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Tuesday, 18 January 2011


A refugee crisis could hit South Africa as Swaziland’s economy sinks and its people flock to leave the kingdom.

And South Africa, their probable intended destination, would be unable to cope with them.

As a result, countless Swazis would be displaced without jobs or health care in South Africa which has its own problems of poverty and unemployment.

The Associated Press (AP) news agency reports that the economic crisis in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, could lead to a mass exodus of people across the border.

AP reports that trade and human traffic from Swaziland to South Africa has always been controlled and manageable. But what will happen when the occasional individual jumping a border fence multiplies by the thousands? The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommends a reduction of Swaziland’s government workforce by a third, by about 10 000 people.

In Swaziland it is reckoned that the wages and salaries of each employed person supports on average 10 people. Even Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister, has said that such a cut in jobs would bring civil unrest.

An economist attached to the Mbabane branch of a South African bank told AP, ‘It’s not a cash flow problem, like government says. It’s a structural problem. The public payroll is bloated way beyond what this country needs, as the IMF has been saying for years.

‘The banking sector is still inaccessible to a majority of Swazis who can’t avail themselves of financial services, and spending on non-essential big-ticket projects is still prioritised.’

The eventual end of the global recession will not remedy Swaziland’s economic crisis and the concomitant scenario of Swazis seeking jobs and humanitarian relief in South Africa. The IMF has noted that Swaziland’s economic decline pre-dates the current global slump by years, while other SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries were seeing robust gross domestic product (GDP) and foreign direct investment growth rates.

To read the full AP report, click here.

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