Thursday, December 10, 2009


The time has come for Swaziland Finance Minister Majozi Sithole to resign.

He says the Swazi Government was caught totally off guard by the sudden drop in Southern African Customs Union (SACU) revenue that will plunge Swaziland’s economy into freefall and result in countless job losses and even more poverty in the already stricken kingdom.

Sithole says he did expect some drop in the receipts but not the amount that was announced yesterday (9 December 2009).

For the record, Swaziland will get E1.9 billion (250 million US dollars) this year compared to E6 billion received in previous years.

SACU receipts accounted for 66 percent of the national budget last year, from 71 percent in the previous year.

Sithole said he expected E3 billion this year at least. Why? As economists and political observers (and myself) have been saying for more than a year now the drop in SACU revenues will have a catastrophic impact on Swaziland. Where has Sithole been all this time and what has he been doing to help mitigate the worst effects of the crisis? The answer is ‘nothing’. He should step down and make way for someone who has the expertise to take Swaziland out of this mess.

In today’s Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, Sithole says he has no clue what to do.

All right, he doesn’t say exactly that, but he does say that he has no plans to announce for a remedy and he will think about raising taxes and maybe trying to borrow money. Whoops. You won’t get much money raising taxes in Swaziland where seven in ten people live in abject poverty, earning less than one US dollar a day. And as for borrowing: who in their right mind would lend money to a bankrupt kingdom?

Sithole said that government workers in some other countries which form the SACU have taken steps to address the situation by agreeing to pay cuts. In Swaziland, of course, the opposite is the case. Only last week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged the Swaziland Government not to pay intended salary increases to themselves, members of parliament and civil servants.

Has Sithole done this? Of course not and there is no sign that the government, led by the illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini has any intention to do so.

The Swazi Observer in an editorial comment today says, ‘Right now the nation is reeling from the shock of astronomic pay perks for politicians,’ and calls for the pay rises to be scrapped. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t call on King Mswati and his Royal Family to do their bit in belt-tightening for the kingdom (so expect him to be buying another fleet of expensive cars while more and more Swazis slide towards starvation).

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