The King, who is Chancellor of the University of Swaziland, said that graduates from previous years had been unable to find jobs and there was no reason to expect this situation to change anytime soon.
The King who did not attend the UNISWA graduation last weekend (4 October 2008) in person had his speech read by his brother Prince Masitsela.
The King said he believed that UNISWA graduates would be able to get jobs anywhere in the world.
Of course, anyone who knows the job landscape knows this is not true. A qualification from UNISWA is in fact not recognised in most countries, including some in the southern Africa region.
The king’s comments caused outrage when they were published on the Times of Swaziland website. Many readers left comments that blamed the king personally for the situation. They said he was leader of the kingdom and had to take the blame for the poor economic performance of Swaziland. One reader even went so far as to call on King Mswati to abdicate (but I notice that this comment was swiftly deleted from the website).
The Times in an editorial comment (6 October 2008) described the graduate unemployment as ‘lack of confidence in the country’s ability to fulfil its obligations’. The Times said that the King had no choice but to tell graduates to go outside Swaziland for jobs and called on the new government to resolve the problem, although in characteristic fashion, it didn’t say how this could be done.
Vusi Sibisi in his As I See It column in the Times (8 October 2008) blamed failed politics in Swaziland for the problem and a failure to attract foreign investors to the kingdom. Those that have come to Swaziland such as the Taiwan textile owners are ‘slave drivers’, he said.
Times editor Martin Dlamini returned to the King’s speech in his own Just Thinking column yesterday (10 October 2008).
Dlamini said, ‘That he [the King] has publicly acknowledged it has to be commended. No politician in the world would dare acknowledge such failure as he/she would not last another day in office.’
Well of course, King Mswati doesn’t have to worry about that since nobody elected him and there is no way legally to get rid of him. He is the last autonomous monarch in sub-Saharan Africa. He also has a wealth of 200 million US dollars (about E1.6 million) and sends his own children to universities and schools overseas so he has no personal stake in the problem.
Dlamini believes, ‘The reason this country has no jobs can be attributed to dozens of factors, but it starts with the failure to have the right people in the right positions and the failure to provide them with a conducive environment to do the right thing.’
He is right that the blame for the failure of the Swazi economy must be laid squarely at the ruling elite.
As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported on Swaziland in July 2008. ‘When the rest of sub-Saharan Africa was growing over the last decade, the economy of the Kingdom of Swaziland stagnated.’
The IMF added, ‘Swaziland's real per capita GDP [Gross Domestic Product] growth declined from an annual rate of 2 ½ percent during 1980-94 to 0.7 percent since then. In contrast, real growth in all of sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 1 ½ percent annually since 1995 and in other lower-middle-income countries, growth averaged 7 ½ percent.'
You can’t blame Swaziland’s economic woes on some world downturn. While the neighbours were doing well, Swaziland was stagnating. The blame clearly is with the government, the Prime Minister and King Mswati III who appointed them.
The news of the King’s speech made the international media on Thursday (9 October 2008). The IRIN news agency reported, ‘The 1,500 graduates leaving Swaziland’s only university this week face little prospect of non-governmental employment worthy of their degrees. Since the 1990s, foreign direct investment has been aimed at the manufacturing sector, which uses low-wage labour, typically women, who are paid so poorly they often depend on money lenders to get through the month.’
IRIN went on the say, ‘[Some] commentators have gone as far as suggesting a government-encouraged brain drain has a political benefit by ridding the country of middle-class technocrats that historically have been the driving force behind democratic reform.’
Now there’s a conspiracy theory for you.