27 June 2011
Swazi king humiliates himself
By: Richard Rooney
Swaziland’s King Mswati III stands humiliated before his own subjects and the wider world.
The king, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, took it upon himself to save his kingdom from financial meltdown. He flew to South Africa to see Jacob Zuma, the man he thought was his pal, to borrow E10 billion (US$1.47 billion) to bail out the Swazi economy.
And he got a bloody nose for his troubles: metaphorically, of course.
Zuma, the democratically-elected president of South Africa, is said to have told the king he would only meet him to discuss a loan if the king unbanned political parties in Swaziland and no longer took an active part in politics himself.
That was unacceptable to the king and the meeting didn’t take place. King Mswati would never give up power over his subjects.
Despite the lies that the Swazi press tell about King Mswati, he does not have the interests of his subjects at heart. We already know that in February this year (2011) he received a 23 percent increase in his budget when just about every government department had to cut by 20 percent. It is also whispered that the king demanded his whole annual budget upfront in one go to make sure he got it all if Swaziland did go into financial meltdown.
He couldn’t care less whether 7,000 public servants might have to lose their jobs as part of a so-called Financial Adjustment Roadmap put forward by the government he handpicks to win the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Nor does he care that his whole kingdom will suffer from public expenditure cuts.
So we knew that the king is selfish beyond extremes, and now we know he has an ego the size of a continent.
He decided to ignore the work his government and the IMF had been doing to try to save the economy and on his own initiative set off to get the money from South Africa, instead. The Swazi media, the king’s main cheerleaders in his kingdom, led their audiences to believe it was all a done-deal. The king has spoken: South Africa will give Swaziland the money and there is no question about it.
Except, this is South Africa we’re talking about and not Swaziland.
South Africa, the democracy, told the autocratic king where to get off. Why should it support him to maintain his stranglehold over his subjects, often through fear and violence?
And the king has no response. If he wants even to discuss the possibility of getting a loan from South Africa he must allow Swaziland to become a democracy.
The king is not in control. He thought he was an international statesman who was respected by other national leaders, but he is not. He has been exposed for what he is, a rather small man who is out of touch with his subjects and with the wider world.
King Mswati has no standing abroad and he is under increasing pressure at home. The clock is ticking for him.
Richard Rooney blogs at Swazi Media Commentary www.swazimedia.blogspot.com