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Sunday, 31 July 2011


As Swaziland’s economy grinds to a halt and destitute people are forced to eat cow dung, the Swazi Government has taken out a US$20 million loan to part-finance another of the King’s white elephants – an information technology park.

The loan, in the form of a line of credit, comes from the Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank).

But, there will be little opportunities for Swazi businesses to profit because 75 percent of the goods and services paid for by the money will have to be sourced from India.

The money is to help set up the Royal Science and Technology Park. When the scheme was announced in November 2010, the total cost of the project was put at E850 million (US$120 million). It was said building would start in April 2012.

Nobody, except King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch (and his hanger-on) believes the park is relevant to the needs of Swaziland.

The Minister of Information Communication and Technology Nelsiwe Shongwe said in November that the project would consist of a bio-technological park and an information technology park at Nokwane.

According to a report at the time in the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, Moses Zungu, the Project Manager, said the science park was the initiative of the king.

Which tells us all we need to know.

Swaziland is being bled dry by the Sikhuphe International Airport project which may end up costing US$1 billion by the time all bills are in. The airport is not needed, and nor is the technology park. But both have the public backing of the king, so (such is the way in Swaziland) both must be built.

Delegates from the International Monetary Fund are due in Swaziland in August to investigate how close the Swazi Government is to implementing its own Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap to save the kingdom’s economy.

I hope the first question the IMF asks is where is the money to come from for the Royal Science and Technology Park?

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Saturday, 30 July 2011



30 July 2011


Swaziland civil society democracy talks stumble

MBANANE, Swaziland — Talks on democratic reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy stumbled TODAY (30 July 2011) as the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, the country's largest labour group, walked out of a civil society meeting.

The ‘national convention’, which opened yesterday, aimed to bring together civil society groups to map out how the small southern African kingdom could begin negotiations toward multi-party democracy.

But the labour federation argued King Mswati III -- who snubbed the gathering after being invited to deliver an opening address -- had not shown a commitment to dialogue.

‘Our position is that the king has refused to entertain the question of dialogue. He said this as recently as last year. It would appear that instead of strengthening our mass power we are busy talking dialogue, a language that the king refuses to embrace,’ said national organiser Fundizwi Sikhondze.

Sikhondze said unions would rather return to the streets to resume the demonstrations that have shaken Swaziland in recent months.

Pro-democracy groups, AIDS activists and unions have staged unprecedented protests across the impoverished kingdom since April, complaining about an economic meltdown that is threatening the livelihoods of the country's 1.2 million people.

Swaziland is battling to stay solvent after last year losing 60 percent of its revenues from a regional customs union, the government's main source of income.

The government has frozen public-sector salaries and asked unions to accept pay cuts, leading to mass protests that have been violently put down by security forces.

Growing public resentment has lent momentum to calls for Mswati to step down.

The king -- whose fortune is estimated at $100 million -- is famous for his jet-set lifestyle and lavish spending on his 13 wives, each of whom has her own palace.

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The Council of Swaziland Churches has filed in an urgent application at the High Court to stop Swazi police closing down the three-day democracy convention being held in the kingdom this weekend.

The police successfully halted a previous meeting called by the organisers in March this year.

The Council wants the High Court to instruct the police it must allow the convention, which started yesterday (29 July 2011), to go ahead unmolested.

Specifically, the Council wants the court to issue an order ‘restraining the police from interrupting and interfering with the free movement of delegates and other invited guests and individuals for the purposes of participating in the meeting.’

The Council cites Section 26 of the Swaziland Constitution on freedom of movement in its action.

The convention is to allow civil society groups to discuss how Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, can be transformed into a democracy.

The Council and the South African-based NGO Phadimisa Bokamoso BaAfrica are engaged in a process they are calling Talks About Talks.

On 18 March, 2011, during the consultation process with civil society, the Swaziland Police stormed the meeting and demanded to know the agenda.

Police insisted that the meeting was being held unlawfully as no permission had been sought from the Commissioner of Police and the meeting had to be called off.

Khangeziwe Dlamini, General Secretary of the Council, said the Swaziland police have already said it wanted to stop and prevent this weekend’s meeting from proceeding as they did with the previous one.

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There are growing calls in Swaziland to open to public scrutiny a secretive royal fund worth several billion rands and for it to be used to help counter the kingdom’s worsening financial crisis, the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa reports.

Tibiyo Taka Ngwane is an investment fund with extensive shares in a number of businesses, industries, property developments and tourism facilities in Swaziland.

It was set up ‘in trust’ for the people of Swaziland by its first monarch, King Sobhuza II,
but it remains under the control of his son, King Mswati III, who has been accused of abusing it for personal gain.

Tibiyo is kept totally separate from government accounts and does not appear in the national budget or any of the economic reports now being used by the country to solicit financial bailouts.

Vincent Ncongwane, secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Labour and member of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, said, ‘If this is indeed a national trust for the people of Swaziland then we should have the right to call on it in times of need -- and we are saying this is a time of need more than ever before.’
To read the full report, click here.


Organizations fighting HIV/AIDS in Swaziland were at first incredulous at reports that hundreds of impoverished HIV-positive rural residents were eating cow dung to give their stomachs something to digest before taking their antiretrovirals (ARVs), the IRIN news agency reports.

‘It seemed too sensational to me when I first heard it, but then an MP stood up in parliament and said it was in his area that people on ARVs were doing this,’ said Wandile Khoza, an AIDS activist in Swaziland’'s central commercial hub Manzini. ‘It has come to this; the food insecurity most Swazis are experiencing has come up against the world’s highest HIV prevalence rate.’

The Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (SWANNEPHA) confirmed that some of its members were consuming cow dung after MP Josephs Souza of rural Lugongolweni reported first-hand knowledge of the practice following visits to his HIV-positive constituents.

‘A rural health motivator took me to one of the patients on ARVs who is among those that now mix cow dung with water and then eat it before taking the tablets,’ the MP told parliament.

‘We have resorted to eating rubbish for purposes of taking our ARVs because they must be consumed after a meal,’ said SWANNEPHA in a statement.

To read the full report, click here.

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