King Mswati III has been so busy tapping up other institutions for cash that he hasn’t found the time to sign the papers necessary to finalise the huge loan from South Africa. Or maybe he’s just looking for a new source of income, one that won’t make him change his ways. By SIMON ALLISON.
Swaziland was meant to be grateful. The near-bankrupt country was supposed to prostrate itself in the face of South Africa’s generosity – R2.4 billion worth of generosity – and its government was supposed to sheepishly agree to change its authoritarian and spendthrift ways.
Instead, it’s been nearly two months since the grand and controversial announcement that South Africa was going to bail out its debt-stricken neighbours, and nothing’s happened. The South African treasury confirmed on Monday that although it was ready and waiting to transfer the first tranche of the loan, it couldn’t actually do so until the necessary papers had been signed by the Swazi government. They seemed confused by the hold-up; after all, the money was pledged in response to an economic emergency. Swaziland’s High Commission seems just as confused; the first secretary, Thomas Mavulo, said he didn’t know anything about it.
It’s almost as if King Mswati III doesn’t want our money. In the time he has not been signing the loan papers, he’s been lobbying other institutions such as the IMF and World Bank to provide a Greek-style bailout, perhaps hoping to get some cash without those very delicate strings attached by South Africa to the loan agreement.
In the meantime, Swaziland is barely functioning. Schools and universities are shut, and public sector workers aren’t getting paid. Every week, the government is having to deal with new protests from civil society groups, or educators, or – as on Monday – taxi operators, who were dispersed with tear gas, leaving thousands of commuters stranded. DM
Photo: His Majesty King Mswati III, Head of State of the Kingdom of Swaziland addresses the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters, in New York, September 25, 2010. REUTERS/Chip East
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