Unions: ‘Hyena’ king laughing all the way to the bank

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has added its voice to criticism of South Africa’s granting of a R2.4-billion loan to Swaziland.

“This decision by the South African government to give King Mswati’s regime a financial bail-out is a direct assault on our solidarity efforts to free and liberate the people of Swaziland from this hyena’s tyranny,” Numsa spokesperson Castro Ngobese said on Thursday.

“This bail-out or loan has made our government ‘hug and kiss the most hated hyena’,” he said, quoting from a 1984 speech delivered by African National Congress stalwart Oliver Tambo.

Ngobese demanded that South Africa withdraw the loan.

“If our South African government does not adhere to our demand it will reinforce our suspicions that our own government is prepared to fund a dictator’s opulent lifestyle, use workers’ hard-earned money, generated through taxes, to be squandered by King Mswati in order to unleash state terror and starve the people of Swaziland to death while King Mswati and his stooges wallow in opulence and bling.”

The Young Communist League and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) also criticised the loan on Thursday, adding their voices to those of Numsa, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which spoke out against the loan on Wednesday.

“The current state of affairs in Swaziland is one that is characterised by a serious lack of good governance,” YCL spokesperson Mafika Mndebele said in a statement.

“The behaviour of our central bank should be condemned.”

Popcru said the Swazi government did not deserve a bail-out.

“Popcru agrees with Cosatu [Congress of SA Trade Unions] that there must be no bail-out from South Africa until all these demands have been met,” Popcru general secretary Nkosinathi Theledi said in a statement.

The demands include the unbanning of Swazi opposition parties, the freeing of political prisoners and the promotion of freedom of speech in Africa’s last absolute monarchy.

The Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo), however, said it welcomed the loan but said that Swaziland’s spending should be closely monitored.

“Azapo calls on the South African government to establish a joint monitoring committee made up of Swaziland Embassy in South Africa and the South African Embassy in Swaziland with the mandate of ensuring that the bail-out conditions are respected and honoured,” Azapo spokeperson Gaontebale Nodoba said in a statement.

South Africa said on Wednesday that it had agreed to lend Swaziland R2.4-billion, with conditions.

These included that Swaziland undertake confidence-building measures and implementing fiscal and related technical reforms required by the International Monetary Fund.

Agence France-Presse reported that the loan was about a quarter of the amount the kingdom had originally requested.

Last year, Swaziland lost 60% of its revenue from a regional customs union, which was the government’s main source of income.

Reuters reported that the Southern African Customs Union’s revenue collapsed after South Africa’s 2009 recession, and that the Swazi government had been using central bank reserves, running up at least $180-million (about R1.2-billion) in unpaid bills.

King Mswati II has often been accused of fiscal mismanagement and autocratic rule.

He has also been criticised of living a lavish lifestyle while his subjects live in abject poverty, exacerbated by sky-high Aids rates. – Sapa

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Fienie Grobler
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