South Africa: ANC government shuts door on Swaziland democracy movement

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King Mswati III: sitting pretty after ANC "bail out".

August 5, 2011 -- South Africa's African National Congress government has defied supporters of democracy in Swaziland and granted the repressive absolute monarchy a five-year, R2.4 billion loan. The bailout, which was announceded by King Mswati III on August 3, has been condemned by the Swazi democracy movement and its supporters in South Africa. While its conditions do not require democratic reforms, the Swazi people will be subject to harsh austerity in order for the regime to repay the loan.

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August 4, 2011 -- The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) is calling upon the South African government to stop dilly dallying at a time when it has a genuine opportunity to exert pressure on Swazi authorities to stop human rights abuses and end the Tinkhundla dictatorship.

The Swazi people, through their political parties and civic organisations, made it clear that they wanted an assurance that any loan granted to Swaziland by the South African government would come attached with strict and clear demands to create a transparent political environment which would make sure that the assistance is not in vain.

The key immediate demands of the Swazi people are:

1. The unconditional unbanning of all political parties.

2. The release of all political prisoners.

3. The return of all exiles.

4. The unconditional freedom of all political prisoners.

5. The drafting a democratic constitution.

6. Freedom of expression in all media broadcasting institutions and a complete end to censorship.

7. The end of the Tinkhundla royal experiment.

8. The election of a transition government.

The South African government ignored all these demands and instead focused on its own bilateral agreements with the Swazi government. This is fair, as no government will bail out another for free.

The South African government is free to extract as many concessions from its Swazi counterparts as it can. However, it is wrong to trivialise the efforts of Swazis to engage them on the bigger issue of sound governance and
democracy. If truth be told, the pro-democracy movement has been ignored by the South African government.

There is nothing tangible that is listed in the conditions of the loan that will lead towards democracy in Swaziland. The conditions are nothing but vague and empty but nice sounding words that tip toe around the issue,
mentioning human rights and democracy here and there, but in the end giving no concrete plan on the role that the loan agreement will play in encouraging the Swazi government to pave way for those things to become a reality.

Ironically, the statement issued by the minister of finance is very clear on the repayment of the loan. As long as Swaziland is a member of Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and continues to contribute to it, there is no way that South Africa cannot get its money back. That is the only thing that is worth telling about the loan agreement. Everything else is just a lot of hot air.

It is extremely disheartening to note that this comes from a government of a democratic country, led by a political party that was put in power by a democratic process which only became a reality due to the support and sacrifice of virtually the entire world.

When apartheid ended in South Africa, an elderly statesman was quick to vilify the United States of America for having sided with apartheid for so long while the rest of the world was opposed to it – a role that the South African government is now playing. On another occasion he went on to give moral support to the Palestinian cause but still said nothing about the oppression in his backyard. In all these years neither he nor his followers have ever given support to the cause for democracy in Swaziland. Their hypocrisy stinks all the way from Gauteng to Mbabane.

PUDEMO: 'A betrayal of trust'

By the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)

August 5, 2011 -- In announcing that Swaziland has been bailed out by South Africa, King Mswati stopped short of bragging about the personal "cordial relationship” he has with South Africa's president Jacob Zuma. It is water under the bridge that an undemocratic, corrupt, wasteful and failed state, the world's last absolute monarchy led by one of the richest kings in the world, who rules and reigns one of the world's poorest countries. whose more than 26% of the total population is HIV positive, and over 70% live below $1/day, has been bailed out by one of the world's most respected democracies, neighbour South Africa.

This is a betrayal of the trust of the Swazi people [by] the South African government and its institutions. PUDEMO reiterates that bailing out the Swazi regime is not the solution but a burden to a future democratic state that will carry the task of paying off these loans that would not have benefited the people but the ruling elite. This is rewarding bad governance, corruption, oppression and mismanagement of public funds.

Equally embarrassing is another bailout by the EU to fund the king’s vanity projects which have no value to the ordinary lives of the poor people of Swaziland.

This bail out will among other things:

  • Ensure that princes and princesses are paid their monthly allowances under the royal civil list.
  • Ghost civil servants and army personnel whose only duty is to report for royal duty will be paid.
  • Some members of the royal family will continue to draw double salaries.
  • Corrupt government officials will continue to get their over R80million per month through corrupt means.
  • More members of the royal family will continue to tour and shop around the world.
  • Millions will be paid into the accounts of front companies owned by ministers and their friends.
  • More weapons will be bought from South Africa to brutalise activists in Swaziland.

The conditions that are said to be attached to the loan are not in the interest of the Swazi people. Without a clear non-negotiable condition for the regime to engage in a genuine democratisation process, there are no conditions at all.

The people of Swaziland expected better from the South African government. This is a betrayal and PUDEMO condemns it. We are yet to be convinced that it is in the interest of the Swazi people.

Nonetheless this will not dampen our spirits. We will fight on until this regime collapses. Our ultimate goal remains the attainment of democracy in Swaziland.

PUDEMO will continue to forge unity among all pro-democracy groups in Swaziland to intensify our national momentum towards democracy. Equally so, we are calling on all our genuine international friends to put pressure for the regime to democratise.

COSATU condemns Swazi bail out

August 3, 2011 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is shocked and disappointed at the announcement from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) that the South African government has guaranteed a R2.4 billion loan from the SARB to the Central Bank of Swaziland.

COSATU remains firmly opposed to any loan which will bail out the cruel dictatorship of King Mswati III, and leave his corrupt, anti-democratic regime in power.

The king and his elite must take full responsibility for the economic crisis. Finance minister Pravin Gordhan refers to the lack of fiscal and broader public sector reforms, and the budget shortfall which the government cannot finance. But he fails to acknowledge that this crisis has arisen because of the looting of the economy by the royal family and a small elite so they can maintain their luxurious lifestyle, while the cost of this crisis has fallen on the shoulders of the workers and the poor.

The minister’s statement mentions some very vague conditions to the loan, but they come nowhere close to the demands being made by the people of Swaziland for democracy, human rights and an end to the parasitic monarchy.

It merely talks of “broadening the dialogue process to include all stakeholders and citizens”, “agreeing on milestones and timeframes”, “allowing the parties to the Swazi dialogue to determine appropriate reforms” and “agreeing to ensure that the above processes take place in a conducive environment that is open and enjoys legitimacy among the people of Swaziland and the region”.

These are the same conditions agreed in 2004 when the governments of South Africa and Swaziland signed a Joint Bilateral Agreement, yet seven years later Swaziland remains a dictatorship, where human rights are ruthlessly suppressed!

Even worse, Pravin Gordhan states that “the government of SA aligns its financial support and conditions to those of the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank”. Yet recently the Swazi government made a commitment to the IMF to cut 7000 jobs in the public sector to help ease its possibilities for securing a loan from them.

As always with loans from such capitalist financial institutions, it is the workers and the poor who must pay the price for their rulers’ profligacy

So long as there are no strict conditions to compel the regime to concede democratic reforms and to share the country’s wealth among the people, the loan will simply be used to perpetuate the status quo. Mswati’s lavish lifestyle and the royal family’s extravagance, impunity and lack of accountability will continue unabated, while the conditions of misery for the majority get even worse.

There should be no bail out for a regime which has plunged the country into the mess it finds itself in today and which is still to account to the Swazi people why the economy has collapsed in a country so well endowed naturally. Any bail out should have been conditional upon a democratic transformation and rebuilding of the economy under a democratic, transparent and accountable process.

At present the people of Swaziland live under a state of emergency that bans political parties and outlaws all forms of political activity, including people’s rights and freedoms to organise, associate and speak on issues affecting the country and their lives. Only members of the royal family and their friends have rights in Swaziland; the rest of the people are objects of royal slavery and economic exploitation by the tinkhundla system.

We support the demands of the people of Swaziland -- the workers, women, youth and rural landless masses, and the political movements and churches. Through mass action and organised resistance, they have openly declared their untiring commitment to a society based on respect for human dignity, democracy and social justice.

For their commitment to these noble ideals, they have become victims of extreme police brutality and torture, state violence and persecution by agents of royal rule. They have been arrested, forced into exile, thrown out of their land of birth, lost their jobs and means of livelihood, and denied opportunities in every way possible.

COSATU supports the call by the Swazi progressive forces to intensify their struggle on the ground and stand ready to offer solidarity in action. We call, on all democracy-loving people are called upon to stand up and join the march to a new, democratic Swaziland.

Our demands, which are not separate from the demands of the struggling people of Swaziland, are:

  • a democratically elected National Constitutional Forum
  • unbanning of political parties
  • Unconditional release of all political prisoners and the return of all exiles
  • immediate removal of all laws that prohibit free political activities and ban the rights to associate, organise and speak freely.

There must be no bail out from South Africa until all these demands have been met!

Young Communist League condemns loan

By the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL)

August 4, 2011 -- The YCL condemns the granting of loan to the Swaziland Monarchy by South African government.

As the Young Communist League of South Africa [Ufasimba] we are very disheartened by the move to grant the Swazi dictator R2.4 billion by the South African government through the Central Bank. This move was done in spite of all calls and lobbying to the South African government form internal and abroad activists and political organisations.

The current state of affairs in Swaziland is one that is characterised by serious lack of good governance and all accepted norms for a democratic state. Yet in spite of all the warnings, the South African Central Bank neglected all pre-requirements not to make the payment as it usually does locally by setting macroeconomic targets that are not worker friendly and detrimental to the poorest of the poor and largely outside of South Africa’s development needs.

This is the same developmental agenda by the central bank and national treasury that serves and promotes the rich, the exploiters, the owners of the means of production and a slap in the face to the of our workers and the poor as it is in Swaziland by serving the king the exploiter, the looter who slaps his subjects in the face with a poverty clap.

The behavior of our Central Bank should be condemned, and it is no different to that of the imperialists across the Atlantic in Bretton Wood institutions! As to why, in spite of all the norms and forms of good accounting principles the Central Bank gave away hard earned taxpayers money to a country long in support of the European Union in SACU and stood to opposed our Republic puzzles us. In fact this behaviour is no different to the Tinkundla system in Swaziland by the Central Bank.

As Ufasimba we demand a full explanation from the ministry of finance because this money could have been used to create youth empowerment programs in line with our resolutions in the Jobs for Youth Summit and better still South African government could have attached a condition for a democracy in Swaziland.

The YCL will continue to give solidarity to the Swazi people in their struggle for Democracy. We further call for the unbanning of all political parties, release of all political prisoners and the return of all those in exile.