5 September 2011
An Open letter to President Zuma on the Bail Out of the Swaziland Monarchy
Dear Comrade President Jacob Zuma,
Despite the misgivings of very many people, the rumours that the South African Government were preparing to bail out the Swaziland Royal Regime have now been confirmed.
News that an ANC Government, utilising the resources of the Reserve Bank, has committed R2.4 billion over the next three years to the Swaziland Royal Elite has disappointed advocates for Swaziland democracy world wide, and no more so than in Swaziland itself.
If this was not disappointing enough, the terms that have been attached to the ‘loan’ simply mirror the neo-liberal conditionalities associated with the IMF and World Bank, and will favour the powerful, and will not relieve the plight of the poor.
Granting this loan has sent a message to the world that the current regime in Swaziland is legitimate, that it is based on universal franchise and respects the norms of democratic governance, when in fact the opposite it true.
The current Swazi regime has consciously attacked those advocating democratic change and shamelessly continues to do so. It has imprisoned and tortured trade union and civil rights activists who have dared to challenge despotic rule. It continues to corruptly squander the resources at its disposal, and preserve elite lifestyles that sharply contrast with the impoverishment experienced by the mass of the people of Swaziland.
Despite the bailout being granted, the regime is continuing with plans to retrench almost 50% of all public sector workers. It is refusing to pay negotiated salary increases that were to be awarded to already underpaid teachers. It is continuing to invest virtually nothing in healthcare projects and other social services that the people of Swaziland chronically require to tackle the world’s worst HIV/Aids crisis and associated ills derived from chronic poverty levels.
We have noted the comments of the ANC Secretary General Comrade Gwedi Mantashe, stating that the loan is intended to forestall a major crisis in Swaziland that could have implications for the region as a whole. With respect, what Comrade Mantashe and others have failed to acknowledge is that a crisis already exists in Swaziland. Acute poverty levels, compounded by despotic rule and state repression have forced many thousands to flee the country. Those who remain continue to live on the edge of existence. How can this not be described as a crisis that imperils the region?
Comrade President, an opportunity has been lost, but it is not too late to make amends given the loan is to be granted in three tranches. We ask that you do all within your power to right a serious wrong. Nothing less than the reputation of South Africa as a country that supports democracy in Africa is at stake.
We ask that you immediately intervene to change the terms of the loan. You have the power to do so, and we ask that you use this power for the common good.
As a first step, we ask that the South African Government constructively engage the democratic forces inside Swaziland without delay, to seek their advice on how best to ensure that if the loan is to be granted, it will not be used to further repress the democratic aspirations of the Swazi people, or to maintain the corrupt and inappropriate lifestyles of a small elite, or to further drive down the living standards of workers. These are basic requirements towards a democratic Swaziland.
The struggle for democracy in Swaziland is entering a new and critical phase. Trade Unions, Students, Banned Political Parties, Civil Society and Faith Based Organisations and many others are building broad based coalitions to challenge rule by Royal Decree. There is a new collective confidence emerging that should be embraced by all those who support democracy in Swaziland.
Given the vital role played by a similar mass constituency in the struggle against apartheid, we are certain that you will understand the need for a strong and responsive civil society in the current impasse.
Another Swaziland is possible, and we ask that the South African Government embrace the possibilities for change rather than by default support the very forces who have created the current crisis and have shown themselves incapable of representing the interests of the Swazi people.
We, and very many others in all parts of the world await your speedy and considered reply,
Yours on behalf of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign is a global campaign with chapters throughout the world. It main chapter is inside Swaziland, and brings together Trade Unions, Faith-based and Community Organisations to campaign for a democratic Swaziland.
Issued by Swaziland Democracy Campaign