Timeline: Swaziland economic crisis

Published Jan 8, 2013


August 2011: Returning from

South Africa, King Mswati III

announces he has arranged a

R2.4 billion loan from South Africa.

South African officials are

reportedly upset by what they see

as the king’s premature and

unilateral announcement. He does

say that the loan conditions commit

his government to political dialogue

inclusive of all stakeholders.

August 2011: South Africa is obliged by the loan agreement to pay the first of three loan tranches by the end of the month, but with no memorandum of understanding (MoU), no money is sent.

September 2011: At a ‘national

dialogue’ attended by government-

approved delegates in Manzini,

King Mswati’s older brother and

senior royal counsellor Prince

Mahlaba attacks the loan, saying

accepting it with conditions was

similar to prostituting the country.

King Mswati makes clear his

displeasure that the loan also

requires Swaziland to adhere to

International Monetary Fund (IMF)

recommendations on economic

reform, and he rebukes the IMF.

October 2011: Swazi Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini travels to Qatar to seek a loan without political conditions. Other government officials also search for no-strings-attached loans.

October 2011: Although the loan

wording committing King Mswati

to pursuing political reform is

vague, the Swaziland Democratic

Campaign praises South Africa for

making political reform a condition

for financial assistance.

October 2011: King Mswati returns to Pretoria to press for a loan MoU without any reference to political reform. In light of a police crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations since September, he is not successful.

October 2011: Aghast at the

political conditions attached to the

loan, senior royal advisers tell the

Swazi media that an unnamed

American billionaire will loan

Swaziland billions of rand. Loans

originating from various parts of

the world are also widely reported

in the Swazi press. Nothing comes

of any of them.

November 2011: Finance Minister Majozi Sithole tells parliament that Swaziland cannot pay its civil servants and must move toward accepting the loan and its conditions, committing the government to democratic change.

November 2011: Foreign Minister

Mtiti Fakudze leads a delegation to

meet with their South African

counterparts in Pretoria to finalise

the loan. However, the Swazi

delegation has unilaterally removed

codicils committing King Mswati to

political reform, and the loan

agreement is not signed.

March 2012: Sithole’s budget speech announces receipts of R7.1bn from the Southern African Customs Union (Sacu). The finance minister does not mention a loan.

March 2012: Political commenta-

tor Richard Rooney gives voice to a

thought when he writes: “There are

now doubts whether the R7.1bn

from Sacu is really money from the

customs union or whether South

Africa is using it to launder its own

money to bail out Swaziland.”

April 2012: The IMF withdraws its support from Swaziland’s Fiscal Adjustment Roadmap because of a lack of implementation of the economic reform package and a lack of will by the government to cut spending.

September 2012: An extended

strike by teachers to protest against

a government hiring and salary

freeze, from which security forces

are exempted, is the latest in a

series of strikes that involves all

segments of Swazi society in 2012.

December 2012: The government announces it will not pay grants to the elderly due to ‘funding limitations’. The Swazi government owes its suppliers R2bn.

January 2013: Sithole announces

that a combination of external

revenue, Sacu receipts and

internally generated tax revenue

means that Swaziland no longer

needs to pursue loans from South

Africa or other sources.

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