5 July 2011
SA must force Swaziland
South Africa must use a $1.4-billion bailout request from Swaziland to pressure the tiny kingdom into opening talks on political reforms, pro-democracy activists said yesterday (5 July 2011).
"Our message is simple: Swaziland desperately needs this money but Swaziland is in this condition because of the recklessness of the current regime," said Musa Hlope of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations.
"Use this money as leverage to get the king to commit to a negotiated political settlement," he told AFP.
Hlophe is part of an eight-member delegation representing Swaziland's main opposition groups, including the banned People's United Democratic Movement, who will travel to South Africa this week to lobby Pretoria.
They say that to receive the R10-billion ($1.4-billion) loan, King Mswati III should allow political parties, which were banned in 1973, and commit to a transitional government to pave the way for elections within four years.
Mswati is Africa's last absolute monarch, ranked among the world's wealthiest royals by Forbes magazine, but rules over an impoverished nation that has the planet's highest incidence of HIV.
International lenders have already turned down Swaziland's loan requests over the kingdom's refusal to implement economic reforms. In desperation, Mswati has asked South African President Jacob Zuma for a loan to keep the country solvent.
Swaziland's fiscal crisis was brought on by a 60 percent drop last year in revenues from a regional customs union, the government's main source of income. A new formula in how revenues are distributed saw Swaziland's share slashed, a change the kingdom failed to budget for.
Finance Minister Majozi Sithole has warned government is running out of money to pay salaries for 35 000 civil servants.
Teachers and other civil servants have refused salary cuts recommended by the International Monetary Fund and have embarked on a series of protests calling on the government to resign.