- Published on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 02:00
President Jacob Zuma has defended the decision by the government to grant Swaziland a R2.4-billion bailout, despite intense criticism.
Swaziland has suffered financial troubles since the 2009 recession, resulting in the collapse of revenue from the South African Customs Union (SACU). SACU had previously provided two-thirds of their national budget.
In an official statement, President Zuma said: “If a country is your neighbour, should you allow your neighbour to collapse because you hold certain political views? Will that not impact on you?”
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe supported this assertion, saying: “If you allow Swaziland to collapse you will have short-term satisfaction but you will pay dearly – more than the R2-billion loan – in the form of the influx [of Swazis to South Africa].”
South Africa agreed to the bailout after attempts by King Mswati III to obtain a loan from both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank failed. Both institutions demanded major bureaucratic cuts and the implementation of austerity measures.
South African Cabinet spokes-person Jimmy Manyi said that this was not a loan from the South African Treasury, but a guarantee backed by Swaziland’s SACU payments, and subject to their successful performance in four areas.
These include confidence-building measures to be undertaken by the Swazi government, fiscal reforms (as required by the IMF), capacity-building support to be provided by South Africa, and co-operation in multilateral agreements.
Critics argue that this was South Africa’s opportunity to demand an end to police brutality and the suppression of political opposition in Swaziland, as well as to insist on constitutional reform of the monarchy. This has also led to fears that South Africa will be expected to finance other nations in the future.
Some have also questioned Swaziland’s loyalty to South Africa after it voted against South Africa receiving a seat on the UN Security Council.