South Africa is sneaking E2.4 billion (US$320 million) to Swaziland to help it shore up its ailing economy so that the undemocratic kingdom does not have to instigate political reforms, a Swazi campaigning group claimed.
Swaziland asked South Africa for a E2.4 billion loan last August (2011), but the deal stalled because Pretoria wanted financial and political reforms as conditions. King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, put the block on the loan because he would not hold talks about unbanning political parties in his kingdom.
Now, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) says the loan money is being channelled into Swaziland disguised as cash from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). This way Swaziland gets the money without reforms by King Mswati.
Swaziland is due to get about E7.1 billion in 2012/13 from SACU. This is up from the E2.9 billion Swaziland got in the financial year just ended. SACU receipts are based on the amount of trade done in Southern Africa. But SCCCO says E7.1 billion is more than Swaziland should get based on trade expected over the next 12 months.
The Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported Archbishop, Meshack Mabuza, chair of SCCCO, saying his group suspected there had been deliberate over-estimation so that extra funds could be released to Swaziland without questions being asked.
‘We believe these estimates are over-inflated in order to give the R2.4 billion to Swaziland without any political or fiscal conditions,’ the Mail and Guardian reported him saying.
‘We just don’t see how with the current economic climate being so weak that regional imports are going to grow so rapidly,’ he added.
Mabuza said, ‘It just seems very suspicious that Swaziland should be getting so much more this year.’
Budget estimates for Swaziland over the next three years forecast a E200 million surplus for 2012/13 followed by deficits of E1.9 billion in 2013/14 and E1.7 billion in 2014/15 – suggesting that the amount of money Swaziland receives from SACU in 2012/13 will not be repeated in the following years.
South Africa’s Treasury spokesperson Bulelwa Boqwana told the Mail and Guardian the SCCCO’s claim was ‘factually incorrect’ and added the payment had been approved by a Council of Ministers [trade and finance] from the five Sacu member countries.
SWAZILAND’S SACU CASH MYSTERY