COVID-19 has claimed two more high profile national leaders. Dr. Vincent Mhlanga, acting Prime Minister in November 2018 during the transition to the 11th Parliament died on Thursday.
This morning, an important chief who is key to royal rituals reportedly also died of Covid-19 related illness.
Dr. Mhlanga who was Shiselweni Regional Administrators died in the morning of Christmas eve. He is the second top tier national leader to die of Covid-19 this month, less than two weeks following that of Prime Minister Mandvulo Dlamini who was buried at dawn this morning. Dlamini is the first sitting head of government to succumb to Covid-19.
Though no official announcement has been made, well placed sources close to the national leader confirmed that he died two days ago. Official confirmations are expected shortly after completion of the Prime Minister’s funeral rites.
Dr. Mhlanga is the latest of a list of prominent leaders, some of them the cream of the intellectual community, including medical doctors and front-line health workers who have fallen in the wake of what is considered a virulent Covid-19 strain of the second wave that started sweeping the country in December. Among the victims include Dr. Austin Ezeogu, Senior Medical Officer of the largest national medical facility, the Mbabane Government Hospital. Prominent Mbabane based attorney, Lindifa Mamba also fell this week.
Dr. Mhlanga, an accountant and banker, rose from SwaziBank to head a E44million joint venture fund 80% owned by the Government and 20% by Tibiyo created by His Majesty in 1995 to provide grassroots business financing. Under Dr. Mhlanga’s management, the fund grew into a billion emalangeni financial giant, the Swaziland Financial Corporation (FINCORP) and a micro lending wing, First Finance.
Sharp with an intellectual streak, Dr. Mhlanga was subsequently handpicked to become Chief Executive Officer at the King’s Office to succeed Bheki Dlamini when he retired from that post. Following the 2018 general elections that elevated the Shiselweni Regional Administrator Senator Themba Masuku back to the role of Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mhlanga moved to that pivotal position.
Growing concern at the havoc wreaked on the economy and health of the nation has inspired a response from the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan which has offered to donate a Covid-19 vaccine to the kingdom. Taiwan recently procured 15 million units from third parties but has also developed its own vaccine that is now in the second phase of clinical tests. Each person requires three vaccinations for Covid-19 immunity. Eswatini has a population of 1.1 million people, and would therefore require 3.3 million vaccinations.
Ordinarily, development of vaccines take many years. Vaccines are approved only after rigorous clinical testing and peer reviews in which scientists in other countries test whether they also can confirm the results reported by the vaccine developers. They are released for general use after they pass phase 3 of clinical trials. However pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced major countries to fast track approval of vaccines. The UK and USA began rolling out nation-wide vaccinations two weeks ago.
THE Republic of China on Taiwan has offered Eswatini the Covid-19 vaccine, making the country the first in Africa to rollout vaccination against the virus that killed Prime Minister Mandvulo Dlamini who is being buried tomorrow.
Regional Administrators are particularly high-level political roles. Administratively they fall under the Ministry of Tinkhundla administration, they coordinate the work of chiefs in their regions, and functionally report direct to His Majesty.
Dr. Dlamini was clearly on the fast track to higher political office. His function as CEO at the King’s Office made him the caretaker prime minister between succeeding cabinets. The position of Shiselweni RA has set a trend as the pivotal position for Deputy Prime Minister. Paul Dlamini held that office before becoming DPM in 2013. His successor, Senator Masuku followed him to cabinet and is current DPM.
At least 164 new Covid-19 cases have been reported by the Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, bringing the total number of new infections to 8032 Currently, a total of 154 people have died of Covid-19 related illness since the virus was first reported in the country in March 2020.