9 August 2011
Swazi democratic movement “disappointed” at South Africa loan
“We’re disappointed,” says Sikelela Dlamini from the Swaziland United Democratic Front. He is commenting on the $355 million loan that South Africa has promised Swaziland’s absolute monarchy to stave off an economic and political meltdown in Swaziland.
Swaziland had been refused loans from the IMF and the African Development Bank earlier this year and is now virtually bankrupt due to financial mismanagement. Civil servant salaries have stopped or are to be slashed, delivery of HIV-medicine to the hundreds of thousands of Swazi’s infected with HIV has stopped, the Royal Swazi National Airways has been grounded, and yesterday, the University of Swaziland was closed down and students sent home.
In fact, the only areas of Swazi society that are not on course for cutbacks are Swaziland’s security forces, who have helped to brutally suppress the country’s democratic forces (the regular police forces, on the other hand, will have their salaries cut) and the allowance of the country’s absolute monarch, Mswati III, who recently got a rise.
And the loan will not change this, as a Swazi government document recently obtained by global news agency AFP shows. This means that South Africa’s pretext for giving the loan – to stave off a meltdown of the Swazi economy in order to prevent masses of refugees from fleeing Swaziland to neighbouring South Africa as they have done Zimbabwe – is either ill-informed or deceitful.
Justifying not offering any concrete conditions for the loan other than “dialogue” of the grounds of respecting Swaziland’s national sovereignty also seems rather ironic. When the ANC were trying to topple the apartheid regime in South Africa they certainly weren’t too concerned with respecting the national integrity of an undemocratic country that terrorized its own citizens, and justifiably so.
Given this history of corruption, financial mismanagement and cronyism in Swaziland, the democratic movement in Swaziland, on the other hand, is demanding that political and economic reform be made a specific condition of any loans given to the Swazi regime.
“We are not entirely despondent, however” says Sikelela Dlamini. “Yes, we wish South Africa had been as firm on the reform agenda as she is on economic reform. But we believe we can still influence the direction of reform conditions by engaging South African stakeholders immediately. Don’t forget that the finer details of the conditions for bailout are still being negotiated. This is where we can tighten the vague reform agenda to our advantage. It now all depends on our collective ability to seize the opportunities, however small, and exploit them to our fullest advantage, but we must move fast.”
Swaziland’s democratic movement is up against more than political expediency, however.
They also have the personal interest of South African President Jacob Zuma and the ANC to consider. Not only is Zuma married to one of Mswati III’s nieces, but he and the ANC have investments in Swaziland to protect, such as the anthracite mine that the ANC’s investment vehicle, Chancellor House Holdings, owns 75% of.
South Africa is also Swaziland’s largest trading partner, the latter being totally economically dependent on the former. Ironically, the Swazi monarchy cooperated with the apartheid regime in the seventies and eighties, where Swazi police abducted ANC cadres and delivered them to South African army and security forces, who were also allowed to operate in Swaziland. King Mswati III even invited apartheid Prime Minister Botha to his coronation.
S AFRICA SETS OUT LOAN CONDITIONS