Friday, November 11, 2011


Majozi Sithole, the Swaziland Finance Minister, and the Swazi Observer newspaper, are misleading the people over the financial crisis that is gripping the kingdom.

Sithole claims that public servants must have their salaries slashed by 10 percent ‘across the board’ so Swaziland can get a E2.4 billion (US$307 million) loan from South Africa.

He claimed, and the Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati III, uncritically reported him, that the stumbling block in receiving the loan was the lack of wage cuts.

Sithole was tabling a supplementary budget in parliament that called for further cuts in public spending. He said the cuts were needed so that Swaziland could access ‘external funding’. The Observer reported him saying that ‘failure to adhere to these dictates meant missing out on a proposed E2.4 billion loan from South Africa’.

And that’s where he misled Parliament. It is true that South Africa has offered the Swazi Government a E2.4 billion loan, on condition that it starts to get its financial house in order. But, the real reason why the loan, which was made available in August this year (2011), hasn’t been handed over is that South Africa also included conditions that Swaziland should move towards becoming a democratic state.

It is the ‘democracy clause’ that King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, doesn’t like. He has no intention of giving up his powers, no matter how much his subjects may suffer as a result. And that is why the money has not been forthcoming.

The Observer did not tell this to its readers, but did say that the South African loan, secured ‘with the efforts of His Majesty King Mswati III’, had been delayed ‘pending certain logistics’.

Sithole is trying to deflect the real reason for the financial crisis away from the incompetence of the government, handpicked by King Mswati, and of which he is a member. He wants the Swazi people to believe it is the public servants’ refusal to take wage cuts that is holding up the loan.

He also said that without the loan the government is running out of cash and may not be able to pay public service salaries this month, a less than veiled threat that if the public servants don’t do as they are told and take a pay cut they won’t get any pay at all.

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