The claim from Swaziland’s Finance Minister that the European Union might loan the kingdom money to pay civil servants’ salaries has prompted a swift response from pro-democracy activists.
Majozi Sithole told Swazi state broadcaster SBIS that reports that civil servants would not be paid from next month because the government was broke were not true.
The EU and other donor organisations had said they were willing to help out, he said.
Now pro-democracy activists have said the EU should not give help to the Swazi regime, headed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, without ‘conditions of democratization, the observance of human rights, and good governance’.
Africa Contact, Denmark, has written to Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to say Swaziland’s ‘record in all three areas is less than adequate’.
The letter states, ‘We believe that it would be unethical for the EU, as well as against its core values, to support a country whose Prime Minister less than a week ago called for the torturing of all visiting foreigners that actively called for the democratisation of the country.’
‘This is a unique opportunity to be able to demand that Swaziland treats its population to the minimum standards that the world has deemed necessary, as well as listens to its poverty-stricken population.
‘As you are well aware, Swaziland is one of the most unequal societies in the world - a country where two thirds of the population survive on less than a dollar per day and where over 40 percent are HIV-positive, whilst the King and a small elite continue to squander the countries resources on prestige projects and luxury items.’
Once it became known that Africa Contact had sent the letter, other pro-democracy organizations, including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) pledged to lobby the EU not to give aid to Swaziland without conditions.