Business Report, Johannesburg
26 April 2011
Crisis leaves Swazis in darkness
The Swazi nation is starting to feel the full blow of the fiscal crisis as its cash-strapped government fails to pay the bills.
Some government offices have gone dark because of a R60 million debt with the Swazi Electricity Company (SEC).
This has left many public servants idle,” said Vincent Dlamini, the secretary-general of the National Public Service and Allied Workers Union (Napsawu).
People in the affected areas cannot access services such as passports and certificates from some areas in the Shiselweni region, where SEC has switched off power.
Big companies are not the only ones sitting with huge unpaid bills by the government – small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are already suffocating under the pressure.
After the government suspended buying goods and services almost six months ago, SMEs, which are mainly suppliers of government, have gone out of business.
“Government is not buying even toilet paper and cleaning material,” said Mbabane businessman Johannes Manikela.
This situation perpetuated corruption, said Henry du Pont, the president of the Federation of the Swazi Business Community.
The wheels of government haven’t stopped running and this means that some better connected people are still supplying,” Du Pont said.
Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini said that corruption, a 60 percent reduction in Southern Africa Customs Union receipts and a huge wage bill had caused the country its fiscal crisis.
While welcoming the news that the International Monetary Fund will issue Swaziland with a letter of comfort in a few days that will enable the country to borrow funds from international institutions, Du Pont warned that if the government continued to mismanage money, the fiscal crisis would haunt the nation forever.
“With the lack of accountability that we’re seeing, the letter of comfort could mean a step forward and five steps backwards,” Du Pont said.
Yesterday Swaziland did not celebrate King Mswati III’s birthday because the government wants to host a silver jubilee to mark the king’s 25 years of rule later this year.
The government has set aside R5 million for the silver jubilee, which is opposed by workers.
Public servants still remain opposed to a 4.5 percent wage cut although politicians, with the exception of the House of Senate, agreed to a 10 percent salary cut.
“We can’t afford to have our salaries cut so we can finance a silver jubilee,” Napsawu’s Dlamini said.
[By hand from the hard copy]