By Bodwa Mbingo | 2017-10-07
In any event or occurrence there are early bird entries. An early bird usually gets favourable terms of entry as he or she is described as one that arrives or takes place early or before others. Then there are late entries that usually incur extra costs for entering late.
Such a norm has literally cascaded into the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF).
The Observer on Saturday can report that on top of the contentious army recruitment that took place early this year resulting in at least 40 army recruits sent packing after they were disqualified at the Mbuluzi Army Barracks towards the end of April this year, there are new recruits at the army training base. Our impeccable sources revealed that they started arriving last week to join the rest that went to Mbuluzi earlier this year.
Acting Army Public Relations Officer (PRO) Lieutenant Nkosinathi Dlamini explained that these new recruits have come in to replace those that died while undergoing training and those who were sacked while some come from the elders. He said such recruitment was never announced and they have taken in a very few.
The latest recruitment, amid at a later stage has, our sources reveal, come with exorbitant costs as some of them have had to part with money ranging from E40 000 and rising up to around E50 000, just to bribe some top army officials to allow them into the army. Such exploitations on people that merely want to put food on the table for their families have in most forums been seen to be exacerbated by the country’s high unemployment rate.
Speaking on the latest allegations, the acting army PRO Dlamini said bribery remains an offence in the country and that it is never condoned in the army. He denied claims that there were bribery acts in the latest recruitment exercise, arguing that it would be almost impossible for people to hear about the latest exercise since it was never announced to allow them to prepare the said bribes.
“These are just allegations that are unfounded. If there are people that gave money to any high ranking officials within the army then it is their own doing and does not assure them entry into training. We have taken in a few recruits and even if they wanted to offer bribes how would they have heard about this recruitment?” argued Dlamini.
According to the World Bank, Swaziland had an unemployment rate of 25.28 per cent in 2016 while in the previous year it stood at 25.75 per cent. The bank further reveals that the country, with a population of 1.2 million, has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of about US$3 000 and is classified as a lower middle income country. The country is very closely linked to South Africa on which it depends for about 85 per cent of its imports and about 60 per cent of exports. Its economic growth has been slowing since 2013, but it is expected to rebound to 1.7 per cent in 2017 from -0.6 per cent in 2016, corresponding with a recovery in agricultural production.
The slowdown is due to continued drought and a difficult external environment, especially from South Africa, leading to a sharp decrease in South African Customs Union (SACU) revenues.
Such a decrease in revenue, combined with increased public spending, is generating higher fiscal deficits and a growing public debt. Under the current policy stance, the public debt to GDP ratio could increase from 17.4 per cent in 2015 to 24 per cent in 2018, increasing risks of fiscal unsustainability. Some of the challenges the country faces include technological readiness, its brain drain to neighbouring South Africa, and its relative paucity of business sophistication, higher education, and training. A number of Swazis are, therefore, ready to do anything just to secure themselves jobs and reports of irregularities in recent army recruitments have escalated and towards the end of April this year where at least 40 army recruits were sent packing after they were disqualified at Mbuluzi Army Barracks. These aspiring soldiers were sent packing after it was discovered that some of them got in the army through dubious means. Army PRO Madoda Mkhatshwa, speaking then about the historical move, said such an action taken by the army followed investigations after many complaints were lodged by MPs and tindvuna tetinkhundla (Constituency headmen) from the different constituencies where the recruitment exercises took place.
Mkhatshwa said the army received a lot of complaints about abnormalities, which happened during the recruitment exercises.
He said some of these corrupt practices were not easily identifiable which is why as an army they were only able to find out about these when the recruits went to Mbuluzi for training at the first place.
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