SSN ON SPEECHES FROM PARLIAMENT
SSN-STATEMENT: March 2nd , 2013
The King of Swaziland and his finance Minister have given us a glimpse
of what the nation should expect in the near future in the annual
Speech from the Throne and the Budget Allocation speech, respectively.
It is only appropriate that we dissect and pose pertinent question to
these long speeches. While it would make for good time reading to
analyses every point made in the two speeches, it is important to note
that that the primary focus should be on the political aspect, which
ultimately determines everything else.
Before delving into the details of what the despot, king Mswati,
wished his mannequins in parliament to listen to, it is imperative
that it is remembered that his raison de etre is, was, and always will
be to be the overlord and master of the population of the tiny kingdom
for the purposes of living off the riches of the land, regardless of
the poverty within the country.
It is for this reason that it must be highlighted that king Mswati
remains by far the biggest financial drain to the Swazi state. Despite
siphoning public funds into private investments, and running Tibiyo
Taka Ngwane as his private investment company, he continues to use
public funds to finance his lavish lifestyle and that of his ever
MSWATI A DRAIN TO THE ECONOMY
The latest reports from our ever reliable sources indicate that:
1. A total of R256 million is used annually as royal emoluments. This
amount, which is shared between his wives, children, his half-brother
and their mothers, and other relatives of the royal family.
2. In each of his numerous trips overseas the state forks out $50 000
for him alone, $40 000 for his accompanying wife, and $15 000 for each
of his children and their friends and relatives. In total, this
amount, which does not include accommodation, transportation and
living expenses, can amount to $ 500 000 (R4 million), which is
3. A little known fact, not reported in the Swazi media, is that he
has constructed a private multi-million road between his two palaces
at Lozitha and Ngabezweni. Unlike in other palaces where the
surrounding homesteads at times benefit from the roads leading to the
palaces, this one is totally private and inaccessible from any public
roads. This road also leads to an underground bunker that he recently
constructed, which is separate from either palaces. These recent
reports are merely the latest updates on the royal family’s spending
habits. They are a drop in the ocean when compared to the numerous
multi-million investments that are siphoned from the country’s
treasury and invested in private companies, at times using the king’s
name or a trusted henchman.
The nation is therefore burdened with a greedy and very selfish man
who believes that he is entitled to this lifestyle by virtue of being
born into a certain family that has historically been at the center of
the Swazi nation. All pretenses to be governing the country on behalf
of the nation are therefore nothing but empty rhetoric designed to
stave of the inevitable democratization of the country.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
In the speech from the throne the dictator glossed over what he
regards as a turnaround in the country’s economic fortunes,
exaggerated the role of the people’s parliament in order to present
his country as a democracy and as usual expressed his wish for an
education system which produces more entrepreneurs and visionaries,
yet presenting no plan on how this would be achieved.
Economic and Fiscal Challenges
After receiving a larger than usual share from the Southern African
Customs Union (SACU), the country appears likely to avoid the
tumultuous events of last year which lead to the king having to
personally jet to South Africa to seek a loan from the South African
government. The King could not hold back from gloating about the fact
that the state had been able to turn things around this year, labeling
those who focused on the root causes of these fiscal challenges
He went further to thank the ancestors, the almighty, his business
associates and so-called individual citizens for helping the country
throughout this challenging period. No mention was made of the huge
sacrifices made by public servants who despite being overtaxed, with
the introduction of VAT and numerous import levies on basic
foodstuffs, and facing high levels inflation were forced to forego
salary increments because the king had decreed that his own personal
needs came before those of his “subjects”.
In what was an insult to the nation and public labour, the King used
the opportunity to thank his government for continuing to provide
financial support to the royal ceremonies that glorify him and his
family. These are ceremonies which continue to cost the tax payer
millions in Emalangeni, despite the high levels of poverty. The King
further defended his decision to introduce the highly contentious
Value Added Tax (VAT) to a population which already pays very high
taxes. The continuation of this tax is not negotiable, as the King
decided that instead people need to be educated about it. Such is easy
to say for a man who pays no taxes at all and yet lives off the
Unlike in previous years, no specific mention was made of the high
levels of poverty in the country, where over seventy percent of the
population lives below the international breadline. In summary the
king used his speech to boast to his enemies that the country under
his stewardship had survived where they thought it would fail.
This is shocking coming from a king who is traditionally looked at as
a unifier and arbitrator. He could have better used the opportunity to
win over dissenting voices by being honest with the state of the
economy and pledging to cut down on his holidays and lavish spending.
This might have given weight to his plea, or command, to the nation
that it should work harder to revive the economy.
Elections and Sibaya
Sibaya is the window-dressing exercise which was convened at the royal
kraal last year in order to allow the country to let off steam after a
grueling two months of strike action from teachers in the country.
This exercise is extremely informal and serves as a Public Relations
stunt to convince outsiders that the common man has a say in the
running of the country. The recording of people’s views in not audited
and therefore subjective. Despite these obvious short-comings the king
used his speech to lie to the nation that every submission made at the
royal kraal would be implemented.
As yet, the are two very important submissions which were made at the
kraal by numerous people but are yet to be implemented. The first,
which was supported by conservatives and pro-democracy activists
alike, is the sacking of the current cabinet. The second one was that
political parties should be allowed to function in the country’s
political landscape. None of the two were implemented and there is no
plan to implement them in the near future simply because the king
disapproves of them.
In what should be regarded as an open admission that the country’s
parliament is useless, the king stated that Sibaya is the highest
decision making body in the country. Sibaya in this instance not being
the people’s parliament per se but the throne itself. No event proves
this beyond a shadow of a doubt more than the king’s refusal to sack
his cabinet despite the numerous pleas from Sibaya and a vote of no
confidence from parliament.
In a political environment where there is a clear dichotomy between
rulers and subjects, what use is having the latter filling a
parliament which obviously has no political power? Despite this, the
king has set aside a total of R200 million to cater for the
forthcoming parliamentary elections. He has further used every
opportunity to urge every Swazi to come out and participate in them.
This shows that he has a vested interest in the spectacle.
His interests are served in two important ways; the first is in
convincing impressionable Swazi minds that Swaziland is a democratic
country because like other countries it allows the existence of
national elections. This is despite the fact that he has openly
admitted that the parliament that the elections are for is not a
decision making body. This parliament is also for keeping up
appearances to international observers that Swaziland is also a modern
state with all three arms of government.
Having the nation boycott this window-dressing exercise would
therefore be a Public Relations coup by the population because it
would mean that the facade has been exposed and the people want a
genuine parliament with the power to make decisions.
The budget allocation for this year is a mirror reflection of the
focus on pampering the royal family and its sycophants, while doing
enough for the ordinary population to avert a crisis. This explains
why the king’s personal amusement projects, which promise to be a
further burden on the economy, have been given priority over social
Tax Wasting vanity Projects
Most bizarre among these is the plan to construct a new building to
house parliament. This is a totally unnecessary waste of public funds,
not only because the Swazi parliament is a merely advisory body but
also because the current parliamentary facilities are in excellent
shape and will not even require extensions or rehabilitation in the
immediate future. The plans to build a new structure are therefore
clearly a result of king Mswati’s legendary vanity, which to date have
resulted in the creation of three other such vanity projects.
Sikhuphe, the new airport which has been under construction for over a
decade, will cost the tax payer a whooping E220 million on completing
its construction alone. This figure does not include the funds that
the government is yet to allocate to construct supporting services
such as police, fire, meteorological services and new controlled urban
areas. Above that a total of E57million will be set aside this year
for the preparations of the airport’s operation. Thus, in total the
quantifiable amount set aside for this project, this year alone, is
Another pair of similarly projects whose value to the country is
highly questionable have been allocated a total of E110 million. These
are the ICT Park and the Royal Science and Technology Park. According
to the Minister, the two projects are meant to help build a knowledge
This assertion is rich coming from a government that has embarked on
reducing the amount of money allocated to scholarships in its new
scholarship policy, which aims to eventually phase out the grant part
of all scholarships. This assertion also contradicts overall
government spending on tertiary education, as the newly constructed
Nazarene University of Southern Africa only received a meager E 3
million to help in its construction.
This attitude of putting the cart before the horse, spending on
infrastructure while spending less on the necessary human resource
capital required to make use of that infrastructure, is also exhibited
in the allocation of a staggering E100 million for the construction of
factory shells in a country without a concrete plan for creating local
Corruption and Money Laundering
The pledge to implement existing laws to curb corruption in the
country is a yearly song rendered by the finance minister, and it is
made particularly mundane by the fact that he has been quoted saying
that the country loses over E500 million annually to the corrupt
activities of certain “untouchables”.
External Economic security observers have correctly highlighted that
the reason why it is difficult to deal this rampant corruption in
Swaziland is because the royal family continues to harbor these fat
cats, and its status in relation to the law makes it impossible to
uncover such malpractices.
Overall social expenditure remains a low priority to the government.
Elderly grants, for example, have only been increased by a mere E20,
an amount whose buying power is equivalent to one a single trip
between the country’s two cities, or two loaves of bread. It is an
insult to the elderly who in recent years, and the long term future,
have been forced out of retirement in order to care for households as
the HIV pandemic continues to ravage the country.
The health sector itself remains only 3.2% of the total national
budget. Despite assertions by the finance minister that spending on
drugs has tripled, the reality is that all government hospitals
experience drug shortages as patients are expected to buy their own
medicines from private pharmacies. Moreover, these hospitals are
understaffed and under equipped.
MAKINGS OF A FAILED STATE
Despite what the King and his Minister would have us believe, it is
clear therefore that Swaziland is headed for worse economic times. The
country’s windfall from SACU may have prevented a total meltdown in
the immediate future; however the overreliance on SACU for revenues as
a result of an economy which continues to underperform will soon prove
to be a costly mistake.
The underlying reasons why Swaziland’s economy continues to perform
well below its potential is due to its increasingly kleptocratic
nature. Swaziland has over the years been able to attract interest
from investors who experience difficulties in opening their businesses
due to policies that are not conducive to investment such as the
monopoly in the mobile telecommunications industry and the king’s
insistence on being a shareholder in every major business.
Despite its classification as a middle-income earning country,
Swaziland is still heavily reliant on foreign grants simply because
the redistribution of wealth is extremely skewed. This in effect means
that the bulk of the country’s wealth is reserved for the royal
family, while the rest of the population has to live on whatever
remains of that and the foreign handouts. Such a situation is not
sustainable in the long term and leaves the country vulnerable to
The best way forward is therefore the curtailing of royal emoluments
in favour of increased social spending. Health and education are not
the privileges that the government believes they are. They are crucial
investments which may be the deciding factors between whether the
country eventually attains the status of a self-sustainable state or
becomes a failed one.
The numerous vanity projects which will continue to cost tax payers in
operating costs well after completion are better off sold to private
investors, failing which they should be converted and annexed to
existing institutions of tertiary education, with the money saved used
to continue to finance the education, health and general social needs
of the population. These suggestions, although not likely to be heeded
by a government which owes its existence to the royal family, are the
most logical and proven suggestions for a developing state. However,
this focus on overall development can only be the priority of a
democratic country where citizens are free to contest for political
power either as individuals or as part of political parties.
Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN]
072 502 4141
Lucky Lukhele- SSN spokesperson
Tell:011 339 3621
Mobile: 072 502 4141