Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pretoria's Conditions Tie Mbabane's Hands

The relative restraint shown by the Swazi government during the five days of rolling protests across the country last week demonstrate Mbabane's increasing recognition that survival hinges on how it is seen to be handling the democracy demands of its citizens.

Though many within the Swazi pro-democracy movement initially lambasted South Africa for agreeing to the R2,4-billion (US$351-million) bailout for Africa's last monarchic autocracy, they recognise that the first basket of conditions attached to the loan, dealing with general democratic reforms, has forced the Swazi government to give a freer rein to opposition protests.
Swaziland remains in desperate financial straits that well exceed what the loan from South Africa could cover. Despite profligate spending on capital projects deemed by international finance institutions to be unwarranted, budget payments of some R300-million each year to the royal household, and footing Africa's highest public sector wage bill - of 18% of GDP - the government is unable and unwilling to reverse its fiscal demise. On top of this, the roughly one-million-strong population suffers the world's highest HIV and TB rates and a devastatingly low average life expectancy of just 31 years.

Read the rest here.