Face it: R2.4bn 'loan' to Swaziland is a gift, says Cosatu

The Congress of South African Trade Unions says it is impossible that the R2.4-billion bail-out lent to Swaziland’s Central Bank by the South Reserve African Bank could ever be repaid, and it should be called a “gift”.

Cosatu’s deputy president Zingwisi Losi, who was detained and then deported by Swazi police after she addressed a union protest in Siteki on Wednesday, addressed a small media gathering in Newtown, Johannesburg on Friday.

Losi said that the Swazi government owed R70-billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, and would not find the money to repay the R2.4-billion loan.

She said that Swaziland’s King Mswati III already tried to lay claim to the cash meant for the running of the country.

The Mail & Guardian also reported on Friday that part of the loan was to be paid to a company with links to the Swazi royal family.

The South African government has stood security for the loan and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has assured critics that governance and financial reforms were part of the deal.

No payout yet
The first of three payments to the debt-burdened country were expected last month but no money has been transferred yet.

Losi and her colleague Cosatu member Zanele Matebula were in Swaziland this week where they said they “did not meet a single person in Swaziland who said that the bail-out was welcome”.

“On the contrary—everyone we met, both inside and outside of the democracy movement, said the bail-out will actually make matters worse.”

Losi said that the trade union movement was calling on the ANC and government to review the idea of the bail-out and “dissociate themselves from this murderous regime”.

Losi, Matebula and Swazi democracy campaigner Stephen Faulkner were deported from Swaziland after addressing protesters in the town of Siteki on Wednesday.

They had gone to Swaziland to support a week of planned protests against King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for 25 years.

‘Berserk’ reaction
Losi said the police were brutal when they arrested the Cosatu members.

“When I took the platform the security services went berserk. They physically attacked individuals, they used live ammunition and rubber bullets and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the gathering and arrest the Cosatu comrades, including myself”.

“There was absolutely no reason for the security forces to behave in this manner, and they must be exposed.”

“The world needs to know what Swazi democrats have to face every day of their perilous lives.”

But Swazi democracy campaigner Stephen Faulkner, who was also deported, was extremely optimistic that the tide was turning in Swaziland and called the protests in Swaziland this week “completely unprecedented”.

“I think it is unstoppable mobilisation,” he said, comparing the weeklong demonstrations to the pro-democracy protests that took place in North Africa earlier this year.

Faulkner said he had heard reports from Swaziland that Friday would mark the biggest day of protests in the Swaziland ever with 5 000 protestors having turned out in the capital.

Faulkner also said that atmosphere on the streets of Swaziland was changing and becoming more open.

Times have changed
“A year ago people were afraid to talk openly about democracy but now that has changed,” he said.

Losi echoed his sentiments saying to “gather four thousand people in both Manzini and Mbabane is an astonishing achievement and especially so when one considers the brutal state repression that was used on protestors and Cosatu comrades last year”.

She said that although they had been deported, Cosatu members would return to the cash-strapped country to show solidarity with activists.

She said the Swazi police had recorded their South African addresses and warned: “We will google you. We will follow you.”

Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement’s secretary general Skhumbuzo Phakathi thanked campaigners across the world for the solidarity the protesters had received and urged them to continue their support.

He said the protests would continue to “expose once and for all the brutal and arrogant undemocratic regime”.

Phakathi also condemned the R2.4-billion bail-out, saying the money was going to the construction sector, which had links with the Swazi monarchy.
He asked why money had to be spent on an international airport when the country had no airline.

But he promised that even though police had resorted to “martial law and full-scale repression”, the campaigners refused to be intimidated and were daily getting more confident that the system was on its knees.

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