King Mswati III of Swaziland has apparently demanded a quarter of South Africa’s controversial R2.4 billion lifeline to the beleaguered country – as commission.
Mswati turned to the South African government in desperation this year after the African Development Bank and the IMF turned down his pleas for a bailout. Both refused to lend any money to the kingdom because it had failed to implement fiscal reforms specified in the lending conditions.
But at his weekly meeting with his cabinet on Tuesday, the king reportedly demanded that about R400 million be paid to him for getting the South African government to lend his country the money.
Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesman Lucky Lukhele said he had been informed by an “impeccable” source on Tuesday that the king had “arrogantly and stupidly” made the request.
“This is like the Mafia. He loves money and it is destroying our country,” said Lukhele, saying he had confirmed the information with sources.
The Saturday Star was unable to raise Swazi Finance Minister Majozi Sithole on Friday. Swazi government spokeswoman Macanjana Motsa referred queries to Sithole.
In an indication South Africa is worried about the loan being pilfered, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe tried to reassure parliamentarians that if Swaziland defaulted on the loan the money would be recovered from its Southern Africa Customs Union (Sacu) allocations.
Replying to questions in the National Council of Provinces on Thursday, he said the government was hopeful the fiscal conditions imposed on Swaziland would prevent this.
Earlier this month, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan confirmed the Treasury had approved the five-year R2.4bn loan to Swaziland on condition the country put in place political and governance reforms.
The money was provided by the SA Reserve Bank at a 5.5 percent interest rate.
“Repayment of the loan will take the form of a debit order against the SA Customs Union’s account that is held by the Reserve Bank on behalf of Swaziland,” he said at the time.
Motlanthe said the first part of the loan would go to Swaziland once all agreements were signed. In March the Swazi government increased the king’s budget from $24m (R172m) in 2010 to $30m, while slashing other government department budgets by 14 percent. - Saturday Star