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Wednesday, 27 April 2011


So where is the letter of comfort Barnabas Dlamini, the illegally-appointed Prime Minister of Swaziland promised us he had secured from the International Monetary Fund?

In a blaze of publicity he confidently told the Swazi kingdom that he was about to receive the letter from the IMF and this meant that it supported his government’s bid to get a loan of about US$100 million from the African Development Bank.

He told an excited press conference on 8 April 2011that the letter would be ready within two weeks. Those two weeks were up last Friday (23 April 2011), but no letter has been forthcoming.

Significantly, the IMF itself – no stranger to self-publicity – has made no public reference to the existence of such a letter. In fact, the IMF has repeatedly stated that although it wants to help Swaziland come up with a solution to its financial meltdown this assistance should not be read as ‘formal backing of the program or financial support.’

Dlamini trumpeted his triumph at securing the letter. At the press conference he was reported saying, ‘It will ensure that government is able to meet its responsibilities for pension for the elderly, school programmes for orphans and vulnerable children and the national health services, which include HIV and AIDS Response.’

The triumph was also reported internationally.

But less than a week after Dlamini’s press conference, but not connected to it, the IMF put out a further statement about Swaziland. It said, ‘The IMF Managing Director approved a Staff-Monitored Program (SMP) with Swaziland on April 4, 2011, that seeks to start the necessary fiscal adjustment, while protecting education, health, and pro-poor spending and improving public financial management.’

It added, ‘The SMP will cover the period January-June 2011.’

Or put simply, this says the IMF will continue to monitor the Swazi government’s handling of the economy until June 2011 and then decide what to do next.

No letter of comfort was mentioned by the IMF.

So what’s going on? Is it just a coincidence that at the time of the announcement Dlamini was under pressure from trade unions and civil society generally for his mishandling of the economy? A protest petition had been delivered to him three weeks earlier demanding that he and his entire cabinet resign.

Dlamini’s announcement also came just four days before more street protests were planned against him and the government hand-picked by King Mswati III that he leads.

Barnabas Dlamini must produce this letter of comfort immediately, to demonstrate that he really does have the support from the IMF for the bank loan that he claims.

If he doesn’t show us the letter, the Swazi people might come to this conclusion: the PM wasn’t telling them the truth.

Or there might just be one other explanation. The statement issued by the IMF on 14 April 2011 was titled an ‘assessment letter’ (that is a letter assessing the present situation in Swaziland). It was published after Dlamini’s press conference and within his 14 days deadline.

Could it just be that Barnabas Dlamini is so inept that he thought this letter was a letter of comfort?

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