The decision by Cabinet to extend the alcohol ban without providing convincing reasons does not only threaten Domestic Investments (DI) but a strong warning to international investors regarding the risks of investing in a country where a word from one man automatically becomes the law.
Even though peace and political stability remain some of the factors that promotes both Domestic and Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), it becomes risky for investors where the political environment is not stable in terms of taking decisions that impact businesses and the economy.
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis that threatens the economy of many countries, sane governments strive to make sure the already existing investments and or businesses receives financial support to mitigate the negative impact that comes with job losses and financial burdens to those businesses.
Now, here is a government controlled by one man, King Mswati taking a decision to ban alcohol saying it promotes the spread of COVID-19 at the time when almost all businesses are operating normal and a cultural event Umhlanga was held despite an earlier announcement suggesting that it has been cancelled.
This means, King Mswati and his Cabinet can take a decision today and change it over-night without taking into account the economic consequences particularly for businesses with long-term strategic plans.
It should be noted that the companies in the alcohol industry employed hundreds of Emaswati with direct and indirect dependents considering the high poverty rate in our country and we are tempted to question the leadership of any politician and even the King who attributes the spread of COVID-19 to alcohol without scientific evidence to substantiating these claims. The Eswatini Beverages is one of the giant companies that might collapse as a result of questionable decisions from one man that threaten investments and jobs in this country.
Indeed, we cannot dispute the fact under the influence of alcohol, the behavior of consumers might in one way or the other contribute to the spread of COVID-19, however, the industry should have been opened with strict regulations that seeks to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Political leadership suggests that whenever you take decisions you must embrace the fact that you are leading all people with different behaviors and these might include witches, alcohol consumers, disabled, professionals and intellectuals, all of them are your ‘children’ as a leader. It is therefore important to note that these people with different lifestyles being members of the society should be accommodated in those decisions, you don’t just wake up in the morning and ban a favorite drink for another group of people while you continue to enjoy yours without any disturbance.
Furthermore, government and the King should understand that we might see a rise in cases of domestic violence merely because people are frustrated by different problems in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, some of them were easing their pain with their favorite drinks that they can’t access now. People should not be treated as prisoners of war or slaves in their own country through questionable decisions and while it remains the duty of government to enact regulations that seeks to mitigate the spread of the virus, this unfortunate global situation should not be used to frustrate other people’s businesses while deliberately tempering with the citizens different lifestyles without valid explanation.
In conclusion, let me state that government hire various public relations companies to try and market the country, but the truth of the matter is, no serious investor will ever invest in a country where political structure suggests that a word from one man can shut down his business. I may agree that this country, with our beautiful culture, the landscape and warm hospitality could be recommended as a perfect tourism destination, but it remains risk to invest here because of a greedy King who takes decisions over-night that threatens investments.
Liquor companies, through a decision made over-night were forced to temporally shut down without proper consultations, some of their stock might expire in few weeks, and then government strives to convince the world that this jungle is an investor friendly country. Our beautiful country will attract serious investors the day we de-link government operations and or politics from Simohlwana.
Commerce Minister Mancoba Khumalo