Sunday, October 16, 2011

Swaziland: Mswati Back in Pretoria - for a No-Strings Bailout

Swaziland's absolute ruler Mswati III was back in South Africa this week to try to persuade Pretoria to proceed with the R2,4-billion (USUS$307-million) loan promised to his cash-strapped regime, but minus the terms and conditions on democratic change.

His clampdown on the Swazi pro-democracy movement has been intensifying since the week of exuberant anti-government protests in early September, closely mirroring Mswati's growing reluctance to entertain even the vaguely worded democratic reforms required by South Africa as its condition for granting the loan.

Mswati has balked at signing the memorandum of understanding attached to the loan. The MoU closely follows the 3 August 2011 statement by South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, reinforcing its prescriptions on fiscal reform (Vol 29 No 21). Its stipulations on democratic change are fluffy by comparison, with no mention of the sorts of proactive steps Mbabane should take to move towards democracy, such as unbanning political parties.

Instead the MoU reiterates Gordhan's call for "broadening the dialogue process to include all stakeholders" and his description of the role of the Joint Bilateral Commission on Cooperation, which would meet a few times a year to oversee adherence to the loan conditions. Mswati has rejected both requirements.

The MoU remains unsigned. South Africa has consequently not paid the first of the three tranches of the loan, originally envisaged for the end of August.

From Read more here.