As a mass protest against the Swazi Government and the monarchy takes to the streets of Swaziland today (18 March 2011), in this article Bloomberg reports that King Mswati III ‘has a Rolls Royce, 13 palaces and 14 wives, and just received a pay increase, even as a cash crisis forced Swaziland to slash spending, feeding anger against his regime’
Rolls-Royce Riding Swazi King Gets Pay Rise as Cuts Stoke Rage
March 18 (Bloomberg) -- King Mswati III has a Rolls Royce, 13 palaces and 14 wives, and just received a pay increase, even as a cash crisis forced Swaziland to slash spending, feeding anger against his regime.
With the government freezing state wages and imposing higher taxes to fight the country’s worst-ever fiscal crisis, the nation’s five biggest labor groups plan “mass protests” today in the capital, Mbabane.
The unions want change in sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy as a 20 percent drop in recurrent state spending threatens to drive up a 43 percent jobless rate and push thousands of people in Africa’s third-largest sugar producer to search for work in neighboring South Africa. The king was awarded a 24 percent rise in his budget allocation.
“The anger will help speed up the process of change,” Vincent Dlamini, Deputy Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, said in an interview in Mbabane on Feb. 14. “We’ve seen the people of Tunisia and Egypt. They are essentially monarchies too. That can happen here as long as people consistently mobilize.”
The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s biggest labor union federation with about two million members, backed the protests, calling for an end to “the intensified state of terror enforced by the royal regime and its security forces,” it said in a March 16 e-mailed statement. Swazi workers are employed in South African mines and other industries.
Last year the nation of 1.2 million people lost over a third of its revenue as income from a regional customs union collapsed when the global economic crisis slashed trade, according to the government. South Africa, under white rule until 1994, subsidized some of its neighbors by sharing income from duties and tariffs in return for the right to steer regional policies. It’s now seeking to renegotiate the accord.
Efforts to raise money through bonds have faltered. In January, Swaziland sold a fifth of the 750 million emalangeni ($106 million) worth of seven-year bonds it offered.
“It’s never happened in the history of Swaziland,” Zodwa Mabuza, chief executive officer of the Swaziland Federation of Employers and Chamber of Commerce, said in a Feb. 14 interview in Mbabane. “People are leaving, especially skilled people, and they don’t come back.”
The kingdom will miss out on a $100 million loan from the Tunis-based African Development Bank if it doesn’t curb the continent’s highest wage bill as a share of spending.
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