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The other week, three church bodies in the country organised a national prayer for peaceful elections.

As a Christian I had no problem with this initiative. Apostle Paul, in 1 Timothy 2: 1-2,  says: “I exhort therefore  that , first of all,  supplications, prayers,  intersection and giving thanks  be made for all men; for kings and all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Paul, in this passage, calls for Christians to pray for all men and then he also includes kings and all those in authority, which refers to all leaders in society from family,  community, organs of civil society organisations, government and all who are in political parties to mention a few.  


Unfortunately, the national prayer was/is seen by some sectors of society to be partisan, as we know that there are those who view the national elections as only limited to electing Members of Parliament and not government. The African Union (AU), in 2018, observed that ‘the elections also took place under a system of political governance in which the Executive branch reigns supreme over the other arms of government (the Judiciary and Legislature)’. The misgivings by some sectors of society were confirmed after some newspapers reported that some church leaders praised the current Cabinet for a job well done. This was shocking because the current Cabinet has faced unprecedented challenges that include a weak response to the COVID-19 crisis, where some lives were needlessly lost.

The same Cabinet triggered the unprecedented civil unrest that left a trail of destruction including the lives of emaSwati and properties by banning the delivery of petitions. It were civil society organisations, under the Multi-Stakeholder Forum, that assisted emaSwati who lost their loved ones during the civil unrest; where was Cabinet and where was the church? Cabinet has presided over a health crisis never experienced since the country’s independence. Tertiary students constantly strike due to constant delays in the release of their allowances. The church’s role in society is indispensable and should remain non-partisan. The church is also regarded as the conscience of the nation.


Regarding the plight of patients in the country, let us unpack what ‘health’ means. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states; “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely absence of disease or infirmity.” It is further stated in its constitution that ‘the enjoyment of the highest standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without any distinction of race, religion, political beliefs, economic or social condition’. It further says; “The health of all people is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent on the fullest cooperation of individuals and states.” The state of physical, mental and social well-being of emaSwati has been severely affected. This also includes their fundamental rights, such as the right to life ultimately as undermining peace and security.   

It has become a norm for public health facilities to no longer provide medicines prescribed by doctors. Patients are told to go and buy them from private pharmacies. This undermines the low charges that government committed charging, which was in line with WHO’s assertion that the enjoyment of the highest standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, including emaSwati.  In a country with high poverty levels at 58.9 per cent, one cannot expect these individuals to attain health where there are constant drug shortages and shortages of other essentials. I recall, in my church, where an admitted church member solicited assistance to purchase prescribed drugs. Recently, a relative, desperate for a cancer diagnosis, was advised by his doctor to pay E750 to a private laboratory facility to get the assistance needed.  

We, however, applaud government’s efforts to address the alleged corrupt practices that may have caused this crisis. What is frustrating is that the drug losses have been a chronic problem in the Ministry of Health. I recall that during the administration led by the late Prime Minister, Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini, there was a commission, led by the late Sikelela Dlamini, and this commission published its report. Why were the recommendations of this commission not implemented?  I empathise with the minister of Health and her team, especially the frontline workers who have the expertise to assist emaSwati who visit them with health challenges but are frustrated because of the lack of human and material resources to perform their tasks. It is sad that emaSwati are suffering in silence as they see their relatives struggle to get services from public health facilities. Sadly, some have lost their lives. I applaud the nurses who have made attempts to deliver petitions to the Health Ministry. It is time we act together as a nation or we will perish in silence.