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.