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Thursday, 4 August 2011

DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE ON SWAZI LOAN

Democratic Alliance, South Africa

Statement

3 August 2011

Democratic Alliance (Cape Town)

Swaziland: Bailout - Grant Should Be Conditional On Democratic Reform

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes that the South African government has pledged a R2.5 billion rescue grant for Swaziland and will announce the terms of the bailout this afternoon (3 August 2011).

Given the undemocratic nature of the Swaziland regime, we hope that Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan will use this opportunity to show our government's commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law by making the delivery of the grant contingent upon King Mswati III agreeing to undertake serious democratic reforms. The first steps in implementing reform should be the unbanning of all political parties, and the release of opposition party members and civil society activists who have been detained without trial.

Only once these conditions have been met should the South African government proceed with payment of this grant.

Swaziland is the sole remaining absolute monarchy in Africa, right here on our doorstep, and the South African government is uniquely placed to help move Swaziland towards democracy. South Africa is Swaziland's key trading partner, with more than 90% of Swazi imports coming from South Africa. We also buy about two-thirds of the country's exports.

Moreover, Swaziland receives at least 60% of its total state revenue from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), making the Mswati regime utterly reliant on the goodwill of South Africa. The request for a rescue grant by King Mswati reveals this dependence yet again, thus we should not waste this opportunity to contribute to the democratisation of our neighbour by using our economic leverage.

It is disappointing that South Africa has thus far played such a meagre role in promoting democratic reform or providing humanitarian relief in Africa. We are contributing very little government-initiated relief to the Somalians who face mass starvation, nor are we assisting Kenya and Ethiopia to deal with the Somali refugee crisis. Instead, we are bailing out the least democratic regime on the continent with a very generous funding package.

The DA calls on Minister Pravin Gordhan to assure South Africans that our financial assistance to Swaziland will not be used to sponsor King Mswati's lavish and indulgent lifestyle. Our grant to the Swazi government should go toward improving the lot of the people of Swaziland, who suffer under stifling poverty and political repression.

South Africa's transition to democracy was supported by the African and broader international community, and we should strive to play a similar role in promoting democratic reform in other African countries. We are now in a unique position to leverage for political and socio-economic progress in Swaziland; therefore any loan granted should be conditional on a commitment from King Mswati III to institute democratic reform without delay.

Stevens Mokgalapa, DA Deputy Spokesperson on International Relations and Co-operation

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