E1M VENDORS’ FUND DISAPPEARS
…Money was donated by Their Majesties and the Manzini business community
Controversy surrounds the disappearance of money that was donated by Their Majesties and business community in 2014 to vendors in Manzini to start a fund.
The money was also said to have been targeted to help build a formal structure for the exposed vendors in the overly-populated city.
However, almost five years later none of the two intended purposes of the fund have been fulfilled, provoking the ire of the vendors.
The vendors now demand answers as to where the mponey has disappeared to, owing to exposure in extreme weather conditions.
“Where is the money that was donated to us by Their Majesties and the business community in 2014? Why we are still exposed to the bad weather with only umbrellas and shack to protect ourselves when the King gave us E1 million five years ago,” wondered a vendor.
These are the questions that most of the Manzini informal traders known as street vendors are asking themselves each time bad weather elementsthat damage their merchandise.
During a business dinner hosted by Their Majesties in Manzini in April 2014, over E900 000 was reportedly raised after His Majesty King Mswati III launched a fund to aid Manzini street vendors. However, four years later the balance is said to be a lousy E233 900.20. During the dinner, His Majesty announced the good news to the street vendors, as he officially launched the E300 000 fund for them to boost their businesses.
The King implored other business people to contribute to the fund and it was reported that by the end of the night it had reached over E900 000. However, the ministry of commerce which was responsible for collecting the funds reported that the only available funds amounted to the E300 000, which was reportedly donated by the King to the vendors.
His Majesty thought it was proper to launch the fund and present it as his gift to the street vendors.
“I have carefully considered which category of business people to present with this gift and have come to the conclusion that I should present it to the business people who some people call by many different names,” the King said, as he hoped the fund would help vendors improve their businesses.
“The fund I’m launching today will stand at the value of E300 000. I hope the organising committee will meet with the vendors and the relevant ministry and also come to me for a briefing on how to manage the fund. I hope that by the time you come to me, the fund would have increased with other business people contributing to it in order to help small businesspeople,” said His Majesty at the time.
The King said the minister of com- merce and trade should also assist the vendors and devise means and ways of how the fund could be accessible to the street vendors. Fast forward to 2019, the ministry of commerce says the exact amount that was collected was E233 900.20. This is contrary to what the members of the organising committee say, they claim that the amount was over E900 000 including the E300 000 gift from the King.
This makes them believe that the fund should be sitting at least E1 million considering that it had been kept in the bank all the while and should have accumulated interest. The question that remains unanswered is if what the committee claim is true, then what happened to the rest of the money that was raised on the day? The other ques- tion is why after all these years has the fund failed to operate as per His Majesty’s vision? Different explanations have been presented to respond to the above questions by the different stakeholders. The ministry justifies the balance of the fund as the only money that was collected on the day, which suggests that some of the pledges made by Manzini businesspeople were not received by the ministry including that of the King. Furthermore, the ministry claims to have been for the past four years working tirelessly to operationalise the fund, which has up until this day not benefited a single vendor.
“Over the years the ministry has been tirelessly working on operationalising the fund for the benefit of the informal traders in the Manzini region.
To be precise some cash amounting to E5 475 was collected at the dinner and subsequently an amount of E217 300 was collected from the pledges by the business community.
Currently, E233 900.29 is available to operationalise the Informal Traders’ Revolving Fund,” said Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade Principal Secretary Siboniso Nkambule in response. Asked as to when the fund would be operationalised, the principal secretary said operational issues were still being finalised and once everything had been completed traders would be able to access the fund. “Worth noting is that as part of the requirements of the fund is a Committee for the Informal Traders and that has been formed. The ministry and FINCORP have commenced discussions with the committee in respect to the qualification criteria for traders such as proof of identity, authority to trade in Manzini, bank account,” he said. Nkambule emphasised that this was a revolving fund and all loans provided to traders needed to be fully paid as this is not a grant fund. Furthermore, he said the revolving fund would be rolled out to all the regions countrywide in future. He said the current amount in the fund would be used as a guarantee for informal traders who will seek financial assistance from FINCORP, stating that in July last year a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect was signed. “Furthermore, at the outset one needs to highlight that the MoU signed is between the ministry of commerce, industry and trade and FINCORP without the inclusion of informal traders. Informal traders will be provided with financial assistance by FINCORP through the Informal Traders Revolving Fund as a guarantee,” he added.
Manzini Bus Rank where vendors setup for their businesses.