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Monday, 28 February 2011

GOVERNMENT TO BLAME FOR JOB CUTS

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has denied it told the Swaziland Government it had to sack people to get the kingdom out of its economic mess.


The IMF said the decision to retrench7,000 civil servants was taken by the government, not by the IMF.


The IMF also told Barnabas Dlamini, the Swaziland Prime Minister, he and other top earners should take pay cuts rather that sack workers.


Joannes Mongardini, the leader of the IMF delegation to Swaziland, said ‘We have advised that it’s better to reduce salaries than to cut employment. The large cuts should come from the top.’


The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported that top government officials include the positions of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Principal Secretaries.


The Times reported that the Swazi Government had said it was looking at cutting its workforce by 7 000 through the implementation of the Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap (FAR), a move that was believed to be a recommendation from the IMF.


This was disputed by Mongardini, who said the IMF had not given such advice but this was a government decision.


‘Government proposed the 7 000 job cuts, not us. Government came to us with the FAR and we said we were willing to help. This is a home-grown solution,’ Mongardini told journalists.


The Times reported him saying employment was an important element to people’s livelihood and the IMF would not advocate for that to be taken away.


Mongardini said it was up to government to either take the advice or reject it.


‘Don’t underestimate how sick the country is. In a few months time the country may not be able to pay wages. That would be disastrous. It is for the good of the country that we advise the way we do,’ he said.

WHY THE IMF MUST DITCH SWAZILAND

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.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

‘KING MUST NEGOTIATE FOR REFORM’

Swaziland’s King Mswati III and the government he hand-picked should negotiate with the Swazi people for political reform – before an uprising starts.

With popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, turning former dictatorships into fledgling democracies, there are stirrings of unrest in Swaziland.

Musa Hlophe, coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, writing in the Times Sunday today (27 February 2011), says, ‘... with events showing that the populations of North Africa and the Middle East are now demanding the same things we [in Swaziland] are demanding: democracy, our government has a serious problem of adjusting to the new realities. My take is that we are all better off if our leaders were to take the lead, like the monarchies of Bahrain and Jordan have done: lead the change processes.’

He writes, ‘They should initiate the necessary reforms, engage the opposition and the larger civil society in shaping a new direction for the country, in political terms.’

Here is an extract from his article. To read it in full, click here.

The pictures that touched my heart

Personally, I believe that events in North Africa and the Middle East, have grave implications for the kingdom of Eswatini.

Given the fact that Swaziland had already turned their backs on the West, adopting, instead, a look-East policy, it therefore follows that with the East crumbling, Swaziland is left in limbo, politically.

We all know why Swaziland decided to look East. They were being troubled by their Western friends who kept nudging them to move towards democratisation. The Swazi government has never cherished the idea of democracy. They hate the very word: democracy, although calling their Tinkhundla system a democratic one, simply because it allows unfettered control over the citizens.

Democracy

Therefore, with events showing that the populations of North Africa and the Middle East are now demanding the same things we are demanding: democracy, our government has a serious problem of adjusting to the new realities. My take is that we are all better off if our leaders were to take the lead, like the monarchies of Bahrain and Jordan have done: lead the change processes.

They should initiate the necessary reforms, engage the opposition and the larger civil society in shaping a new direction for the country, in political terms.

Let us not wait until we are overtaken by the revolution, however remotely possible this may look for now.

If we do nothing and hope to rely on the army to keep us in power, we may live to regret it.

Remember, trying to negotiate in the middle of a revolution is very dangerous because by then, you are either ignored or told that you are coming too late when people are no longer prepared to make concessions. It is better when we anticipate and lead change, we can do it at our own pace and terms. It is interesting to note the difference in strategy that the Libyan government took from all of the others in keeping the Army deliberately weak.

This was so that Gaddafi could not lose power the way that he took it – through a military coup. The people that are murdering Libyans in the streets are not the regular army but mercenaries from across Africa and the world who have no duty or ethics to protect their people only to take orders and wages. A real army knows the difference between protecting a government and protecting a country and its people.

This is why the tank commanders in Egypt were seen removing their headsets and not obeying plainly illegal orders.

International Press reports this week have shown that our government has been trying to buy some seriously powerful weaponry, including helicopter gunships and heavy machine guns.

I wonder who the intended targets are.

SWAZI KING IN ‘TOP DICTATORS’ CHART

King Mswati III of Swaziland has made it into the Top Twenty charts of worst dictators over the past 40 years, in a survey published on the New York Times’ website.

The king, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, came ahead of dictators in Iran, Zimbabwe, Myanmar (Burma) and Uzbekistan.

King Mswati came in at number 20 in the chart.

The ‘Dictator Index’, is described by its creator Renard Sexton as a measure of the relative effectiveness of national leaders with authoritarian tendencies in the last 40 years or so.

Only people who were in power since 1970 have been included and only leaders who managed to stay in power for 15 or more years have made it to the final round of evaluation.

Sexton says, the dictators have been measured in six main categories that define well-executed despotic rule. First, as alluded to by the cliché, “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” the number of years a leader was in possession of national power is an important factor. Second, allowing elections and/or democratic processes is ranked on a 0 to 5 scale, with 5 being free and fair elections and 0 being absolutely none. Candidates, naturally, receive Dictator Index points for being less democratic.

Similarly, tolerance of opposition or the publication of opposition ideas is ranked on a 0 to 5 scale, with 0 being no tolerance of opposition, and 5 being a free and influential opposition. The fourth factor is the level of development that the country achieved during the rule of the dictator, as compared with its local region and/or comparable countries. This is measured using the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index (HDI) and where those data are not available, Life Expectancy at birth as measured by the United Nations Department of Social and Economic Affairs.

Fifth, the candidates are measured on how much wealth they were able to expropriate through their charge as a national leader. Again, this is based on a 0 to 5 ranking, using lifestyle and broad brackets of proven personal wealth.

Lastly, the Dictator Index takes into account the size of each country, assuming that it is generally harder keep hold of a huge country like Egypt or Indonesia than a small principality like Brunei or Swaziland.

To see the full charts click here.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

KENYAN VIEW OF KING’S OPPRESSION

Some Swazis are reportedly saying they would rather be in Zimbabwe and not Swaziland as far as exercising their democratic rights is concerned, according to this report in the Africa Review, Kenya.


SOURCE


Muting opposition the royal way


26 February 2011


Behind beautiful sceneries and rich culture in a tiny landlocked country in South Africa lies the real face of oppression. This is the reality in Swaziland, which has only come in the limelight because of the famous Reed Dance and its leader whose appetite for marriage only rivals the biblical King Solomon.


Issues dogging Swaziland include economic stagnation, poverty, open corruption, censured democratic space, and high unemployment rate among others.


These put King Mswati’s III leadership style at par with the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak who was recently given the boot by his subjects during the mass protests that have been sweeping across the Arab states. The situation is so desperate in this country that some Swazis are reportedly saying they would rather be in Zimbabwe and not Swaziland as far as exercising their democratic rights is concerned. Here, disapproval of the king decree puts an individual at risk of losing land, job, house or even life if the king deems so.


As strange as their preference for their northern neighbour may sound, they are arguing that while Zimbabwe is currently facing political turmoil, it is better off as the world knows about her affairs, unlike this little kingdom which is a cauldron of human rights abuses.


The Kingdom of Swaziland became independent from Britain in 1968, but the government has successfully silenced opposition parties by banning all political organisations, frustrating human rights groups, trade unions, and civil society by declaring them as "enemies of peace, stability, security and national progress."


This iron-fisted rule did not start with King Mswati III. In 1973 King Sobhuza II dissolved parties, banned political parties and declared the country an absolute monarchy. The royal family reportedly owns everything from the land, mines and even the mobile phone company, which the ruler can switch on and off as he pleases.


King Mswati remains the ultimate determinant of law and under his ‘visionary’ guidance; sedition and subversion laws scare off any form of resistance to his policies. Although, the country’s constitution was ratified in July 26, 2005, the level of power invested in the king is still enormous such that executive, legislative and judicial powers are all levers in his hand.


And he is not stopping there; he also introduced the controversial terrorism legislation - Suppression of Terrorism Act that gives powers to the Prime Minister to declare anyone or anything to be a terrorist entity. The law gives the government discretion to declare any organisation, statement or documentation a terrorist threat.