Ndlangamandla says there is ‘a growing tendency by some in the echelons of power to go to all lengths to stifle public discourse and debate,’ about the economy. He goes on to name Barnabas Dlamini, the Swazi Prime Minister, as one of those culprits.
Writing in the Observer today (17 November 2011) Ndlangamandla tells of a meeting of ‘stakeholders’ to discuss the economy that was cancelled by the government. He writes, ‘This collection of influence brokers in the country’s economic, social and political strata would also have dissected our general spending patterns as a country to try and come up with answers and a way forward on the sad fact that despite the untold grinding poverty the country has faced in the past two decades, over 80% of the country’s wealth is shared by a mere 10% - the privileged few.
‘This group, I suspect, would also have gone through government’s bullet-holed and dog-eared balance sheet with a view to come up with realistic strategies to re-prioritise budgetary allocation.’
Maybe they would. And maybe they wouldn’t. Who knows? because the meeting didn’t take place.
But you can bet your last Rand that they wouldn’t have mentioned the most privileged of ‘the privileged few’, King Mswati III, Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The King has made no sacrifice during the present economic turmoil and no one in Swaziland – least of all Ndlangamandla and the Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati himself, has publicly dared to point out the fact that the King and his family swill around in vast wealth while some of his subjects are so poor they have to eat cow dung before they can take their ARV medicines for HIV.
But last night a small crack appeared. Interviewed by the BBC World Service radio Joannes Mongardini, the Head of the IMF mission to Swaziland, was asked whether the King and his expenditure is an issue?
Mongardini is a born diplomat. Quietly, he responded, ‘The expenditure clearly poses a factor in transfers to His Majesty and in the context of a fiscal crisis we would expect all Swazis to make a sacrifice in order to reduce government spending,’ – which in diplomatic speak means ‘You Bet I Do.’
So, let’s not stifle the debate – let’s openly talk about the king, his wealth, and how as the most privileged of the few, he has sucked his kingdom dry.
And, if Ndlangamandla wants to be taken seriously as a journalist and commentator on important Swazi national affairs let him start the debate in tomorrow’s Swazi Observer.