Swaziland is riddled with corruption in both private and public places, according to a new report. Public officials take bribes to avoid regulations and the law, it states.
‘The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state,’ the report from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) states.
It adds, ‘For a long time the police, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as well as the Department of Customs and Excise have often been implicated in corrupt practices.’
It gives many examples including the case of the government propaganda organisation Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS) where E 1.6 million (US$120,000) was paid to service providers for the maintenance of a machine that was neither broken nor in use. The officer who authorised the bogus job cards has since been promoted and transferred to another government department.
The report called The effectiveness of anti-corruption agencies in Southern Africa states, ‘This type of behaviour is common albeit covert and therefore difficult to monitor as goods and services are undersupplied or rerouted for personal use. The results of grand corruption are there for all to see in the ever increasing wealth of high-level civil servants and officers of state.’
It adds, ‘It has been suggested that Swaziland has no less than 31 millionaires who are junior government officials. In 2005, the then minister of finance Majozi Sithole estimated that corruption was costing the Swazi economy approximately E40 million a month.’
The report authored by Maxine Langwenya states, ‘Poor people who suffer as a result of corruption took the minister’s statement as confirmation of the extent to which the country was being driven to bankruptcy through corrupt activities. The corrupt public officials thought the minister was exaggerating the extent of corruption while academics were sceptical of the statement as the minister did not provide a basis for his assertion.
‘The minister’s statement was significant in so far as it highlighted the fact that the economy of the country was being undermined by corrupt activities.’
The report states, ‘In the past, ministers have been found by a parliamentary select committee to have acted in a manner that is tantamount to theft of state property. The ministers had allocated themselves and subsequently “bought” land belonging to the state at ridiculously low prices without competing with other would-be buyers. The land was given to the ministers at below market value.’
The matter was never pursued by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The report goes on, ‘In 2015 Judge Mpendulo Simelane stated that he had been approached by the former Minister of Justice Sibusiso Shongwe and told that judges could and should make money from cases over which they presided. The then Minister of Justice is then said to have asked the Judge to preside in a case of wealthy business people who were suing the Swaziland Revenue Authority for goods they had imported. The then Minister is said to have told the Judge that the business people were willing to pay about E2 million for help in winning the case.
‘Shongwe suggested that Simelane should preside in the case and explained how the E2 million would be shared between the parties. Simelane and Shongwe were subsequently arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission and charged with corruption but charges were subsequently dropped against Simelane. Simelane remains on suspension while Shongwe is presently out on bail. This case illustrates how the Swazi justice system was abused to settle political scores and make it complicit with the actions of corrupt public officials.’
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