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EU Parliament votes to ‘review, suspend or halt, programmes’ for Eswatini

By Phephile Motau

The European Parliament on Thursday voted to ‘review and, where applicable, suspend support programmes for Eswatini where funds risk being used for activities that violate human rights’.

Eswatini risks losing out on over E557 million in funding from the European Union (EU) following a vote on a motion by the European Parliament.

On Thursday, the European Parliament voted on a joint motion calling for among other things, for the EU to review and, where applicable, suspend support programmes for Eswatini where ‘funds risk being used for activities that violate human rights’.

The resolution was agreed upon, which means the vote passed. The E557 million is money which was set aside by the EU for the period 2021 to 2024 and the funding was meant to focus on the priority area of human development and social inclusion, to assist emaSwati youth as announced in November.

The EU has other projects in the country including the GET. Invest Programme which mobilises investment in renewable energy in developing countries which support supports project developers and companies towards investment readiness and links them with financiers.

According to the joint motion on the situation of human rights defenders in Eswatini, notably the murder of Thulani Maseko, the Parliament wanted to vote on a motion to strongly condemn the killing of Maseko. The Human Rights lawyer was assassinated after King Mswati III spoke on national television. His speech has since been taken out of context and the blame put on his shoulders following numerous media reports that only focused on one aspect of the speech, pushing what appears to be an orchestrated narrative. The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the EU and one of its seven institutions.

Their agenda for Thursday involved debating and voting on Eswatini. The Parliament resolution also involved urging the authorities in Eswatini to ‘respect their commitments and launch, without delay, a comprehensive dialogue with all affected stakeholders to work towards national reconciliation and the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, with the ultimate goal of lasting peace, mediated and supported by the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’.


The Parliament resolution also includes calling for a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent and thorough investigation, under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN, into the attacks against other pro-democracy and human rights activists and the alleged recruitment of mercenaries to help security forces repress opposition.

The documents show that they also want to condemn alleged ‘widespread human rights violations in Eswatini’ and call for the immediate release of all political prisoners – particularly Members of Parliament Mthandeni Dube and Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza – and an immediate end to the harassment, violence and pressure exercised against human rights defenders, trade unionists, pro-democracy activists and politicians.

“We urge the authorities in Eswatini to respect, promote and protect human rights, including the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and to allow the people of Eswatini to exercise their civil and political rights,” the motion reads.

They also want to vote on instructing their President to forward this resolution to the Kingdom of Eswatini and all relevant stakeholders and institutions. EU Political Assistant and Information Officer Michael Motsa asked for a questionnaire to be sent to their office. However, he said the matter was debated in a public forum.

Government Spokesperson Alpheous Nxumalo asked for a questionnaire to be sent to him and said he would have a sit down with his principals before responding.

Other EU projects in Eswatini:

SUPPORT TO JOB CREATION AND THE INVESTMENT CLIMATE

To support the economic recovery of Eswatini amidst the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the EU started the “Support to Job Creation and the Investment Climate” action. This E100 million) programme aimed to support Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country as they face the economic challenges of the current crisis.

PROGRAMME IN SUPPORT TO OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EU-SADC EUROPEAN PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (EPA)

This E120 million) EU programme focuses on supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), mostly those that have the potential to export to regional and European markets. Working together with the buyers from the start, this programme transfers expertise to companies, which prepares them to attract investors and sell worldwide.

HIGH-VALUE CROP AND HORTICULTURE PROJECT

The main objective of the project E318.69 million is to increase the contribution of the agricultural sector to poverty reduction in Eswatini providing smallholder farmers with marketing opportunities and locally produced diversified food on the market.

WATER HARVESTING, SMALL AND MEDIUM EARTH DAMS PROJECT (WHDP)

This is a EUR 14.545 million (SZL 278.37 million) project that aims to achieve three results, namely: Increased Water Storage Capacity, Enhanced Production Capacity for Smallholders and Strengthened Institutional Capacity.

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