Friday, September 2, 2011


Mail and Guardian, South Africa

2 September 2011


Lion's share of Swazi loan to go to construction

Cash-strapped Swaziland plans to spend nearly half of its R2.4-billion loan from South Africa on capital-investment projects, including the building of a road to its controversial new airport, Swaziland's finance minister, Majozi Sithole, revealed this week.

In a telephone interview Sithole said R1-billion was being allocated to complete construction projects and only R500-million to social needs such as health, education and orphans.

Sithole's comments contradict those of the South African treasury, which, at the weekend, gave firm assurances that the loan would go towards "priority areas" such as "health, education and related poverty-reduction strategies".

Treasury also confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that these were the target areas of the loan, which many in South Africa believe was only granted because of President Jacob Zuma's personal connections with Swaziland and the business relationships of the ANC.

But it is understood that the first tranche of the loan, announced on August 3, has yet to be transferred and negotiations over the exact terms and conditions are ongoing. Treasury spokesperson Kershia Singh said that because it was still under negotiation there would be no further comment on the loan.

Sithole said he had spoken to his South African counterpart, Pravin Gordhan, who was fully aware of how the money was being allocated.

He went on to say that the South African government, including Zuma, had been very strict about how the loan would be used.

He said: "This loan will not be used willy-nilly, but for the purposes of getting back on our feet and assisting the poor and needy in Swaziland and to continue to develop the country."

It has been suggested that King Mswati could receive a "personal commission" for securing the loan, which some believe might come via tender payoffs from capital projects. But Sithole said the Swazi government was doing what it could through new legislation to tackle procurement problems and corruption.

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