E1M VEN­DORS’ FUND DIS­AP­PEARS

…Money was do­nated by Their Majesties and the Manzini busi­ness com­mu­nity

Sunday Observer - - FRONT PAGE - STO­RIES BY ZWELETHU DLAMINI

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.

Fund

“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.

In­ter­est

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.

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