Disabled woman struggling to feed over 200 orphans



BY : EUGENE DUBE

KAZENZILE : A 65-year old Swazi woman who is living with disabilities has turned her home into an orphanage where she feeds over 200 orphans as the food crisis in the tiny Kingdom of eSwatini worsen.

The country fomerly known as Swaziland has about 70% of its 1.2million citizens living below the poverty line, however its Head of State King Mswati is counted among the richest Mornachies in the world with an estimated fortune of over $200million. Eswatini has the world’s highest HIV prevance hence the highest number of orphans and vulnarable children.

In the midst of the crisis, Tsabile Simelane populary known as "Gogo Nde" sacrificed her pension to care and provide future for the destitute children that were neglected by the Eswatini government. This is despite the fact that, the elderly woman was forced to disability by two separate car accidents and now walks with cluthesm, however that did not hinder her from pushing her passion to cater for the needy. The orphanage is situated in Southern part of the Kingdom of Eswatini, about 100 kilometres away from the capital city of Eswatini, Mbabane. When the Swaziland News team visited Simelane for an interview, she narrated how government through the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office honored her with an award without providing assistance to the crisis. DPM Themba Masuku whose portfolio was responsible for child welfare awarded her, however the government never provided resources for the orphanage despite acknowledging her contribution.

“If we can get enough support, we can expand into a skills centre for these destitute children. They'll be able to learn and develop their skills within the proposed centre. This include carpentry, producing fence, catering, sewing and computer skills among others. It’s a pity that the government is not providing any support for these children despite that the Deputy Prime Ministers Office was aware of the situation” she said.

Simelane said she was facing challenges of old men who normally visit the orphanage to lure young girls into sex by offering them gifts like cell phones and other goodies. "At times rich old men would visit the orphanage acting like Good Samaritians and lure these young girls into sex by offering them gifts like cellphones and money” she said.

When reached for comments, Simosakhe Shongwe, the Mtsambama Member of Parliament confirmed knowledge of the orphanage and plight of the children but said nothing can be done as the country was in a financial crisis. “We know the orphanage but the challenge is that as a country we are facing a financial challenges, as you know. In short we do not have financial assistance for the children at the moment” said the MP. Efforts were made to reach Deputy Prime Minister for a comment but he didn’t pick up the calls after four attempts. Although the centre is located in a farm but the orphans benefiting from it come from 61 homesteads at KaZenzile , Elugedzeni, KaMakhanya , Encangosini and other surrounding areas at Kontjingila chiefdom, near Hlathikhulu under the Mtsambama Constituency. Some of these children were dumped by their parents who are struggling financially as about 70% of eMaswati lives below the poverty line.

“The situation is very tough particulary with the number of orphans we have as it grows almost everyday. We need sustainable food supply and other various kinds of aid to keep the Centre operational. My pension and assistance received from Good Samaritans is not enough as the number of orphans keeps growing. "We do have a Chinese sponsor who give each child E40($3) per month. This money is deposited to the bank and has to be collected there and sometimes we rely on our piggery project for survival," she explains. Although the government consistently claimed to have no money to sustain its social obligation, a large amount of the country’s budget goes to the royal family to sustain the lavish lifestyle of King Mswati. In June 2019, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in June 2019 said Eswatini was among the 41 states urgently in need of eternal food aid. Thousands of eMaswati have migrated to South Africa and overseas in search for greener pastures as the economic situation in the Kingdom worsens. But despite the financial challenges, Forbes Magazine once listed King Mswati III as the world’s 15th wealthiest monarch, estimating his fortune at $200 million.

American Ambassador Lisa Peterson said the government of the Kingdom of Eswatini is on the brink of collapse because of too much attachment to luxury. The ambassador said she noted that government officials and oversized delegations were travelling in first or business class and spending days, sometimes weeks, in luxury hotels, using public funds. Peterson was speaking during the United States of America 242 independence celebration which was also held in eSwatini - in the American embassy in 2018.