Places We Go / Swaziland

5 thoughts on “Pictures And Scenes Of Swaziland

  1. Swazis cut jobs for loan approval
    Swaziland’s monarchy spends lavishly, as public servants balk at job cuts demanded by the International Monetary Fund.
    Mantoe Phakathi Last Modified: 10 Nov 2010 15:51 GMT

    The country’s economic growth rate halved between 2008 and 2009 from 2.4 per cent to 1.2 per cent [EPA]

    Thousands of public servants in Swaziland are due to lose their jobs in cutbacks as part of a government bid to gain approval from the International Monetary Fund for a loan. But some Swazis would rather see the budget slashed for the country’s autocratic royals.

    The civil service of the tiny Southern African monarchy comes with a high wage bill, as 50 per cent of national spending going towards 35,000 state posts.

    Retrenching 7,000 civil servants and freezing the salaries of others offer “the only way out of this economic crisis”, said finance minister Majozi Sithole.

    The government has already halted capital projects such as the construction of the planned multi-million dollar Sikhuphe International Airport.

    The country’s economic growth rate halved between 2008 and 2009 from 2.4 per cent to 1.2 per cent.

    Foreign direct investment has also declined.

    “The situation is such that we have to act now,” said Sithole. “We can no longer procrastinate.”

    In October the government presented a so-called fiscal road map to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

    It listed retrenchments and privatisation among the strategies that the government will implement to deal with shrinking state revenue.

    However, these cutbacks will “not include health and education,” Sithole assured economic experts on November 8, 2010.

    The government had already introduced voluntary early exit packages as far back as 2004 to try and reduce the number of civil servants, said Sithole, but “we had a situation where productive staff wanted to take the packages while those stayed who were supposed to leave”.

    The IMF will monitor the implementation of the programme for six months before deciding whether to give the go-ahead to the AfDB to commit funds to Swaziland.

    The government has impressed the IMF on paper but has to be “tested” on implementation.

    “If this road map is implemented effectively, government will not have to borrow money after 2015,” Joannes Mongardini, IMF team leader to Swaziland, told the same team of economic experts.

    The country’s economic woes follow the 60 per cent drop in receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) that have traditionally made up more than half of the national budget.

    The drop is due to the international economic and financial crisis.

    For a number of years the IMF has warned the Swaziland government against its huge wage bill and dependency on SACU receipts.

    In 2007, an IMF mission to Swaziland recommended that the government save some of its SACU revenue.

    The IMF had projected that SACU receipts would reduce significantly after 2010.

    “Unfortunately the government increased its expenditure when the SACU revenue went up during the period between 2004 and 2008,” said Mongardini.

    He said if the government saved the surplus earnings from SACU, the country would not be experiencing economic difficulties.

    “We need everyone to make sacrifices to save the country from these financial troubles,” said Mongardini. “Even trade unions recognise this and are willing to make sacrifices – as long as the sacrifices are evenly distributed among all Swazis.”

    This is where the government will face its biggest challenge.

    Public servants have put their feet down, demanding that government should first reduce royal expenditure, the number of appointed members of parliament and the number of government ministers.

    Money allocated to the ruling royal family is not debated in parliament. The king appoints 30 parliamentarians in addition to the 55 elected by the people. The government has 19 ministries.

    Sithole also acknowledged that the government loses over six million dollars a month through corruption: “We’re trying to strengthen our procurement systems to deal with this problem.”

    Vincent Dlamini, president of the National Public Service and Allied Workers’ Union (NASPAWU), is opposed to the planned retrenchments: “You need the workers for service delivery.”

    NASPAWU regards the IMF as “elitist” because it imposes structural adjustments on poor countries that make survival even more difficult for people who are struggling.

    Dlamini also pointed to how the adjustments merely shift services from the state to the private sector: “What you will see is that civil servants will be retrenched and the same people will provide those services after privatisation.”

    In this case the government plans to set up autonomous agencies that will absorb the bulk of the retrenched workers, a move welcomed by Emmanuel Ndlangamandla, director of the Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations (CANGO).

    “We have also been made to understand that retrenched workers will be trained to become entrepreneurs.”

    Ndlangamandla remains confident that the exemption of health and education from the cutbacks means that such services will not be affected: “We do not expect government stop helping the poorest of our people.”

    Sithole did inform journalists that the government wants the flexibility of borrowing from both the international financial institutions and from local banks and pension funds.

    “The law stipulates that 30 per cent of pension funds should be invested in the country. The money is lying around in banks (as shown by the lack of) capital projects in the country,” said Sithole.

    The government will compare the interest rates of local and international institutions as part of deciding on possible sources of loans.

    This article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.

  2. Swaziland’s Silent HIV Epidemic
    In one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and also one of the deadliest.
    BY SHAUN RAVIV | JULY 12, 2011

    NHLANGANO, Swaziland — The first shock for visitors to Swaziland is how beautiful it is. Most of the year, the high-veld areas sport endless green mountains with scattered homesteads and roaming cows and goats. There is no such thing as a bad view in Swaziland. Nearly every home, outside the few small bustling areas, is the beginning and end to a private hike that can go on for hours. Watering holes and waterfalls tend to be hidden, rather than pointed to by arrows and neon signs, and provide a perfect place to have a romantic picnic or quiet game of Scrabble.

    The second shock is the quietness of its HIV epidemic. Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, with nearly a fifth of the population infected. The per capita numbers dwarf even other highly affected sub-Saharan countries such as South Africa and Botswana. One might expect HIV to slap you in the face. But there are no buildings collapsed by an HIV earthquake, no towns flooded by an HIV tsunami. No zombie-sick people dripping HIV from their eyeballs. You don’t see obvious signs of it outside of the clinics and hospitals or the privacy of homesteads.

    And though it is a subtle emergency, everyone in Swaziland is aware of HIV, and those who were born with the virus have to prepare for a lifetime of being positive. At mass HIV-testing sessions run by the charity Young Heroes and held throughout Swaziland, children stand in a tight formation, shoulder to shoulder in two parallel lines facing one another. A game leader hands a tennis ball to one side, and the children pass it hand to hand behind their backs. Once time is called, the opposite line must guess where the ball is. Only rarely does a smirk or dropped ball give its location away. The ball represents HIV. Anyone can have it, but you will rarely know for certain even with a deep stare at the surface.

    A child who learns at an early age that an HIV-positive person normally looks the same as an HIV-negative person can use that knowledge to avoid being infected. She knows that a man who courts her, no matter how healthy he looks, may still have HIV.

    Because HIV is primarily passed through heterosexual intercourse in Swaziland, young adults have been the largest infected group, particularly women in their 20s and men in their 30s. Nearly half of Swazis in those age groups are HIV positive. As many have died over the past 20 years, Swaziland has what can understatedly be called an orphan problem. In combination with a crashing economy, a population agitating against the traditional government and royalty, and a ludicrously expensive system of education that makes it nearly impossible for any but the very wealthiest to complete school, Swaziland’s HIV orphans present a frightening problem for the country’s future.

    The slow but steady emergency and lifelong time frame of HIV often calls for a lifelong commitment to help, not only with treatment but also with the orphan problem. Near the small, southern city of Nhlangano, there is a family-run farm called Pasture Valley. The farm has timber, a dairy with a few dozen cows, fruit trees, and three greenhouses. Peter and Michelle McCubbin, the couple who own and run Pasture Valley, opened a children’s home on the farm in 2003 and, with the help of two house mothers, now care for 24 orphaned Swazis. The children are as old as 17 and as young as 2. They all go to school, either at the preschool on the farm or at one of the Nhlangano public schools; they all work the farm; they all have food, clothing, soccer balls, books, crayons. If they were born HIV-positive, the house mothers make sure they take their meds every day. They ride a bus to church every Sunday. When you visit, you think you’re seeing the lives the children of Swaziland deserve. You forget these children lost their parents because of HIV, a disease that has been preventable since the 1980s and treatable since the 1990s. You forget that you should be surprised that these 14 boys and 10 girls are happy and healthy and literate.

    It’s difficult not to envy the orphans at Pasture Valley, even knowing that they’ve lost their parents. Like most happy children, they are imaginative and giggly. Like everyone in Swaziland, they enjoy jaw-dropping natural beauty from morning until night. Like many Swazis they run with cows and horses and dogs and play soccer. And unlike most Swazi children, they are well-educated and secure in their food, clothing, and shelter. If they have a problem, they have someone to talk to. They get cake on their birthdays and presents on Christmas. They will finish high school bilingual, fluent in English and siSwati. They will have seen lions and elephants and giraffes on field trips. Even those with HIV will live longer lives than their parents and show their own children the beauty of the Kingdom of Swaziland. And maybe when their children grow up, they can tell them about how visitors to their country used to expect an HIV plane crash, or an HIV civil war. But all they saw were green mountains in the high-veld.

  3. Swazi Spring?

    Why protests will not unseat Swaziland’s King Mswati

    By Louise Redvers
    5 September 2011
    BBC News, Lubombo

    Mother-of-three Salom Gamedze may be struggling to feed her family and pay school fees for her children’s education but she is unlikely to take part in anti-government demonstrations which Swaziland democracy activists have called, starting on 5 September.

    Ms Gamedze, 42, lives in a half-brick half-mud hut in the remote Lubombo region of eastern Swaziland. She has no electricity or water and is unemployed.

    “I want to get a job so I can send my children to school but there are no jobs for me here and now we cannot even afford to work our land so we are not growing much,” she sighed.

    “We had dreams for our children, that they would be better than us, become doctors and nurses and make something of their lives, but now that seems like an impossible dream.”

    Ms Gamedze is like many Swazis: She wants change in a country where two-thirds of the population lives in grinding poverty and a quarter is HIV-positive, but she is unsure about the type of change she wants.

    She is unlikely to take part in pro-democracy demonstrations to demand an end to the rule of King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

    Educated at a British boarding school, he has ruled Swaziland – which has a population of about 1.2m – since 1986.

    The king’s critics accuse him and his 13 wives of leading a lavish lifestyle, showing little concern for the plight of his subjects – an allegation he denies.

    During her interview with the BBC, Ms Gamedze stayed clear of mentioning King Mswati.

    ‘Suicidal to criticise’

    For many Swazis he is almost a cult figure. Few of them wanted to talk about him, however discreetly.

    One pro-democracy leader said it was “suicidal” to criticise King Mswati, while another pointed out that in Swazi culture he is the final authority so if the opposition went to him to ask for change and he refused, they would have no further avenues to explore.

    Despite this fear of challenging the monarch, trade unions and civil society movements have staged several public demonstrations demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini and his cabinet.

    The protests follow a worsening economic crisis in Swaziland, forcing the government to ask neighbouring South Africa for a bailout of $355m (£218m) to pay its bills.

    But most people – like Ms Gamedze – are reluctant to get involved.

    “People do understand that things are not right but they fear a backlash if they speak out. They are worried that if they are seen to be making a stand then they will have to answer to the traditional authority,” Sibongile Dlamini, a programmes officer with the Swaziland Council of Churches (SCC), told the BBC.

    She said the lack of security of land tenure added to the vulnerability of people, as chiefs – representing the monarchy – controlled land in rural areas.

    In one recent case, she said, someone who tried to organise a group discussion about the situation in Swaziland had to pay a fine of two cows.

    “This is a person who does not work and has no income so that was a very big fine. What our system has done is suppress people into a state of ignorance and inaction,” Ms Dlamini says.

    “I think as civil society, we need to go back to the drawing board and work out how to engage people because we need everybody to come together to make the government realise we need change.”

    State of emergency

    Pro-democracy activists argue that King Mswati’s “Tinkundla” system of government – which has banned political parties, but allows for a parliament to exist – is a major cause of Swaziland problems.

    They say this system has few checks and balances, allowing corruption to flourish.

    Former businessman Musa Hlophe, who heads the Swaziland Coalition of Concern Civic Organisations (SCCCO), says the battle to achieve democracy in Swaziland is an uphill one.

    “You’re talking about 38 years of living under a vicious state of emergency that has produced a generation who know no democracy and who grew up in an environment where people can’t talk freely,” he says.

    Mr Hlophe was among a number of Swazis who lobbied against South Africa giving Swaziland a bailout without strict conditions, arguing the money would just prop up the existing regime.

    Although the finer details of the loan agreement are still under discussion, South Africa’s government has said the “creation of an open dialogue in Swaziland” was a key condition for the loan.

    Mr Hlophe said he hoped that dialogue would take place soon while protests to demand democracy would continue.

    From 5 September, the opposition has called a “Global Week of Action on Swaziland”, urging people to back their campaign to bring democracy to the monarchy.

    Labour protests in April were met by a heavy police reaction leading to teachers being tear-gassed and several foreign journalists arrested.

    Last year around 50 people were arrested for taking part in demonstrations and South Africans who showed their solidarity by joining the protest were deported.

    Ms Dlamini hopes that despite the political repression, there will be a big turnout at the main protest in Swaziland’s capital, Mbabane.

    “If it’s always the same faces walking through Mbabane the government will continue to say that it’s only a minority who are unhappy with the system and nothing will change,” she said.

  4. Coca-Cola accused of propping up notorious Swaziland dictator
    Swaziland’s King Mswati III accused by activists of human rights abuses and of looting national wealth

    David Smith in Johannesburg, Monday 2 January 2012 08.51 EST

    Coca-Cola has been accused of propping up one of Africa’s most notorious dictators.

    The multibillion dollar beverage company owns a concentrate-manufacturing plant in Swaziland, an impoverished kingdom ruled by Africa’s last absolute monarch, Mswati III.

    The king has travelled to Coca-Cola’s headquarters in Atlanta in the US, much to the disgust of Swazi political activists who blame him for human rights abuses and looting the nation’s wealth.

    Mary Pais Da Silva, co-ordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, called for Coca-Cola to pull out of the country immediately.

    “Coca-Cola must know they’re doing business with the wrong people,” she said. “At the end of the day it doesn’t benefit the economy in any way. Their profits don’t help the average Swazi, while the king is getting richer by the day.” She added: “The king is milking the country. This is entrenching him more and more, giving him economic strength to crush opposition. Nobody should do business with the regime in Swaziland. They should cut ties and take their business elsewhere.”

    Mswati III has 13 wives and hosts an annual dance where he can choose a new bride from tens of thousands of bare-breasted virgins.

    With a fortune of about $100m (£64m), he presides over one of the worst-off countries in the world, with most people living in absolute poverty. Political parties are banned and activists are regularly arrested, imprisoned and tortured.

    Coca-Cola says that Mswati III does not receive any profits or dividends from its Swaziland operation, its biggest in Africa. But some activists estimate that Coca-Cola, the world’s biggest beverage company, contributes as much as 40% of the country’s GDP. The company admits it cannot account for how the money it pays in taxes is used by the Swazi government.

    Lucky Lukhele, a spokesman for Swaziland Solidarity Network, said: “Coca-Cola should find a way of directing the profits to the people of Swaziland. They should start supporting the pro-democracy movement.”

    He compared the moral imperative to that of boycotting South Africa during the racial apartheid years. “Many supported the people of South Africa. There is no such thing as neutral ground – you’re for or against. The king is looting and destroying the economy. So either they support the people or they go into the dustbin of history along with the king.”

    He added: “It has become crazy in Swaziland. The people are desperate. They are dying from HIV/Aids and TB as the result of the misbehaviour of the king. There’s enough evidence for the international criminal court to come in.”

    Coca-Cola says it adheres to the “highest ethical standards” and aims to be “an outstanding corporate citizen in every community we serve”. It set up in Swaziland in 1987 after leaving apartheid South Africa.

    It denies claims from some activists that it was motivated by Swaziland’s sugarcane fields – its concentrates do not contain sugar – or that the king personally owns shares in the Swazi factory.

    Sherree Shereni, spokeswoman for the Coca-Cola central Africa franchise, said: “King Mswati III does not receive any profits or dividends from Conco Swaziland [Coca-Cola’s concentrate production plant].”

    Conco, like all the Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) concentrate plants, is 100% owned by TCCC.

    Shereni added: “Through the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which was set up in Swaziland in 2001, the population of Swaziland has, however, benefited from Coca-Cola’s contributions to their social welfare in the areas of water stewardship, health, education and entrepreneurship.”

    Asked if the king uses tax revenue from Coca-Cola for his personal benefit, Shereni said: “TCCC, like any other taxpayer, does not determine what the taxes paid to the governments of countries in which it does business are used for. This is the statutory prerogative of the governments themselves.”

    She added: “Coca-Cola is not involved with political agenda of any country in which it does business. Coca-Cola’s reputation is built on the quality of its brands, the highest standards of manufacturing practices, the welfare and safety of its employees and adherence to local and international laws as applicable in any country where Coca-Cola does business.”

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