Thursday, August 4, 2011


Times, South Africa

4 August 2011


Zuma roasted over Mswati bailout

South Africa is using its R2.4-billion loan to Swaziland to force its ruler, King Mswati III, to introduce political reforms.

Pretoria yesterday agreed to lend the cash-strapped country the money on condition that it:

Co-operate in "multilateral engagements";

Introduce fiscal and related reforms required by the International Monetary Fund, and table its Public Finance Management Bill in parliament by October;

Come up with confidence-building measures; and

Allow Pretoria to assist it in building [economic] capacity.

Mswati turned to the South African government after the African Development Bank and the IMF turned down his pleas for a bail-out. The loan applications were refused on the grounds that Swaziland had failed to implement fiscal reforms specified in the lending conditions.

It remains to be seen whether the cash from South Africa will put pressure on Mswati - Africa's last absolute monarch - to introduce political, social and economic reforms.

Swaziland trade unions and opposition parties have long accused Mswati of leading an extravagant and opulent lifestyle while his people are being ravaged by HIV and many survive on less than a dollar a day.

Announcing the loan in Pretoria yesterday, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said Mswati would be expected to promote democracy, human rights and good governance and [build] credible and effective leadership, develop a strong civil society, and respect universal human rights and the rule of law.

Gordhan expressed confidence that the loan would be used for economic and infrastructural development.

Frustration with Mswati's refusal to yield to popular demands for democratic reform reached boiling point in April when trade unions, pro-democracy activists and opposition parties took to the streets in protest against the king's autocratic rule.

Mzamo Sikhondze, treasurer-general of Swaziland's banned People's United Democratic Movement, accused South Africa of again "baby-sitting a dictator".

South African trade unions and political parties said the loan should be granted strictly on the basis that Mswati would unban all political parties and start talks leading to a democratic Swaziland.

Lucky Lukhele, of the Swaziland Solidarity Network, criticised President Jacob Zuma for agreeing to the loan.

"Zuma has decided to behave like a sugar-daddy of the king. South Africa has many service-delivery issues and he must tell us what informed his decision to [lend Mswati] money".

The ANC Youth League said it was "totally opposed" to the loan.

It said the ANC government could not give the Swaziland government a loan because the ruling party's national general council in September expressed concern about the lack of transformation, and of democracy and human rights, in Swaziland.

The DA's spokesman on international relations, Stevens Mokgalapa, said: "We should use our economic power to influence democratic reforms. [The loan] should not be a freebie. We can't be seen to be sustaining the autocratic government of King Mswati."

SA Communist Party central committee member Solly Mapaila said: "The loan must come with very strict commitments towards a constituent assembly, which will work towards a transitional government that will work towards democratic elections."

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