Despite the financial meltdown soon to destroy Swaziland, the kingdom’s members of parliament have awarded themselves huge pay increases.
This was in the week that it was announced that Swaziland is unable to attract any foreign investment worth the name and following the news of the loss of 600 jobs because SAPPI Usutu, one of Swaziland’s biggest private employers is to close down.
Further evidence that everyone except MPs and the ruling elite will have to suffer came with news that students in Swaziland will no longer get scholarships to cover food and accommodation.
An MP will now be paid on average a gross salary of E40 000 (5,575 US dollars) a month increasing from their previous E29 000.
They will also get allowances running into tens of thousands of emalangeni a year In Swaziland seven in ten people earn less than E8 a day.
It is now predicted that civil servants will want to see their pay rise by the same proportion. Then, people employed in private businesses will want the same.
All this is happening at a time when Swaziland’s income from the Southern African Customs Union is set to fall by about 60 percent this year. Swaziland also has a debt of E1 billion with SACU which it has to pay back.
One anonymous economist quoted by the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, said that as fewer and fewer people are employed in Swaziland, the revenue from income tax falls. ‘The taxable bracket in Swaziland is shrinking and investment levels are low, yet our public spending on social sector is on the increase. So if our SACU receipts go down, where is government going to get the money to sustain this expenditure?’
The answer of course is that it can’t. The economy is in meltdown and there is nothing the present government can do about it, because it and King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, are the ones who put Swaziland in the mess in the first place.
I predict unrest. First up should be the students. On past evidence I can’t see them accepting the slashing of their scholarships. We should expect to see the University of Swaziland burn – once again.