Feudal Swaziland isn’t working
Our frequent protests about the Swazi regime’s repression of trade unionism aren’t just solidarity with a sister union in trouble. The last remaining feudal monarchy in Africa is of course a blot on the human rights record of Southern Africa. But it’s worse than that. King Mswati III’s regime is failing on almost every measure – moral, political and economic – and it’s the moral and political failures that have made the economic problems worse.
This week, the IMF have issued yet another report drawing attention to the way Mswati’s feudal dictatorship is itself the reason for the country’s economic problems. In a country where 70% live below the UN poverty line, and with the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world, the IMF says too much of the state budget is spent on security and the royal household (as well as vanity projects like the Sikhuphe ‘international airport’) and not enough on anti-poverty measures.
This imbalance in spending means that Swaziland is not making progress in the war against poverty. But, for a country with no external threats, it is spending a considerable amount (5% of GDP) on the war on its own people. And a further 1.6% of GDP on the immensely wealthy royal family! And at the same time, its public debt is increasing.
Not all of the IMF’s proposals for dealing with Swaziland’s economic problems – eg further privatisation of state transport provision – diverge from the standard neoliberal approach. But their call for Swaziland to spend less on repressing its own people is new, right, and welcome.