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MBABANE – While quarantine centres for COVID-19 are selected according to availability, affordability and willingness of the owners, for Bethel Court, there was a breach of the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. 

Health Task Team Chairman Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, when quizzed on how the ministry selected the quarantine centres that are currently utilised by the Ministry of Health at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, said they considered willingness and affordability.

Ndlangamandla was justifying the use of Bethel Court as one of the facilities used as a quarantine centre, a move that does not sit well with parliamentarians, who raised the issue during a debate in Parliament on Monday.


The legislators decried that the facility was within a densely populated area and that no tender was issued for its use.
Also, they questioned if there were no issues of conflict of interest as the establishment is owned by Senate President Lindiwe Dlamini.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, a quarantine centre should preferably be placed on the outskirts of the urban/ city area (can be a hostel/unused health facilities/buildings, etc.), away from people’s reach, crowded and populated areas, well protected and secured (preferably by security personnel/ army) and preferably should have better approachability to a tertiary hospital facility having critical care and isolation facility.

Some of these guidelines were not followed when selecting Bethel Court as a quarantine centre because it is situated in the urban and densely populated Ezulwini.

Just before reaching the establishment, there are at least three shopping centres with a huge flow of traffic.
When justifying this, Ndlangamandla said COVID-19 was a fast-moving pandemic and every decision they took was determined by the pace that the pandemic was moving at in the interest of protecting the citizens of the country from the virus.

“Although I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations of the ministry as I am in the technical working group that is working with the deputy prime minister and others to just give guidance on issues, the little I know is that in terms of getting facilities, this is an emergency and one of the things to be considered is based on the availability of whatever centre they get in terms of the affordability of the centres and the willingness of the owner to allow for that facility to be utilised as a quarantine centre and that is my broad understanding,” he said.


Ndlangamandla said it should be considered that some of the owners of these properties were not willing to give them out for utilisation as quarantine centres because they were scared that they could be infected while some of them were beyond what government could afford to pay.
In terms of the operations in an emergency, the normal systems sometimes are being waived in order to give effect.

“As you can realise, with the pandemic moving very fast, every decision must be taken promptly and therefore one believes that it is what the ministry is going through at the moment. Even the Disaster Management Act that governs the whole operation clarifies all these elements,” he said.
When quizzed on which the 10 other quarantine centres that government was using currently, he said he was not privy to that information but stated that government was still identifying more.


Auditor General Timothy Matsebula said in the event a tender was not issued at the height of an emergency, the responsible ministry or company for issuing that tender should still go to the Tender Board to justify the sense of urgency or they should get a waiver for not issuing the tender. Matsebula said if both aspects were skipped, then an audit inquiry should be done.

“Despite an emergency, we still have the obligation to do an audit in that ministry or government business enterprise,” he said.
Section 103 of the Finance Management Act, 2013, states that a government business enterprise shall prepare an annual report for that enterprise and its subsidiaries, including financial statements in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the Companies Act and instructions from the principal secretary of the ministry responsible for Finance.

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