected by this standoff between the Ministry of Education and Training and the Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA).

On Thursday the Swaziland National Association of Teachers joined SWAPA and took to the streets to demand the payment of fees.

"We're desperate and frustrated," said school principal Roger Mpapane.

"Government is always late with payment and most of the time does not pay the money in full," complained another principal.

Some schools have had their water and electricity disconnected. Without these essential services, said Mpapane, ablution facilities become a health hazard.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Cash flow problem"

Mbabane — The vast majority of Swaziland's primary and secondary public schools have not opened for the new term, after the government failed to settle the outstanding education fees of US$10.8 million for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). About 200,000 children, or nearly one fifth of the country's 1.1 million people, are classified as orphaned or vulnerable. Swaziland has the world's highest prevalence of HIV - 26.1 percent. One in four Swazis aged 15-49 is HIV-positive and 70 percent of people live below the poverty line.

The government of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, is legally bound to pay OVC fees, which have been outstanding since January 2011. "Last week government assured us that when schools opened for the third term, [13 September] money for the outstanding fees would be paid for the OVC. This did not happen. The schools have no money to operate," Sibongile Mazibuko, president of the country's largest teachers' union, the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), told local media. In a mobile phone text message to about 9,000 union members on 13 September, SNAT said: "Since government has failed to deposit money for OVCs as per agreement, teachers should return and remain at home until [we] meet Thursday [15 September] for a protest march."
The Ministry of Education told IRIN the teachers' union did not have the authority to close schools, and the ministry has ordered children to attend school through broadcasts on government radio stations.
Swaziland's deepening economic crisis saw neighbouring South Africa recently agree to a R2.4 billion (US$370 million) loan to prevent an economic meltdown, after international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), declined to bail out Swaziland for, among other reasons, its failure to reduce its public sector wage bill, which is seen as far too large for the country's size. South Africa has not yet paid the loan.

"Cash flow problem"
The Swazi government says the failure to pay OVC school fees is a "cash flow problem" and has given assurances that education and health needs would be financed. They [OVC] are the innocent ones in all this. The first and second graders were promised that their fees would be paid by government, as per the national constitution

A headmaster of a school in central Manzini region, who declined to be identified, told IRIN: "They [OVC] are the innocent ones in all this. The first and second graders were promised that their fees would be paid by government, as per the national constitution... The OVC in higher grades are so many now, and schools cannot operate without government assistance paying their fees. We are at our wits end. The children are absolutely devastated. It is painful to educationalists and it's a tragedy for the children," he said.

The Swaziland Principals Association (SWAPA) recently resolved not to admit any OVC for the 2012 school year to avoid what is becoming an annual confrontation with government over the payment of fees.
"School is not only necessary for the children's education, but for socialization, because many OVC reside at child-headed households. Their parents have departed," social worker Thandi Gamedze said.
Second grade teacher Ronald Dlamini told IRIN: "Swaziland's government has no money and it is making its spending priorities clear. It seems to be taking the path of least resistance. Instead of cutting civil servants' salaries and risking strikes, it is making the nameless and the faceless ones suffer, because first and second graders and OVC do not take to the streets."

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I'm glad to say that despite the problems with government, the university has opened and lectures have started. I will be posting some recent photos of Nhlanhla that I asked him to take for this blog. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Phones cut as nation protests

The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland is reporting today (5 September 2011) that mobile phone communications in the capital Mbabane have been cut on the first day of a planned five day protest in the kingdom.
It reports sole mobile communication provider MTN Swaziland, which is 51% owned by King Mswati, has shut communication. This is a repeat of what happened last year during the 1st Global week of action when communication was shut, PUDEMO says.

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Does too much charity cause Swaziland to abdicate its responsibilities?

This is a question I often ask myself. The Swazi government has a responsibility to pay for the education of primary age pupils but it does not fully honour that pledge despite having it in its constitution. By foreign charities and organisations paying for the building of housing for teachers, payment of school fees, the supply of resources and so forth, it could be argued that the government will be less likely to fulfill its responsibilities. In 2009, government announced a few days before the start of the school year that it would charge school fees. In 2011, parents have to pay school fees after the third year of primary school. Orphans who are supposed to get their school fees paid regardless of the form they are in are often turned away on a whim by head teachers for 'not wearing the correct school uniform' when the true reason is that the money paid by government comes late and is much less than the school fees charged to those who can pay.

The Swaziland government has a habit of treating its citizens with contempt and failing to honour its responsibilities. Abuse of power is the norm for those in all positions of authority. To get a passport you need a personal interview with the passport office, as though it is not a right. Now the Swazi government is facing an economic crisis. Its currency is artificially propped up by being pegged at one to one against the South African rand. South Africa has had to step in and loan 2.4 billion rands because the IMF and other lenders will not help because of Swaziland's record of corruption and bad governance.

Students struggling to manage financially

Mbabane — Swaziland's only university has reopened a month late for the new academic year, but the nearly 6,000 students are boycotting classes over cuts in their allowances, which the government says will only be paid in a few months time. The deepening economic crisis, which has led neighbouring South Africa to agree to a R2.4 billion (US$370 million) loan to prevent an economic meltdown, is seeing cost savings being implemented at the expense of the country's poor and vulnerable, where 70 percent of the 1.1 million population live below the poverty line.
"These allowances not only pay for students' room and board, transport and books but they also are used by families to pay for the education of the students' relatives. This suspension will lead to a domino effect throughout the education system so that none but the rich are able to afford schooling," Ntombi Dlamini, one of the affected university students, told IRIN. The government has said allowances which ranged from US$3,500 per annum for students living off campus, to $1,250 for students living on campus, would be reduced by 60 percent.

The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), an umbrella organization of pro-democracy NGOs, said in a statement: "With the current fiscal crisis, the government has reduced allowances to an amount that effectively makes it impossible for most students to continue with their studies. "Most students in Swaziland come from very poor backgrounds where their tertiary education is the only hope of them escaping the cycle of poverty. Such students are known to use the little allowances that they get from the Swazi government to help their younger siblings through school and to help them with their living expenses. "With the cut in students' allowances, the Swazi government is effectively saying that only those students who come from well-to-do families will be able to afford to have tertiary education," the SSN statement said.

Irene Ndwandwe, a university student, told IRIN: "People accuse us of squandering our allowances on frivolous things, but I live very frugally and every cent I can save I send to my family who live in very impoverished conditions in a rural area." The money she sends home is used by her family to pay grade five school fees for her 10-year-old sister and although the government is constitutionally bound to provide free primary schooling, it is currently only exempting fees up to grade three.

Primary schools might not reopen

Wilson Ntshangase, minister of education, cast doubt in a recent radio broadcast that the country's primary schools would open later this month for the final term of the year, because of financial considerations.
According to local media, the Education Ministry has held meetings with school principals indicating that the payment of school fees for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) across all school grades was also in doubt. OVCs are estimated to comprise nearly half of the country's school enrolment and their school fees ensure the schools can pay their bills. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) declined a bail-out to Swaziland for among other reasons its failure to reduce its public sector wage bill, which is seen as far too large for the country's size. King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, resorted to South Africa for assistance to prevent a financial collapse.
However, the government has reportedly amassed US$180 million in unpaid bills, and the South African loan is merely seen as providing a temporary lifeline for the economy. The loan has been agreed but not enacted as yet, as conditions for it are similar to those imposed by the IMF.

IMF warning

The IMF, after completing a two week assessment, said in a statement on 31 August 2011 that the country's reserves had dropped to below the three months import cover, which is generally considered the cut-off point for a stable currency. The pegging of the emalangeni, the local currency, to the South African rand, is seen as the only barrier preventing the currency from being affected by rapid inflation. The IMF statement said: "The fiscal crisis in the Kingdom of Swaziland continues to deepen. The mission concurred with the authorities' views that the government will continue to face severe liquidity constraints over the coming months, notwithstanding the recently announced 2.4 billion rand loan from the South African authorities. "In this context, the mission advised the government to pass a supplementary budget to cut expenditures, while preserving pro-poor spending, and strengthen expenditure controls in order to restore fiscal sustainability.
"The quality of spending needs to be improved, with emphasis on education and health, particularly the fight against HIV/AIDS," the statement said. Swaziland has the world's highest prevalence of HIV - 26.1 percent. One in four Swazis aged 15-49 is HIV-positive. The Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions has announced its intention to engage in solidarity protests against the cuts in student allowances, and pro-democracy groups are also planning a new round of demonstrations. Pro-democracy protests in April this year, marking the 38th anniversary of the banning of political parties, were met with a heavy-handed response from security forces.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Swazi scene - handmade tapestry from Swaziland.

This is a lovely tapestry I bought from Swaziland. I really think these ladies who make these should sell them online. If you are interested in buying similar tapestries, I can try to source them for you. Their starting point is usually a little drawing or a painting.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Reason someone once gave me for not sponsoring me on a 10 000 feet tandem skydive to raise money for VSO: 'I don't give money to people for having fun.'

What my father said when I told him I had adopted a child from Swaziland: 'Don't you think you should send him back to be looked after by a black family?'

The look most people give when I say that I taught in Zimbabwe for two years earning USD 200 per month: blank.

The look most people give when I say that I have given in excess of EUR 5000 of my own money to pay for one child's education and support in the past six years: blank.

Why not make a difference?

Don't just donate to a faceless charity. This way you will know where your money is going.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Overseas adoption.

Did you know that you can adopt a child easily if you have a UK passport and are resident in certain (mainly commonwealth) countries? This is how I adopted my son.

Once local adoption procedings are completed, you apply to your British Consulate for citizenship under section 3 (1) of the British Nationality Act 1981. The application form is available online. There is a charge for the application in the region of GBP 600 and it will take about three months to process. In the application, you need a statement from the social worker who dealt with the adoption to say that all relevant local laws were followed. You also need death certificates for the biological parents and the adoption certificate of course.

Once you receive the certificate of registration of citizenship, you can apply for a passport. You will not be permitted to reside permanently in the UK without permission from Social Services. But if you are an international traveller like me, that won't be a problem for you.

Mark Beaumont

Congratulation on Mark Beaumont and the team he was filming on their journey to the magnetic north pole. Read my other article about him here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Swaziland attempts to buy $60 000 000 of weapons


The text of a cable from the U.S. Embassy to Washington on June 11, 2009, according to WikiLeaks:

Classified By: AMB. MAURICE PARKER FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) AND (d)

1. (S) SUMMARY: In December 2008, the GKOS sought to purchase approximately 60 million USD worth of military equipment, including helicopters, vehicles, weapons, and ammunition from a British weapons manufacturer.

The British government denied the request over end-use concerns. In documents requesting permission to purchase the equipment, Swaziland's Ministry of Defense stated that the equipment was for use by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force (USDF) on United Nations peacekeeping deployment in Africa. It is unclear whether this was the intended purpose, or whether GKOS was attempting to build up domestic capability to deal with unrest, or was possibly acting as an intermediary for a third party.


2. (S) In December 2008, the GKOS sought to purchase approximately 60 million USD worth of military equipment from British weapons manufacturer Unionlet Limited (please protect). The British government denied the request over end-use concerns. A senior level contact with the British High Commission in Pretoria (please protect) recently provided Ambassador Parker with documentation on the attempted purchase.

3. (S) The purchase application, signed by XXXXXXXXXXXX, included requests for 3 Bell Model UH-1H helicopters, FN Herstal 7.6251mm Minimi light machine guns, blank and tracer ammunition, armored personnel carriers, command and control vehicles including one fitted with a 12.7x99mm M2 Browning heavy machine gun and others fitted with the FN Herstal light machine guns, military ambulances, armored repair and recovery vehicles, weapon sights, military image intensifier equipment, optical target surveillance equipment, 620 Heckler & Koch G36E assault rifles, 240 Heckler & Koch G36K assault rifles, 65 Heckler & Koch G36E rifles, 75 Heckler & Koch UMP submachine guns 9x19mm, and 35 Heckler & Koch USP semi-automatic pistols. SwazilandQs Ministry of Defense stated in the purchase documents that the equipment was for use by the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force on United Nations peacekeeping deployment in Africa.

4. (S) COMMENT: Post is disappointed that XXXXXXXXXXXX did not disclose anything about this request to Ambassador Parker or DATT Langdorf in one of several very candid and private discussions since this order was placed. If XXXXXXXXXXXX were coerced into making the order, he might have been embarrassed to discuss it, though from his experience, one would think he would assume we would find out about it and that he might have wanted to do damage control.

Relevant Links
Southern Africa
Arms and Armies
U.S., Canada and Africa
Europe and Africa
5. (S) The array of weapons requested would not be needed for the first phases of peacekeeping, although it is possible someone tried to convince the Swazi government they were required. The GKOS may have been attempting to build up domestic capability to deal with unrest, or was possibly acting as an intermediary for a third party such as Zimbabwe or a Middle Eastern country that had cash, diamonds or goods to trade. XXXXXXXXXXXX, traveled to Iran and later to Libya, and several GKOS Ministers made trips to Kuwait, Dubai, and other Arab nations. We also understand that an Iranian ambassador, resident in either Pretoria or Maputo, recently presented his letters of credence to King Mswati to establish formal diplomatic relations with Swaziland.

6. (S) We are not aware of subsequent purchase requests. XXXXXXXXXXXX

7. (S) Please protect information on the identity of the British weapons manufacturer. The British contact providing documentation for this purchase informed Ambassador Parker that if the information becomes public, the manufacturer could sue the British Government for violating confidentiality. END COMMENT.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Desperate for donations

I am going to have to cut back on my sponsorship because I am just not receiving any donations at the moment. The reality of that is that life for him is going to become harder. Of course, most people in the developed world can't appreciate what that means. We all think we have a hard time with money and saving but try living on 3 or 4 euros a day like this student does ... and he is the lucky one who gets supported from a donor ... ie me.

Any donations go directly to his account in Swaziland. Nhlanhla is pictured above in yellow.

The kind of place where Nhlanhla grew up is typical of a township in Swaziland - no running water, makeshift buildings which often collapse in the rain and are not properly waterproof, inadequate sewage and no services like electricity, no refuse collection. Feral dogs run around and sometimes attack children. It is too hot in the summer months and too cold in winter.

School fees are in the region of three to four thousand rand a year (EUR 300 - 400) and if no one pays, you don't go to school. Schools are very poorly equipped and teachers are underpaid. You have to pay extra for books even. It is with this background that Nhlanhla achieved excellent grades in his school leaving exams at the end of last year.

UNISWA students march to Parly tomorrow

UNISWA students march to Parly tomorrow

A reader of this article posted this comment:

I have a serious problem when the decision as who gets a sponsorship or not is done by this government. I can assure you, all the students whose parents are progressive-minded will not be chosen. I know that I'm flogging a dead horse here, when it's not my intention. The other main problem I see is that this government will make these student-protests to escalate and by the time they intervene, which is very unlikely, it will be too late. Just look at the Judiciary. Government is controlling the process by remote control as if they aren't involved. Yet everyone knows government is behind this chaotic situation in those courts. The CJ was only a tool. It's time we stopped blaming the tool alone, by concentrating on the 'tool maker' which is government. Until we get a new and better government leader, with a vision for this country, there will be no peace nor progress in Swaziland.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From the AllAfrica website

Pretoria Loan to Pay Democracy Dividend

Developments inside Swaziland explain why Mswati was willing to sign on for Pretoria's tough terms: the University of Swaziland, has closed indefinitely following a drastic cut in government tuition and registration subsidies. The government has cut its support from 1 200 study places to just 300, prompting the university to suspend registration on 8 August. The government has been urged by its own Economic Recovery Advisory (ERA) to cut subsidies to all tertiary institutions. The university has been urged by the ERA to "open up" its training programmes to free market innovation and efficiency in the pursuit of tuition fees from private sources.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Just paid another R2000 for living expenses

This is what Swazi students are up against

SBIS gags UNISWA students

They are not even allowed to announce a public meeting on radio. Remember that most students there do not have access to the internet. This is typical of the control that Swazi authorities have over the individual in this country.

Estimated costs for university education in Swaziland

Nhlanhla is on a scholarship which should pay for accommodation and tuition fees, if the government pays that is.

In addition to this, I need to pay for:

food: in Swaziland, these costs have risen sharply
transport: the campus is in a rural location
books: these are expensive
mobile phone costs so he can keep in touch with me and the outside world
leisure: no student can be happy if he cannot relax

Estimated costs are R 2000 per month (about EUR 200). I have been getting only a very small amount of help from donations (EUR 500 in the past 12 months) and have to pay the difference myself, plus any sudden one-off expenses.

Nhlanhla has a bank account in Swaziland and from my experience is good at managing money and has for the past five years proven himself to be a hard worker.

Friday, August 19, 2011

settling in well

My settling in well at his new school. It is a tiny school by comparison to his previous one. He will be getting support like he used to at his last school but this time it is free. Actually I think he ie doing rather well. I teach mathematics there twice a week and I must say that I feel very positive about everything.

We hope to be able to visit Swaziland at Christmas but I am really not sure yet. If the Swazi government pays up the 80 million rand it owes Uniswa, then students will go back. It is a depressing state of affairs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I found this website. This organisation sponsors 70 children in Swaziland. I have only supported 1, but I am an individual. It at least gives you an idea of why you would want to help sponsor a Swazi child.

Why is there so much bad press about international adoptions?

It puzzles me. Swaziland has a massive problem with orphans lacking a home yet is doing nothing, and in fact actively preventing people from finding a solution. The government has put a ban on overseas adoptions. The Swazi press criticises the role of privately funded children's homes in the country as though it is ashamed that it is doing nothing, so it feels the need to stir up trouble.

Many Swazis are extremely hostile to adoption by people from overseas despite the obvious fact that there is a massive problem with orphans in that country.

Moving to Sønderborg

So I moved here last month. My son got kicked out of his last school because of his learning disability. So much for an inclusive education. I think it is a good move. I am in a much better job in terms of work load, facilities, resources and my son is in a much better environment. He is at a small international school in the town. The local authority has found funding for him. The school fees are subsidised by the state.

Friday, August 12, 2011


We have moved to Denmark and I am still unsure what my salary is going to be. One thing is for sure - I will be taking home less than when I worked in Slovakia. It is going to be much harder to afford to pay the R 2000 that I have been sending to Nhlanhla every month. I also have my mortgage in Hungary to pay. SO I have set up a Fundrazr account which I hope will attract some interest and some donations.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Started at Uniswa

He has started at Uniswa. He tells me that he does not yet have a place to stay on campus because the government has not yet paid the university. He has to shuttle between his home and college which is expensive. Now the government has postponed the start of term.

I am glad to be starting a new job in Sønderborg this month. My last school was getting very oppressive. What a relief to be away from there.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I haven't posted for a long time

Latest developments: Nhlanhla will start studying in Swaziland in September 2011. This is much more sustainable. I must have been bonkers to think I could raise the money for a South African education. There are two possibilities at this stage. he has been offered a place at a college in Mbabane called SCOT (Swaziland College of Technology i think it stands for). There is also a possibility that he will be offered a place at UNISWA (University of Swaziland). The government pays the fees and I will support him.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mark Beaumont

I invited Mark Beaumont, the former holder of the world record for cycling round the world, to give a talk at our school. I spent the weekend with him and it proved very interesting. For such a young guy, he is very self-assured and has achieved a great deal. He wrote a book about his experiences called 'The man who cycled the world'. I am always interested in people with inspiring stories or who have overcome adversity. Last year I invited Jamie Andrew (see below) to our school for the same reason. You might know that he had a quadruple amputation after having been stranded in the French Alps for 5 days.

The talk was very well received. Many kids came up and spoke to Mark afterwards and there were lots of questions after the talk from the audience. My  hope is that some of our students will be inspired to go and be an individual where it is so easy to conform in this world.

Read this book!
 It proves to be a fascinating talk. He recently completed his second book, still to be published , on his journey cycling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. There have been two documentaries made about his journeys.

The reason for putting this post here is that Mark is involved in a great deal of charity projects in the UK and in the developing world. He agrees with me that it is better to donate to specific projects and see your money make a difference than to donate anonymously to a big charity. If you like this post, please read my others. I am trying to raise money for Swazi youth to go to university. Swaziland is a small landlocked country between South Africa and Mozambique. It is beset with problems. I believe education is key. I have known this one youth for 5 years and sponsored him out of my own pocket through secondary school but I don't have enough cash to send him to university.

Mark and my son Patrick, a devoted fan!
If you feel able to donate even a small amount, it will be gratefully received. I have direct connections to Swaziland and keep in regular contact with those I help. Help me to help others.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A great source of news for Africa.

Dreams of Free Education Deferred

Mbabane — Ten-year-old Tembuso Magagula sat outside her classroom with her shoulders hunched against the cold today, tears streaming from her eyes. Her long-awaited first day of school had turned into a nightmare.
Magagula expected to start grade one this year - four years late - as a beneficiary of the Free Primary Education programme which started on Jan. 26 in all public schools.
But the head teacher at Qedusizi Primary School, Petros Zwane, was not in a compromising mood. Government may be paying the fees for grades one and two, but Zwane sent home every child who did not in school uniform.
"Uniform is very important, even for those under the FPE," insisted Zwane. "Government should buy uniforms for destitute children because I will not allow them into the classroom."
A sobbing Magagula said, "I've never been to school because my mother could not afford the fees. She said she doesn't have money for the school uniform."
Her mother is a street vendor in Swaziland's administrative capital, Mbabane; the whereabouts of her father are unknown. Magagula was not the only child in distress as the school year began.

Read the rest of the article here.: 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thembi, 'Even the Children, They Call a Person With Aids a 'Rotten Potato'


Sipofaneni — Thembi (last name withheld) is a 33-year-old HIV-positive mother of three who has lived in rural poverty all her life. She lives alone with her children amid the low green hills of Swaziland's central Manzini region, while her husband is away working in South Africa.
"I am worried that I messed up my treatment. I have missed clinic appointments. Sometimes when this happens I run out of medications. I started ARVs almost two years ago, but it is off and on. I am alone most of the time with my three small children. I have no money for bus fare and the clinic is too far to walk. Also I am very tired most days. If I could follow my treatment better maybe I would have more energy, but I do the best I can.
"The children have to be looked after. The neighbour's two-year-old girl drowned in a bucket of water. She fell in head first. It was only five minutes, but when her mother returned she was dead. Something like that scares me more than missing my medications.
"I have not told my husband I am HIV positive. I got it from him, so I know he must have HIV but he hasn't tested. They tested me when I was pregnant with my youngest. She is now two years old. I am silent because he chased away his first wife when he learned she was HIV-positive. I am [his] second wife. The first [wife] fell ill and when she told him she was HIV [-positive] he sent her to her parents' homestead. He blamed her. He did not test because maybe he was scared but I tested, because of her.
"No one knows I have HIV but the clinic ... No one must know I have HIV. They can blame me and chase me away. Even the children, they call a person with AIDS a 'rotten potato'. People shun you. People die of AIDS and no one will say this is the reason because then some relatives will refuse you to be buried in the family graveyard.
"When I go to the clinic I take my children. I tell my in-laws we are going for their check-ups. I hide my ARVs where no one will find them. I feel very alone doing this. But I don't want to die. I love my children so much. I love my husband even though he can be ignorant and cruel. But he is better off with me in his life than with me dead.
"We have nothing, no electricity, and the water comes from far away. I like to sing. We sing and pray together as a family. My children like to hear me sing. They have their favourite songs they ask me to sing. I will stay alive so I can sing for them a long time."

Monday, January 03, 2011

Entry deferred

Nhlanhla's entry into University has been officially deferred to 2012.