3 August 2011
South Africa grants Swaziland $354 million bailout
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa will give a 2.4 billion rand ($354 million) loan to help ease a crippling financial crisis that has sparked massive protests in Swaziland, officials on yesterday (3 August 2011) announced, saying the bailout is conditional on reforms in the tiny kingdom.
Swaziland has battled to manage a growing budget deficit that has caused widespread shortages of medications and that has spurred pro-democracy protests in the absolute monarchy. Critics accuse the administration of King Mswati III of mismanagement and corruption, and many Swazi activists and organizations opposed the loan.
Swazi union leader Vincent Dlamini called for a new government to manage the funds.
"We must not be too quick to celebrate," he said. "It is worrying that the corrupt people (have) not been removed from the system, money will still be mismanaged."
South African officials said the loan is contingent on economic and financial reforms and will be subjected to regular audits by a joint task team made up of representatives from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, South Africa's National Treasury and the African Development Bank. The officials said in a statement that they are committed to "confidence-building measures" to improve human rights and governance.
"While the need for fiscal reforms is the primary objective, this has to be anchored by governance reforms," South Africa's finance ministry said in a statement.
Mswati announced the deal to Swazis upon his return from South Africa on Tuesday.
"We are thankful and appreciate the good neighborly assistance we have received from South Africa," he said. "The loan will help the country to continue with its recovery problems."
Activists have criticized Mswati for living lavishly while most Swazis live in poverty, and for repressing human rights and harassing and jailing pro-democracy activists.
Thousands of protesters marched last week over a shortage of essential medical supplies and a failing economy. AIDS groups say the country faces a shortage of anti-retroviral drugs.
More than a quarter of Swazis between the ages of 15 and 49 are believed to carry HIV.
To read the full Associated Press report, click here.