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HIV/AIDS and the First World Response

December 7th, 2011 No comments

The following are remarks by Stephen Lewis, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World, delivered at a plenary session at the 2011 ICASA.  I have reposted them in their entirety because I believe they are worth reading and sharing.  The emphasis is mine.  This can also be found online at: http://safaids.net/content/remarks-stephen-lewis-co-director-aids-free-world-delivered-plenary-session-2011-icasa


ADDIS ABABA – With your indulgence, I’m going to deviate from the assigned topic. I shall address the Millennium Development Goals, but not in the way that was anticipated. There are two reasons. First, I want to speak in an unusually personal way, and from the heart, and in a fashion that leaves no room for ambiguity. Second, I consider the attack on the Global Fund to be the most serious assault it has endured in its ten-year history. I would feel utterly delinquent to let the issue slide.

I am seized by frustration and impatience. Let me explain.

I’m thrilled when UNICEF tells us of the possibility of the virtual elimination of pediatric AIDS by 2015. But I know-as knowledgeable people in this audience know-that it remains an unlikely prospect, but more important, that we lost several precious years during the last decade where we simply didn’t apply the knowledge we possessed to prevent vertical transmission. It was a terrible failure on the part of international agencies and governments. Worse, the mother barely factored into the so-called "PMTCT" equation at all. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I cannot forget the millions of infants who died unnecessarily and the women who were never given treatment.

I’m thrilled at the creation of UN Women, and the possibility, once they join as a formal co-sponsor of UNAIDS, that the focus on women will be given a new lease on life. But I can’t dislodge from my mind the experience of my years in the role as Envoy, and subsequently working with AIDS-Free World, when it became clear that in every aspect of the pandemic women were rendered subordinate. Gender inequality doomed their lives. Sexual violence fed and feeds the virus. The entire survival of communities and families was placed on their shoulders. Men were the social determinants of women’s health, and men simply didn’t care. As we come to this thrilling moment of potential progress, I can’t avoid the spectral faces of stigma, discrimination, isolation, and pain, and they are the faces of women. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t the core of courage and strength in this pandemic; it simply means that they have to struggle valiantly to challenge the phalanx of male privilege, of male hegemony. Just a few days ago, coincident with World AIDS Day, the Harvard School of Public Health held a symposium called AIDS@30 to assess the past and plot the future. The symposium had a Global Advisory Council of nineteen eminent experts on the pandemic: 17 men and 2 women. It is ever thus.  It’s the rare woman indeed who doesn’t ultimately report to a man in the world of HIV, or who can command, ever-so-rarely, the place and presence that legions of men command automatically.

I’m thrilled when I hear animated talk of male circumcision. But I know that we didn’t need to wait for the results of the three studies in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa.  Nothing would have been lost if we’d focused immediately on making circumcision safe and available for informed parents to choose for their male babies; it’s a minor procedure that has been performed for centuries. Instead, during nearly a decade as the evidence piled up that circumcision was a defense against AIDS-evidence provided by experts in the field-we waited and waited and waited, in that self-justifying paralysis of excruciating scientific precision. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress I cannot forget the numbers of lives that might have been saved had we acted sooner.

I’m thrilled with all the talk of "Treatment as Prevention" and how it has suddenly become the mantra of the international AIDS community. But back in 2006, I sat beside Dr. Julio Montaner, about to become President of the International AIDS Society, when he first expounded the proposition at a press briefing at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto. His evidence and argument were rooted in science and common sense in equal measure. But he had to endure scorn and derision, and we had to endure a five-year delay until Treatment as Prevention was definitively authenticated by the National Institutes of Health in Washington. Julio’s theory suddenly became the 96% solution five years later, and it doesn’t-I emphasize-it doesn’t apply only to discordant couples. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I cannot forget the numbers of lives that might have been prolonged if we hadn’t waited nearly five years to create the momentum that now propels us.

I’m thrilled with the turnaround in South Africa. The dramatic roll-out of treatment is nothing short of miraculous. But I remember all those years of denialism, and not a single voice at the most senior levels of the United Nations-Under-Secretaries-General, the Secretary-General himself. Not one of them said publicly to Thabo Mbeki, "You’re killing your people". Oh, to be sure, it was said in private by everyone. They took Thabo Mbeki aside and begged him to reverse course. He didn’t budge an inch. Around him, in every community in South Africa, and in communities throughout a continent heavily influenced by South Africa, were the killing fields of AIDS. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I can’t forget the millions who died on Thabo Mbeki’s watch, while those who should have confronted him before the eyes of the world stood mute.

I’m thrilled by the embrace of the slogan "Know Your Epidemic; Know Your Response" and the current concentration on high-risk groups. But I note that there were many voices, over the years, not all of them eccentric, calling attention to concurrent sexual partners and discordant couples, to MSM and sex work and sexual violence, and particularly injecting drug use, and they were contemptuously dismissed. I cannot but remember that magnificent gay activist from the Caribbean, Robert Carr, who died such an untimely death … back at the pre-conference on MSM in advance of Vienna last year, Robert made one of those speeches that leaves you gasping. When you hear what the experts say, said the normally tactful Robert, it’s bullshit – and he repeated bullshit so many times in the course of thirty minutes that the crass word became a cry of mobilizing dignity. As we come to this thrilling moment of progress, I can’t forget the casual delays in responding to vulnerable groups. Experts fiddled while human rights burned.

So if you sense a certain impatience in me, you’re right. We don’t have another day to lose. Peter Piot did the arithmetic yesterday … 1,350,000 put on treatment in 2010; 2,700,000 new infections, exactly double the number in treatment in the same year. It works out to 7,397 new infections every day. And it’s 2011, for God’s sake. It’s appalling that such numbers continue to haunt us; it’s heart-breaking beyond endurance to contemplate further exponential agony. We cannot delay another minute in putting the ‘prevention combination’ to work.

And I think, judging from the mood in the corridors, that’s what seizes this conference. But right at the moment when we know, irrefutably, that we can defeat this pandemic, we’re sucker-punched at the Global Fund.

What’s a sucker punch? It’s when a boxer in the ring gets a punch below the belt that he doesn’t see coming. No one expected a complete cancellation of Round Eleven, with new money unavailable for implementation until 2014.

It’s just the latest blow in a long list of betrayals on the part of the donor countries, in this instance the Europeans in particular. I’ve heard from several people that the politics of the Global Fund meeting in Accra two weeks ago, when the decision was made, were not just complicated, but amounted to miserable internecine warfare. Certain governments on the Board of the Global Fund simply discredited themselves. They give a soiled name to the principle of international solidarity. The Chair of the Board, in a remarkably convoluted effort, tried to explain things in a press release. He would have done far better to remain silent.

The decision on the part of the donor countries is unforgiveable. In a speech a few days ago, I addressed the Global Fund predicament by talking of the moral implications of a decision that you know will result in death … death on the African continent.

I asked: "Do they regard Africa as a territorial piece of geographic obsolescence? Do they regard Africans themselves as casually expendable? Is it because the women and children of Africa are not comparable in the eyes of western governments to the women and children of Europe and North America? Is it because Africans are black and unacknowledged racism is at play? Is it because a fighter jet is worth so much more than human lives? Is it because defense budgets are more worthy of protection in an economic downturn than millions of human beings?"

These are not phrased as rhetorical questions. I mean each and every one of them.

Spare me, I beg of all the speakers … spare me the economic crisis. Everyone knows that when it comes to financing wars, or bailing out the banks, or bailing out Greece, or reinstituting corporate bonuses, or even responding to natural disasters that threaten economies, there’s always enough money. We’re drowning in crocodile tears. It’s not a matter of the financial crisis; it’s a matter of human priorities. We have a right to ask the G8: what do you sanctify as governments: profits and greed or global public health?

That’s especially true in the case of the United States. I was, like everyone else, delighted by President Obama’s endorsement of the proposition that PEPFAR could treat a total of six million people rather than four million people by 2013 with the same money. And I congratulate Ambassador Goosby for seeing that through. It’s wonderful. No one would take issue. How could you? There’s no additional money involved: it’s just greater efficiency and more targeted spending.

And then the President went on to affirm his support for the money that’s supposed to be destined for the Global Fund … $4 billion over three years, 2011-2013; $1.3 billion a year.

Now let me take you back a step. In 2010, when the three-year pledge for the Global Fund was being discussed, the activists in the United States were asking for $6 billion over three years, believing that this was a fair share for the United States and an inducement to all the other donors. They feared that the President would stay at $3 billion over the next three years … roughly the previous allocation for the Global Fund. When he endorsed $4 billion, it was considered a partial victory.

In my respectful submission, it’s time for the United States to take a hard look at $6 billion. Many American speeches glow with the words that the US is the largest donor to the Fund. Well of course they’re the largest donor; they’re the most dominant and wealthy economy in the world. I really think that apart from calling on the European governments to reverse their decision, President Obama should tell Congress he wants a full $6 billion.

I don’t expect that anyone ever listens to me. But I do point out what was emphasized at the opening of the conference: money to do battle against HIV/AIDS is the singular non-partisan issue in Congress. Even those irascible philistines who want to cut foreign aid, or global health, have shown in the past that they’re prepared to shore up funding for HIV/AIDS. It seems to me that President Obama should put his moral authority on the line, and ask Congress to raise the ceiling from $4 billion to $6 billion for the Global Fund.

It’s not a matter of comparison with other countries; it’s a matter of doing what’s  right. And that means doing your fair share regardless of whether others are doing theirs. There are many commentators who agree that the salvation of George Bush’s presidency was PEPFAR. President Obama doesn’t need salvation. But I can’t imagine a greater act of statespersonship than to say to the world: I, Barack Obama, cannot stand the thought of another unnecessary death; if the United States of America has to bail out the Global Fund, we will.

Is the extra $2 billion dollars outrageous? The economist Jeffrey Sachs has answered that question. He points out that the United States defense budget amounts to $1.9 billion a day. In other words, we’re asking that HIV/AIDS receive an additional amount, over three years, that equals American military spending in one day.

It seems to me that that’s an argument that African political leaders can effectively pursue amongst the many arguments they should employ in dealing with the donor community. I agree with Michel Sidibe-who’s given significant and visionary leadership to this struggle-that there must be a high-level crisis meeting, and that Prime Minister Meles should convene it.

We’ve waited for this moment for a long time. This is an opportunity for the African political leadership to show its muscle, and to demand that the Global Fund be restored to its intended level. Remember, at the last formal replenishment in 2010, the funding came in at a dismal $11.7 billion, far short of the $20 billion that the Global Fund really needed in order to scale up to meet universal access. Now we’re being told that even the $11.7 billion is out of reach. It’s unconscionable, indefensible, outrageous. It’s murder, that’s what it is: murder. And the donor countries expect to get away with it because there’s a culture of fiscal impunity.

As I wind my way to a conclusion, let me relate an anecdote that I think is relevant.

When I left my diplomatic post at the United Nations in 1988, I took on a role as the Secretary-General’s Advisor on Africa. (I admit that seems odd, but there is an explanation that more or less justifies the appointment.) There was an Inter-Agency Task Force established, and there was a kind of executive committee of four. The Chair was the noted African economist, Professor Adebayo Adedeji of Nigeria and at the time Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa; the Vice-Chair was the remarkable, brilliant Richard Jolly, Deputy-Executive Director of UNICEF; the Rapporteur was the accomplished economist Sadig Rasheed, also with the ECA, and I was the fourth, a sort of honorary post. (Note that then, as now, men were tapped to lead the way.)

We met, often in Addis – where the ECA was and still is located – with many of our colleague agencies working in Africa. The World Bank was almost always in attendance, and intermittently, the International Monetary Fund.

It was the height of "structural adjustment" programs. Every meeting was a battleground, filled with heated imprecations, accusations, and malice. Our little executive cabal of four detested the international financial institutions, and they detested us.

In the midst of endless angry discussions of conditionality, we looked carefully at the financial data, and suddenly realized a staggering truth: when you took into account the interest payments and some capital payments as well, and ran the statistics carefully, it became clear that Africa was paying out far more than it was taking in … hundreds of millions more. The continent was financing the World Bank; the World Bank wasn’t financing the continent.

And it continues to this day. Again, I remind you of Peter Piot’s reference yesterday. I have a close friend who writes columns for the newspaper The Globe and Mail in Canada. Commenting on the study that Peter Piot referenced, the title of his column was, "Africa: The World’s Most Generous Foreign Aid Donor". It confirms the fact that a study of nine African countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe showed that they had exported doctors to Canada, the United States, the UK, and Australia, costing Africa between $2 billion and $13 billion in education and training, and saving the four western countries more than $4.5 billion in education and training. The nurses’ financial ratios would be even higher.

This is an AIDS conference. We talk endlessly about capacity building. Africa desperately needs its doctors and nurses. Instead, in the vital field of health professionals, Africa loses billions in exporting its human resources.

I say all this to challenge the artificial debate on dependency. From slavery to today’s extractive industries of minerals and oil, Africa is financing the world. The modern world’s economy was built on Africa’s human and natural resources, and it depends on them to this day. The money from the Global Fund and PEPFAR amount to partial reparations. Western donors are not engaged in some kind of financial philanthropy: we owe Africa what we give to Africa. And a hell of a lot more to boot.

That’s the debate that Prime Minister Meles should induce. The donor countries to the Global Fund, having ransacked the continent for six hundred years, have no right to withdraw. They must be confronted. And all of you, who make up civil society in so many countries, must press your Presidents and Prime Ministers into action.

Let me end by coming full circle to the Millennium Development Goals. Africa will never reach the MDGs if AIDS is not vanquished. AIDS adds to the desolate state of poverty. Obviously, it affects both maternal and child health. It continues to leave children parentless (though the millions of orphans whose plight seemed a priority at past AIDS gatherings, increasingly, mysteriously, disappear from view).  Gender equality is a mockery in the face of AIDS. And the so-called partnership between the haves and the have-nots is rendered laughable. Even sustainable development is influenced, because climate change feasts on weakened populations.

If the MDGs are as important as everyone says, then AIDS must be subdued.

As a last parting thought, in respect of the Global Fund, I beg you to mobilize as a truly civil society and stand up to the reckless nation-states who dare to decide whether Africans will live or die.

Private Surgery

December 5th, 2011 1 comment

Many of our friends and family members have expressed concern about the quality of health care here in Swaziland, so I wanted to do a quick post to set their minds at ease.  Most people are aware that here on the mission we actually have two clinics: one specializing in HIV / TB and another that deals with general health issues / maternity / etc.  We have 8 nurses that live within a few hundred feet of us and a doctor who works with our clinic.  This is by far the closest we have ever been to basic medical care and assistance.

But, if that was not enough, we recently discovered a place within 20 minutes of that offers private surgery if we should ever need it:

Private Surgery

With a facility this close and convenient, we might just have to undergo some elective surgery.  I am sure it is cheap and we could always use a good appendectomy or lobotomy!

 

 

 

NOTE: This is obviously written tongue in cheek… but in all honesty, we do have access to surgical services within an hour of us, and "first world medicine" is available just across the South African border.

New Address

December 2nd, 2011 2 comments

Yesterday I took (most of) a day off from work to take care of a few personal items that have been lingering on my to-do list.  Included in that was finally setting up a Swazi bank account (so I can officially be paid), and also getting our own P.O. Box.  You are probably not worried about my bank details (and If you are, I am worried about that!) but I am sure all 3 of my dedicated blog readers (Thanks Mom!) will be interested in our new address.  So here it is:

     ATTN: Ben and Beth Kickert
     Cabrini Ministries
     P.O. Box 439
     Siphofaneni, M214
     Swaziland

You can still send us mail to the Manzini address, but this will help separate our personal stuff from business mail.  Please remember to write "OVC DONATIONS" on any packages to help us cut down on taxes.

So far, the mail has proven to be very reliable.  Letters out of here have been arriving in 8-10 days and things shipped from the States have been getting here within two weeks.  Since we are dealing with a new Post Office, I don’t know if things will change, but I am good reason to believe the service will still be excellent.  Plus, this will make it easier to pick up our mail on an ongoing basis.

Categories: Swaziland Tags: , , ,

Thanksgiving in Swaziland

November 27th, 2011 3 comments

This has been the first holiday season that I can ever remember where I have been away from family.  Growing up, our extended families always lived far away and we only saw them a couple times a year, but when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas we always committed to long drives and hurried schedules in order to make sure we saw everybody.

We knew celebrating the holidays in Southern Africa could be tough.  Not only are we away from family, but the Swazi’s don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Instead of leaves changing, the coming of cool weather and football on TV, we have torrential downpours (when rain comes), 100+ degree weather and cricket on TV.  Plus, most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are difficult or impossible to find.

BUT… instead of pouting about it, Beth, Mikayla and I made sure we had one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we were able to talk with all of our families overseas (even though it meant waking up in the middle of the night, it was worth it).  Also, Beth was able to put together a lot of Thanksgiving themed activities for Mikayla including a song that we will try to post on YouTube when we get a chance.

As for having a Thanksgiving meal, our plans changed many times, but ending up being extremely meaningful.  At first, we tried to coordinate with several Westerners that we are close with to celebrate this American holiday.  However, due to schedule changes and other circumstances, no one besides us was able to attend.  So, we extended an invitation to the Swazis that we are closest with.  This included several of the mangers, the office staff, and a couple other people from the mission.

Thanksgiving, letter T 053

When it came to food, Beth in particular was able to pull off some culinary wizardry (I am sure she will post about it on her blog shortly).  Although very hard to come by, we tracked down a frozen turkey and some smoked ham.  We had traditional mashed potatoes and green beans as well as the most amazing gravy I have ever had (thanks to the sisters!).  We had apple sauce, homemade rolls, deviled eggs, a Swazi version of collard greens along with butternut squash, and of course some sweet potatoes.  The award for creative substitution came with a variation of homemade pumpkin pie that we made with butternut squash.  It was phenomenal and if you didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t have known the difference.

Thanksgiving, letter T 047

By far the most meaningful part of the entire meal was being able to share it with the Swazis we are closest to.  We were able to explain the traditions and also express our gratitude to them for their support and assistance in our transition.

I was particularly struck by the unintentional symbolism that emerged.   In America, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and we originally tried to replicate and share that with other Americans here in Swaziland.  However, what ended up happening was much more in line with the first Thanksgiving.  Tradition holds that the feast is tied to the Europeans celebrating with the Native Americas as a sign of gratitude for their assistance upon coming to the New World.  While the parallels are not perfect, the similarities were striking.  We are outsiders who are new here, and were were able to share our gratitude with those those who were already here as a way of saying thanks for helping us make the transition.

After dinner, we all sat around for hours and enjoyed each others company.  We introduced the Swazis to the Wii and as it turns out, they are pretty good at bowling!

Thanksgiving, letter T 058

As the evening wound down, the tone became a bit more intimate.  Several of guys who were still around thanked us for sharing the tradition with them.  They also expressed the things they were thankful.  Esau, our maintenance manager, said he was grateful to be a part of something that was bigger than just the people involved; because we are doing important things, we can work together even if we don’t always agree.  Johannes, our agriculture manager said he felt most thankful when he could look back at all the hard work and see the fruits of his labor.  He also said he was excited to see how people from different cultures could come and make new creations with current things (he was talking about Dad’s sweet potato recipe in particular).  Mzamo, our HR Director, continued this theme by saying he was grateful for how Westerners could come to Swaziland and make things better without having to change the culture.

At the end of the day, I drove everyone back to their homesteads along with leftover plates stacked high.  It gave me new appreciation for the dedication it takes for these people to come to work every day walking miles (some up to 6 miles each way) through the bush.

Our first Thanksgiving in Swaziland brought many firsts for us (first holidays away from family, first time cooking a turkey, first butternut squash pie, etc.) and many firsts for the Swazis (first thanksgiving, first time playing wii, first time to eat many of the foods, etc.).

Looking back a day later, I certainly missed seeing all our friends and family during this time, but at the same time, this weekend did more than anything else previously to solidify the notion that we are in the in fact in the right place.

Now we just need to set up our Christmas Tree and get ready for our first summertime Christmas.

Happy Holidays from the Kickerts!

Bush Walk: Then and Now

November 5th, 2011 4 comments

Let me start by saying that I extremely jealous of those of you who are experiencing Autumn in Kentucky.  It has always been my favorite time of year: The color in the leaves, the brisk fall weather, being bundled up around campfires, college football on TV.

While it isn’t a typical October/November for us, the seasons in Swaziland are certainly changing.  About 2 months ago we took a walk through the bush behind our house.  At the time, it was the tail end of Winter (our dry season).  But now, the wet (hot) season is fast approaching.  We have had several heavy rains, many 100+ degree days, the mangos are growing on the trees and everything is turning green.

We took another walk through the bush today and even though I have been observant to the changes, I was amazed at how much things had changed.  Take a look for yourself:

Bush Walk 057

Then…

Bush walk 2 004

… now

Bush Walk 095

Then…

Bush walk 2 028

…and now.

Of course some things don’t change.  I still have the most beautiful daughter and I wife that I enjoy every minute with.

On this particular trip, we walked quite a bit further until we reached a nearby river.  Beth mentioned last week on her blog how much we love the cattle egrets that fly around here.  Well today there were tons of them out.  Here are a couple quick picture of some we saw:

Bush walk 2 014

Bush walk 2 016 

We also saw some more "interesting" forms of life.  Check out this video of a dung beetle:

 

Unlike last time where Mikayla got tuckered out pretty quickly, she was a trooper the whole time on this trip.  Here is a final picture of her leading us home:

Bush walk 2 030

She is tough and cute… and she knows it!

Swaziland Temporary Residence Permit (TRP)

October 30th, 2011 8 comments

Updated: 26 October 2013

Having lived in Swaziland 2.5 years now and gone through the process twice, I can definitively say that the most annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, expensive thing we have had to deal with is obtaining our Temporary Residence Permit.  This TRP (as it is often called) is basically a visa / work permit that allows a person to remain in Swaziland for an extended period of time.  I figured if explaining the process a bit could save at least one person some headaches, then it was worth it… so, here are a few notes on what we learned during the process.

[SIDE NOTE: Apart from obtaining an TRP, there are a few things you can do to stay in the country if you are American (different countries have different rules, so I can only comment on my experience).  First, upon entering Swaziland, the stamp they give you at the border is good for 30 days in country.  Note, that this is not mentioned anywhere, but it is common knowledge.  I have been told that if you stay in the country with just your passport stamp for more than 30 days, then the fees can be pretty intense: as in a couple hundred emalangeni every day you are over.  So, if you want to stay current, you can always just cross the border at least once a month.  Of course that is time-consuming and requires regular planning.  The other option is to go to the government offices and get an extension of days.  If you bring your passport in, they will give you a new stamp.  But, this can only be done twice a year, so be selective on when you employ this.]

To get your Temporary Residency Permit, the first thing you need to do is visit the government offices.  This is a shabby building on the same side of town as Mbabane Government Hospital (you can see its exact location here).  When you come in you can wait and talk to a person at the front desk if you need guidance, or just walk on past and start the process.  To get where you are going, walk straight ahead past entryway desk and the staircase, you will come to crowded dimly lit hallway on the ground floor.  Everything you need for the process is here in this hallway (although if you need the bathroom, I recommend you go up a flight to the second floor).  To the right you will find the offices that handle all actual TRP paperwork; to the left you will find the file room and record room

The first place you need to go is the office that actually takes care of TRPs.  In my experience, this has been handled in room 114 or 117 (right side of the hallway), although it does change.  If you haven’t already picked up the paperwork you will need to do that first.  Unfortunately you can’t download the forms online (as far as I know) and thus have to make a special trip to even start the process.  (I have uploaded digital copies at the end of this so you can get a feel for the paperwork involved, but please note these are not official.)  At the TRP offices, you will get a list of application requirements as well as the actual forms.  For missionaries and those looking to be employed while in country you will need to pick up Form 3 (Entry Permit Application), Medical Certificates for all who are applying, and a Dependant Form (form 6) for everyone besides the primary applicant.

Here is what the application requirements actually list for each category:

  • Business Person
    • Complete application form (Form 3 – Entry Permit Application)
    • Memorandum of Association
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Covering letter of application
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (internationally recognized)
    • Lease Agreement
    • Medical Certificate
    • Certificate of Incorporation Form J and Form C
    • Passport Copy
  • Employees
    • Complete application form (Form 3)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Covering letter of application from employer
    • Proof of advert of post (full page)
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (internationally recognized)
    • Qualification Certificates (copy)
    • Medical Certificate
    • Passport Copy
  • Special Pass
    • Complete application form (Form 10)
    • Copy of Recent Appeal
    • Application letter
    • Two photos
    • passport copies
  • Dependants
    • Complete application form (Form 6)
    • Copy of residence status documents (Guardian)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Covering letter of application from guardian
    • Copy of marriage certificate (for spouse) or birth certificate (for child)
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (for those over 18)
    • Medical Certificate
    • PIN number if Guardian is Swazi
    • Passport Copy
  • Students
    • Complete application form (Form 8)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Letter from school/institution
    • Support letter from ministry of education
    • Original police clearance from country of origin (internationally recognized)
    • Medical Certificate
    • Passport Copy
  • Visitor’s Pass
    • Complete application form (Form 10)
    • Two passport sized photos
    • Letter of Application from Host
    • Residence status document of Host (e.g. Temporary Residence Permit)
    • Medical Certificate
    • Passport Copy
  • NOTE: All copies must be certified

Since we applied for the Employee / Dependant permits, those are the only ones I can talk about.  But, here are a few explanatory notes about those requirements that may be helpful:

  • Photos – these don’t require the same attention to detail that actual passport photos demand.  Ours were taken against a grimy, green wall by a market merchant for E30.  While in line, I even saw people who simply printed off small black and white photos from a digital camera on a regular printer.
  • Employer Cover Letter – This is basically just a restatement of all the information contained in the actual application.  Your employer is basically just explaining what you will do here, how you will be compensated and why they aren’t hiring a Swazi.  I have found they can be pretty anal about this.  Make sure it is properly addressed to the Chief Immigration Officer and that it includes your name in a subject line.
  • Dependant Cover Letter – This comes from the main applicant and you need a seperate letter for each dependant you are applying for.
  • Proof of advert of post – They are again wanting to make sure you aren’t taking a job that a Swazi could be doing.  Your employer is supposed to provide proof that they actually advertized this job rather than just offering it to a foreign national.  I don’t know how this works for most people, but since Beth and I were coming as Missionaries, we were able to ignore this requirement.
  • Police Clearance – There is certainly some flexibility in this requirement.  If you want the official answer, this is supposed to be your Federal Background Check.  In order to get this, you have to get your finger prints taken and then have those submitted to the FBI.  They will then send you your results.  If you are not already in Swaziland, then by all means, visit your local police station and get this taken care of.  If you are in Swaziland already, you can arrange it with the Regional Security Officer at the US Embassy to take your fingerprints, but it will be up to you to actually submit them and get the results.  However, for ours, we submitted a state background check which was available online and they accepted it.  I wouldn’t count of that working all the time, but for us it did and were are very grateful.
  • Qualification Certificates – Again, because we applied as Missionaries, we did not have to provide these.  But, the idea is that if the job being hired for requires a bachelor’s degree, then you have to prove you have a bachelor’s degree.  Basically you need a copy of your diploma or any industry certificates that you claim to possess as part of your terms of employment.
  • Medical Certificate – This is just a super simple form you pick up and have your doctor fill out.  Make sure it is not only signed, but has a stamp from the clinic.
  • Document copies (Passport, Marriage / Birth Certificate) –  In Swaziland, certified copies are very similar to notarization.  Basically to get a copy certified, you simply take the photocopy along with the original to your local police station.  They check to make sure the original matches the copy and then they stamp it and sign off on it.  My local police station did this free of charge in about 5 minutes.

Once you have all your forms filled out, your copies certified, your photos taken, and your cover letter written, you are ready to turn in your application.  This means another trip to the TRP offices.  I have found the best time to go is before noon.  When you turn in your application they give all your forms a quick look over, then give you a certificate of application.  This certificate gets you an additional 30 days in country without having to restamp your passport.  On this form is a reference number that you will later use check on the status of your application.  This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the mood of the clerk and how many people are in line.  Even after having gone through the process several times with different people, I still find that at least half the time my application is rejected for some reason.

Your application is then submitted to an immigration board who will ultimately decide whether or not to approve your application.  I was told this takes between two and three weeks and was given a number to call to check on it.  At the time of this writing, the number was +268.2404.2941.  It actually took me 2.5 weeks for mine to be approved.

The final step is actually paying for and picking up your permit (did I mention this process is super expensive?).  Again, I would recommend going early – this part of the process is by far the longest.

First thing you are going to do is return to the TRP office where they check to make sure you really were approved.  Be sure to bring in your application form you got a couple weeks earlier.  They will notate that confirmation form and then send you to get your actual file.  For this, head to the record room (101) at the very end of the hall to the left.  There will be a long line, but you can skip it.  The line is for paying and you will soon join it.  In the record room you will show them your paperwork and hand your passport(s) and they will match it to your actual files (you actually have to part with your passports to get the process done; it is a bit scary when you see their filing system, but I haven’t heard of anyone having problems yet).

At this point you are ready to join the long line to pay (did I mention it was expensive?)  For us, we paid E2,400 for my TRP and then E1,800 each for Beth and the kids for their dependant permits.  Based on the exchange rates at the time (E10/$1) that cost us about $780!

After your fees are paid, you are ready to actually get your TRP.  The last several times I have gone to help people, this means going down to the Chief Immigration Officer in Rm 119.  You will sign some paperwork, get your passports stamped and geta print off of the actual entry permit.  Once you get this completed, you are officially a temporary resident of Swaziland.

Looking back on this whole process and talking to others, there are a couple things I learned that I wish I knew ahead of time:

  • There are a lot of things that are much easier to get done in the States than they are to get done in Swaziland.  The Police Clearance is a perfect example.  Do your homework and come prepared.
  • You don’t have to be present to apply for a TRP.  If someone has your passport they can turn in the documents and pick up the entry permit for you.
  • The typical TRP is issued for two years, but if the cost is too much, you can only apply for 12 or even 6 months (but of course then you have to go back through the process again).
  • While not necessary, I took a person with me who spoke siSwati.  It helped to have someone who could talk more easily with the officials and interpret the situation from a local context.
  • You can request a fee waiver, but that must be submitted with your initial application.  If you are coming as a missionary / volunteer / etc. it is worth a shot, but I haven’t heard of it being successful recently.
  • Plan on this taking a long time.  We have had staff members who have had to dedicate entire days to each of these steps.  One volunteer had everything complete, and went all the way through the pick up process only to find out the person who stamps the passports wasn’t there and she had to come back again later.  Call ahead before you go in to make sure that not only your application is ready, but that all the people are there who need to be there.  Again, I recommend going in as early in the day as possible.
  • There are a lot of specific things needed, but in my experience with the right explanation, there is also a fair bit of flexibility (i.e. with police clearances, documentation, etc.).
  • The Dependant application asks for the permit number of the primary applicant, but you can submit all applications together.
  • Treat your actual TRP paperwork like gold.  It is essential you have the original when you reapply.  If you lose it, it will delay any subsequent applications and you will have to pay a hefty fee.

Finally, for your (possible) benefit, I wanted to upload digital copies of the applications and cover so you can get a feel for what to expect.

Renewal Process:

Compared with the original application process, getting a renewal is much easier.  All you need to do is have a renewal letter for each person — it needs to be from the employer for regular permits and from the main applicant for dependants.  You will also need certified copies of everyone’s passport, new pictures, and the original TRP documents (remember how I said it was essential to hang on to it!)  Besides less strict application requirements, the process is exactly the same.

Visitor Permits:

While working with a short term volunteer, we found that there is another option for staying in the country besides a TRP, crossing the border, or getting an extension of days.  Apparently, Swaziland has something called a “Visitor’s Permit” which allows you to be in the country for up to six months.  To get this, you have to have a letter of invite from a Swazi citizen and go to the Ministry of Home Affairs (same place mentioned above) along with the the national ID of the person sponsoring you and your passport.  The fees are set at E100/mo.  While this option is a bit easier to go through, you have to make sure the person visiting is just here for a short time and has a good story for why they are staying with a Swazi.  It is actually the Swazi who makes the application.  We tried this route but had the application rejected because we mentioned volunteering in the cover letter.

Online Tools
(updated: 20 May 2013):

While browsing the Swazi Government website, I noticed they have recently put up some new information that might be helpful.  Unfortunately, as of today, there are still some significant issues with what they have posted.  But, I will provided the links in case they are helpful:

  • Ministry of Home Affairs – main page, but not all the links work and it is a bit disorganized.
  • Permits – There is information about different types of residence/visitor permits, but unfortunately the links all go to South African websites.
  • Forms – Here they officially have posted many of the forms I included above.  Of particular interested is the Payment Schedule.

Government Work

October 2nd, 2011 1 comment

The following picture from the Times of Swaziland goes a long way in illustrating the situation with government here in Swaziland:

government_inspections

Here’s the situation: Schools in Swaziland have been in chaos for the last month due to lack of funds in the government.  Most delayed opening, then many closed down again after opening.  Basically the government has committed to pay fees for most primary grades as well as fees for all OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children), yet, there simply isn’t enough money in the coffers to pay the bills.  As a result, there has been a lot of political wrangling and posturing and it has been the children who are suffering the consequences.  Even when the schools are open, there are still major issues.

That brings us to this picture…

In this country there isn’t enough money to pay teachers; all our classrooms are beyond over-crowded; students have already been shorted instruction days; many students who want to attend school can’t because of huge fees; and, there is the constant threat that schools will again be closed…

YET… the things that actually gets attention is the inspection of a school bell.  Really?!?!  That is what is most important?!?! AND… it takes four people to accomplish the task.  How about we address the things will actually effect the educational process for the children of this country who have already been deprived of so much!

We are majoring in the minors here people!  The things that matter are ignored while a ridiculous amount of attention is spent on things that are almost entirely without consequence.

I wish this was just another funny example of oddball Swazi journalism (if you can even call it that), but unfortunately, it is indicative the situation as a whole.

Swazi Media

September 17th, 2011 2 comments

I recently made a post about the current situation in Swaziland.  This was largely prompted by some of press the country had received related to financial issues and some protests.  Some of these stories came straight from the Swazi press.  So, before you start giving too much credence to what you read, let me give you a snap shot at what the press in Swaziland is really like.

Here is a picture of the front page of one of the two news papers in Swaziland from a few weeks ago:

swaziobserver

There are so many things I could comment on, I just don’t know where to start.

Let’s begin with the main picture.  I don’t know if you can make it out of not, but that is a photo of hundreds of "maidens" all lined up to dance topless before the king at the annual reed dance.  And before you say that at least it is a classy photo, let me assure you that the inside stories leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.

Even better than the main picture is the main headline at the bottom of the page.  Just FYI, the "Sushi King" is a shady character from South Africa who is known for his expensive taste and his tendency to pour Champaign over beautiful models and eat sushi off their bare bodies.  The subheading to the story reminds readers that polygamy is still alive and well in Southern Africa.

But, the real kicker of course is the main story introduction (in the red bard).  If you missed it the first time, go back and read it all together.  Now please tell me how in the world that made it past a copy editor.

And then just for good measures, we have front page stories about a pastor showing a girl his "manhood" and the account of a gospel star (who is only 9-years old by the way) who is attacked by demons on stage.

Only in Swaziland my friends… and this is this a taste… there are crazy media accounts like this all the time.  I will try to post some more in the future.

The Situation in Swaziland

September 17th, 2011 No comments

Depending on what news outlets you regularly follow, you may have recently seen a few headlines coming out of Swaziland:

  • Annual Reed Dance – where all the maidens dance topless before the King.
  • Protests in the Streets – various groups and organizations demonstrating over a variety of issues.
  • Schools close down – lack of money forces the education system to shut down.
  • Big South African Bail out – Our closest neighbor gives the country a financial boost.
  • Wikileaks releases Swaziland cables – The ambassador’s comments are made public.

Since some of those headlines could certainly induce worry for those of you that know us, I wanted to take the time to share the situation as we see it on a daily basis.

First, there are a few broad themes you need to understand about the country:

  • Swaziland is a constitutional monarchy with a king, but also houses of assembly (senate / parliament).  In the case of Swaziland that means a really big government and a whole lot of bureaucracy.  Unlike England that has a similar system, King Mswati III has a whole lot of power in running things.
  • Swaziland is in deep financial trouble.  The government is simply too big to be supported by the streams of revenue that exist.  The country has high need (largely stemming from the HIV / orphan crisis) and low income (70% live on less than $2/day).  This has caused the type of problems you would expect: unpaid bills, promises without delivery, loss of services.
  • Most Swazis love their King, although there is a small but vocal contingent that want to see a more democratic system with less power (and money) going to the King.  This group tends to be less traditional, more educated and in general fairly civil

In one way or another, most of the recent press comes from some combination of these factors (except for maybe the dancing-topless-virgins thing). 

The bailout from South Africa was necessitated by the dire financial situation of the country.  However, the amount (roughly 3.4 million USD) is only enough to cover about a month and a half of government salaries.  So, by the time it arrived, most of it was spent and nothing was accomplished.  This "bailout" largely just served to accentuate the poor financial management of the government.

The protests have mostly been put on by groups that are upset because they are not getting what was promised to them: students are marching because they haven’t received their scholarship; nurses are protesting because they haven’t been paid on time; the teachers are upset because government hasn’t provided their share of education costs. 

Part of the principals/teachers protest has been to shut down the schools.  So far most students have missed 3-4 days of their final term of the year.  However, the actual effect is variable as some schools have continued to operate.  Unfortunately, the whole thing is largely political maneuvering and it is the kids who lose.

The financial crisis has been a rallying point for many of the pro-democracy groups in the area.  Many of them see the monarchy as a huge financial drain that must be addressed and they see the the King and his allies as the ones responsible for taking things the direction they have gone. So, the push is for more representation from the populous of the country and less power/money going to the king.  But, you have to remember that even if those points are valid, most Swazis are very happy and dedicated to King Mswati.

Then, on top of all of this, wikileaks just released cables from the US Ambassador commenting on the situation outlined above.  I haven’t read the cables, but from what I can gather, they are mostly just formal statements about the country and its leadership that any westerner who has been here two weeks could plainly see.

Now, a couple things I want to point out.  First, for the most part, Beth, Mikayla and I have not been directly affected by any of the things going on.  Financially we are not dependant on the government so there are no major worries.  Second, the protests / actions that are going on here have been largely very peaceful.  There has been a few instances where things have gotten out of hand, but no more so than what happens occasionally at demonstrations in the United States.  I think when people hear "African Protest" they picture machine guns, tanks and riot police.  Here it is mostly just a bunch of educated people marching in the streets with banners while police look on.  I am not saying that there are not things going on that I raise my eyebrow to, but nothing is happening that makes me feel unsafe.

Of course, there are a lot of indirect aspects of these situations that have and will affect us and those around us.  First, the children in our child care program have been out of school and that means that it is up to our staff to construct learning opportunities on the fly for 120 children.  Second, because government is not paying its bills, there are a lot of services that aren’t available.  This has mostly just lead to inconveniences, but I am unsure how things will progress.  There is a real worry that provisions for AIDS medication may be interupted and that could severely hamper our work.  Third, security is heightened so it means more road blocks and things like that, but again, those things are mostly just annoyances.

Having followed news out of Swaziland for over 3 years now, and having read up extensively on the history of the country, I can say that the nation (especially the monarchy) is at a very interesting point.  I have no idea how things are going to play out, but I fully expect Swaziland to be much different when we leave it than when we arrived.  Thankfully, there is nothing that indicates to me that our safety may be threatened.  There are no militias jockeying for power, no soldiers looking to over throw the government, no fires being set or vigilante justice running rampant.  If anything, people of Swaziland are just wanting to make sure their voices are heard and that the country they love has the promise of a bright future.

While I am glad some of the issues of Swaziland are getting global attention, I also realize how things might look those on the outside.  Honestly, the ongoing issues (HIV, AIDS, TB, orphan care, etc.) are much worse than any of the political issues that might occasionally make the news.

Feast or Famine // Bush Walk

September 11th, 2011 1 comment

Activity here in St. Phillips, Swaziland tends to come as either feast or famine: either there is a chaotic rush of things that need to be done, or there is absolutely nothing going on.  That not only applies to the work of the mission, but also to weekends.

My Saturday started at 6:30am (sleeping in for us) so we could get the twins ready to return to their homestead.  Then I had about a 45 minute round trip commute to drop them off.  Most of the day for Beth Mikayla and I ran was comprised of a trip into town to look at a potential vehicle to purchase.  During the day we purchased beds for the hostel, visited a home improvement store (which was a huge find for us!), met a family from the US, test drove a vehicle, stopped for lunch, found our mechanic was gone for the day so the whole trip was a bit fruitless, drove to the entrance of a game park (and saw impalas), returned the vehicle, went shopping at a new grocery store (also a big deal!), and picked up pizza.  Reviewing the day’s accomplishments though, we had to admit that all we achieved was purchasing a few things (most notably a hand-held shower head!), eating pizza, and spending 6-7 hours in single cab truck to do it.   Eish… even our days off are busy.

To compensate, we have tried to "achieve" a lazy Sunday here on the mission.  Sure, I have a few hours of work to do (Annual Progress Report for PEPFAR – US tax dollars at work), but most of the time has been just hanging out, eating, making cookies, playing wii, and a family walk through the bush near our house. 

Since busy work does not make for interesting photo ops, I wanted to post a few pictures from our Bush Walk:

Bush Walk 012

Mikayla posing in front of some season flowers along the road.

Bush Walk 023

And a picture with Mommy.

Bush Walk 045

Mikayla riding up high…

Bush Walk 046

… and riding not-so-high.

Bush Walk 063

Following trails through the open…

Bush Walk 095

… and through the brushy.

Bush Walk 078

Tree picture with Daddy.

Bush Walk 101

All tuckered out on the way home.

Categories: Family, Swaziland Tags: , , , , ,