Poor residents forced to be loyal to Mswati for Inhlanyelo fund loans
NHLANGANO - Inhlanyelo, an over E20 million fund established by Swazi billionaire Nathan Kirsh to assist impoverished citizens in establishing businesses has been manipulated to promote allegiance to Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute Monarch, King Mswati.
This publication gathered that residents at Mbangweni Royal Kraal, a community situated in the Southern parts of Eswatini are forced to attend royal assignments and demonstrate allegiance to the King before qualifying for the fund. Royal kraals within the various communities in the tiny Kingdom are an extension of the Swazi Monarchy with traditional leaders-known as Chiefs, appointed by the King after a wide screening process by the powerful Ludzidzini Council. Eswatini has about 70% of its citizens living below the poverty line and a large number of the populace rely on subsistence farming for a living.
When reached for comments, Mbangweni acting Chief Musa Matsebula said it forms part of the requirements for a resident to be loyal to the chiefdom authorities adding that a family that does not participate in royal assignments cannot benefit from the fund. Speaking to this Swaziland News, the traditional leader maintained that residents interested in accessing the loans through this fund should first demonstrate allegiance to the King by consistently participating in Royal Kraal activities. He added that it forms part of the requirements for one to be a resident of the area with a chief code as the fund is under the administration of traditional leaders.
“Our requirements are that you have to be a local Mbangweni resident who has a code for the local chief. How can we deal with defaulters if they are not from our area? Traditionally, only the chief in charge can summon a resident and charge him/her a defaulter. So, it is sensible to help only residents who are loyal to the Mbangweni Royal Kraal. If one's family does not pay allegiance to the Royal Kraal, through performing royal duties” said the acting chief.
Sanele Myeni, a resident of the area, who looked worried, told this publication that any resident of the area who aspires to access funding through the Inhlanyelo Fund should be in good books with the chief.
“Any Mbangweni resident who wants funding to establish a business must pay allegiance to the chief. Secondly, he/she must have a graded tax certificate showing the chief‘s code,” said Myeni. Reached for comments on the subject matter, Vusweni royal kraal Governor said the role of chiefs remains fundamental in the socio-economic situation in the country. However, Lukhele said he was against the attachment of these conditions to the Inhlanyelo fund. “There must be no conditions attached to the Inhlanyelo Fund. Whether a person pays allegiance to the chief or not, he or she must benefit. But the royal kraal, by virtue of being in charge of the community can play a key role in changing the socio-economic situation of the villagers” he said. It has been disclosed that during a recent development meeting which was held in Nhlangano, South of eSwatini, the Royal Kraal allegedly reminded aspiring businesspeople that having a good relationship with the Royal Kraal increases one's opportunities to access the business loan. When reached for comments, David Ngcamphalala, the Minister of Tinkhundla Administration and Development said the fund was under the Ministry of Agriculture but confirmed that it was administered by traditional leaders.
“The Inhlanyelo Fund is under The Ministry of Agriculture. However, Chiefs are in charge of the loans. They make the recommendations ideal for any resident who wants to access the loans. They are the ones who use the royal stamp to endorse the qualifying forms for the Inhlanyelo Fund” said the Minister.
Efforts to reach Agriculture Minister-Jabulani Mabuza proved unsuccessful at the time of compiling this report. But Mbangweni Royal Kraal development officer (Bucopho) Ntando Dlamini said accessing the loans and paying allegiance to the royal kraal should not be misinterpreted as that was meant to make sure deserving residents get assistance. He said this requirement was only meant to make sure that the beneficiary was traceable and known by the traditional leaders in case the beneficiary defaults in paying back the money. He then advised interested residents to apply for the loans but further encouraged those who previously benefited to pay back the money for the benefit of others. “Residents can apply for the loans but the royal kraal is trying to encourage people who benefited to pay back the money. It is for this reason that, as part of the requirements one must pay allegiance to the chief and be known by the traditional authorities. It was not Inhlanyelo Fund officials who imposed these conditions” said the area’s development officer. When reached for comments, Inhlanyelo Fund Executive Manager, Wandile Kunene said chiefs normally assist them in locating defaulters hence they strictly act on recommendations of the traditional leaders when approving loans.
“We work with chiefs when approving these loans, they further assist us in locating defaulters. This is just meant to ensure that the applicants are known in the area as we fund people from the communities” he said. But outspoken Nhlangano resident Magadeyiwile Mdluli described the policy surrounding the Inhlanyelo Fund as obstructive. “There is an outcry over the Inhlanyelo Fund. We have chieftaincy disputes in many parts of the country so government was wrong to give the money to the chiefs. In the midst of these chieftaincy disputes, those who are opposing the incumbent are blocked from accessing the loans” he said. Mdluli further said, the fund in its current form was open to political manipulation and residents could be exploited for political gains. He said Chiefs works with his inner councils in distributing the loans and these councils might refuse to grant the loan any critic of the royal kraal.