Swazis give government poor marks in survey
The results from Afrobarometer, an independent research project that measures public attitudes on social, economic and political issues in 35 African countries, reveal a chasm between the daily struggles faced by most Swazis and the ability of government to address persistently high unemployment, chronic food insecurity and poor service delivery.
The government, which received mostly poor or failing grades for service delivery and corruption, has responded frostily to the survey findings released in December 2013. Respondents gave poor marks all around to the government’s economic performance, with 58 percent rating management of the economy as "very bad". Two-thirds said government efforts to improve the lives of the poor and create jobs were “very poor”, and 77 percent felt that the authorities had done nothing to narrow the gap between rich and poor. Participants also expressed disapproval of the job performances of their elected officials, the police and the anti-corruption board, as well as of their Prime Minister, who was appointed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The research methodology was published along with the survey findings, explaining that 1,200 adult Swazis had participated and that respondents were equally divided between men and women, with those residing in rural areas outnumbering those living in urban or peri-urban areas by three to one, in keeping with the country’s largely rural demographics. The country’s four regions were about equally represented.
The survey revealed that many Swazis experience frequent water shortages. Two-thirds of respondents said it was “very difficult” to get water and electricity connected to their homes. But those who had these services said paying for them was also a pressing problem. Nearly half of those surveyed said their families had gone without an income on one occasion over the past 12 months, and 38 percent said they had gone without an income several times during the past year.
One of the key questions was: “In the past year, how often have you or your family gone without enough food to eat?” Nineteen percent of respondents answered “always” and 46 percent answered “several times”.
Swaziland has sufficient arable land to overcome its chronic food insecurity, but according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), it lacks the necessary agricultural and land-use policies to empower small-scale farmers. Two-thirds of Swazis live on communal Swazi Nation Land, which is held in trust by King Mswati. Households are allocated plots by their local chief. Without title deeds, smallholder farmers lack collateral to secure bank loans that would allow them to make their land more productive by purchasing better seeds, fertilizer and irrigation equipment.