Friday, January 21, 2011


If King Mswati III, of Swaziland, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, thinks his military forces will defend him in any impending civil uprising he had better think again.

There is increasing evidence in the kingdom that the Army or so-called ‘defence force’ is one of the most corrupt institutions in Swaziland.

A report on ‘perceptions’ of corruption in Swaziland from the kingdom’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) named the Defence Force and ‘Public Administration’ as the most corrupt sectors in Swaziland.

I assume it didn’t include King Mswati and the Royal Family in its deliberations because they are considered untouchable. Forbes reported in 2009 that King Mswati has a personal fortune estimated at US$ 200 million and I can’t see how the King could have amassed that wealth honestly.

Swaziland’s Defence Force is rotten to its core, according to the ACC.

Alpheous Nxumalo, writing in the Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned and edited by King Mswati, speculates that corruption in the Defence Force includes taking bribes for enlistment in the defence force, money for promotions, payment for scholarships involving army cadets, receipt of commissions from contractors / suppliers, irregular expulsion of defence personnel, harassment of junior members of the defence force by the commanding generals, subverting the morale of defence personnel through false reports to the appointing authority, frustrating army officers who advocate for the protection and professional custody of army values and professional ethics.

Nxumalo’s list goes on, ‘Entrenchment of nepotism and patronage to consolidate the positions of the generals, the rampant misuse of defence assets for personal profits, the deliberate bad decisions that led to the collapse and inefficiency of the defence force air wing; the deliberate flouting/violation of defence policies and regulations to benefit the army authorities is a threat to state security.’

Nxumalo concludes ‘It is a kind of threat to the state exactly as the same level of a threat of war.’

Nxumalo goes on to say that the corrupt generals should be sacked. Quite right too, but I suspect if that ever happens there won’t be many generals left.

The corrupt ‘everyone for himself mentality’ in the Defence Force demonstrates that no commander has loyalty to the King. Their loyalty is to themselves – and whosoever will continue to allow them to keep their snouts in the trough, should the King be forced into exile.

So, the good news is the generals won’t necessarily side with King Mswati when the uprising starts. The bad news is that they won’t be on the side of the people either.

At heart Swaziland’s military are simply mercenaries: ready to serve whoever will give them the most.

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