The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will tell us this week whether it will support the Swaziland Government’s application for a $US75 million (E525 million) loan from the African Development Bank (ADB). It must say, No.
If it supports the loan, nothing will change in the kingdom. The government will take the money and waste it. When the money has run out – and remember it’s just a loan that must be repaid – Swaziland will be a little worse off and the government will get the begging bowl out once again.
Majozi Sithole, the Swazi Finance Minister, said last week that Swaziland loses E80 million each and every month to corruption. At that rate the whole of the ADB loan will be stolen in six months.
Sithole says corruption is endemic in the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. He says government cabinet ministers are among those stealing from the Swazi people.
But it’s not just corruption. The whole political system in Swaziland is rotten and does not deliver for the people. Here are some of the things that we know about the financial mismanagement of Swaziland by successive governments, hand-picked by King Mswati.
$US1bn is being wasted on building the Sikhuphe International Airport. Before it started, the IMF warned that Swaziland couldn’t afford such a project and that it would take resources away from alleviating poverty. That’s exactly what has happened. There is no need for the airport and it is just a vanity project for King Mswati.
The Royal Science and Technology Park that will cost an estimated E850 million (US$120 million) will deliver nothing to the kingdom and is also another vanity project for the king.
King Mswati III has at least $US10 billion held ‘on trust’ for the Swazi nation. He has a personal fortune estimated in 2009 by Forbes to be $US200 million. What is the point of having money ‘in trust’ for the nation, if he doesn’t use it for that purpose? Let him cut out his lavish lifestyle and use the money to bail out his kingdom.
The Royal Family takes about E300,000 each and every day out of national budget for their own use. Stop these payments and use the money to help the poor.
The national budget is this year allocating E1 billion (about 10 percent of the total budget) to the army and police. This money is being spent mainly to ensure that the Swazi population can be beaten should they rise up demanding political reform. The Swazi Government wants to spend an additional US$60 million on weapons.
The Prime Minister and members of parliament awarded themselves massive payoffs totalling E60 million when the next national election comes in 2013. Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, will personally get E1.6 million; his deputy, Themba Masuku, who already claims to be a millionaire, is expected to receive E1.4 million. Each cabinet minister will receive E1.2 million, while Senate President, Gelane Zwane and Speaker, Prince Guduza stand to pocket E1.1 million each. The four regional administrators will also take home E1.1 million each. The deputy senate president and speaker will each get E495 000. Each of Swaziland’s MPs will get E435 000.
Meanwhile, there has been next to no progress in poverty reduction in Swaziland. At the present rate it will take 173 years to get everyone out of poverty. At present, three in ten people are so poor they are under nourished.
I have no doubt that readers could add many more examples to this list.
Swaziland doesn’t need financial bail-outs; it needs root and branch political reform. Until now, the governments have been picked and controlled by King Mswati. That must stop. Political parties must be unbanned so that fair elections may be held. Governments must be chosen by the party (parties if a coalition) that wins the most seats. The parties must seek to be elected to government based on their programmes for action. Those programmes must be supported by the people.
King Mswati and his successive governments had no programme, except to keep things as they were for the small elite in Swaziland that was ravaging the kingdom: and then to deliver more of the same. They were content to spend the money we had until it ran out, ensuring along the way that they lined their own pockets and to hell with the rest of the population.
The IMF should not continue support for this. Tell the Swaziland elite this is the end. Stand on your own two feet now. And accept the consequences.