3 August 2011
COSATU condemns Swazi bail-out
The Congress of South African Trade Unions is shocked and disappointed at the announcement from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) that the SA government has guaranteed a R2.4 billion loan from the SARB to the Central Bank of Swaziland.
COSATU remains firmly opposed to any loan which will bail out the cruel dictatorship of King Mswati III, and leave his corrupt, anti-democratic regime in power.
The King and his elite must take full responsibility for the economic crisis. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan refers to the lack of fiscal and broader public sector reforms, and the budget shortfall which the government cannot finance. But he fails to acknowledge that this crisis has arisen because of the looting of the economy by the royal family and a small elite so they can maintain their luxurious lifestyle, while the cost of this crisis has fallen on the shoulders of the workers and the poor.
The minister’s statement mentions some very vague conditions to the loan, but they come nowhere close to the demands being made by the people of Swaziland for democracy, human rights and an end to the parasitic monarchy.
It merely talks of “broadening the dialogue process to include all stakeholders and citizens”, “agreeing on milestones and timeframes:”, “allowing the parties to the Swazi dialogue to determine appropriate reforms” and “agreeing to ensure that the above processes take place in a conducive environment that is open and enjoys legitimacy among the people of Swaziland and the region.”
These are the same conditions agreed in 2004 when the governments of South Africa and Swaziland signed a Joint Bilateral Agreement, yet seven years later Swaziland remains a dictatorship, where human rights are ruthlessly suppressed!
Even worse, Pravin Gordhan states that “the government of SA aligns its financial support and conditions to those of the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank”. Yet recently the Swazi government made a commitment to the IMF to cut 7,000 jobs in the public sector to help ease its possibilities for securing a loan from them.
As always with loans from such capitalist financial institutions, it is the workers and the poor who must pay the price for their rulers’ profligacy
So long as there are no strict conditions to compel the regime to concede democratic reforms and to share the country’s wealth among the people, the loan will simply be used to perpetuate the status quo. Mswati’s lavish lifestyle and the royal family’s extravagance, impunity and lack of accountability will continue unabated, while the conditions of misery for the majority get even worse.
There should be no bail-out for a regime which has plunged the country into the mess it finds itself in today and which is still to account to the Swazi people why the economy has collapsed in a country so well endowed naturally. Any bail-out should have been conditional upon a democratic transformation and rebuilding of the economy under a democratic, transparent and accountable process.
At present the people of Swaziland live under a state of emergency that bans political parties and outlaws all forms of political activity, including people’s rights and freedoms to organise, associate and speak on issues affecting the country and their lives. Only members of the royal family and their friends have rights in Swaziland; the rest of the people are objects of royal slavery and economic exploitation by the tinkhundla system.
We support the demands of the people of Swaziland - the workers, women, youth and rural landless masses, and the political movements and churches. Through mass action and organised resistance, they have openly declared their untiring commitment to a society based on respect for human dignity, democracy and social justice.
For their commitment to these noble ideals, they have become victims of extreme police brutality and torture, state violence and persecution by agents of royal rule. They have been arrested, forced into exile, thrown out of their land of birth, lost their jobs and means of livelihood, and denied opportunities in every way possible.
COSATU supports the call by the Swazi progressive forces to intensify their struggle on the ground and stand ready to offer solidarity in action. We call, on all democracy-loving people are called upon to stand up and join the march to a new, democratic Swaziland. Our demands, which are not separate from the demands of the struggling people of Swaziland, are:
A democratically elected National Constitutional Forum
Unbanning of political parties
Unconditional release of all political prisoners and the return of all exiles
Immediate removal of all laws that prohibit free political activities and ban the rights to associate, organise and speak freely.
There must be no bail out from South Africa until all these demands have been met!