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Swazi king wants slice of South African bailout cash, say activists

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King Mswati III of Swaziland, 2006. Photo: Amada44

King Mswati III of Swaziland, 2006. Photo: Amada44

Swaziland’s King Mswati III has allegedly demanded a quarter of South Africa’s bailout money to his country as a commission. Swazi pro-democracy activists told RFI on Saturday that the king was “arrogantly” trying to behave like a “consultant to his own country” in brokering the 2.4 billion rand (231 million euro) loan.

Interview: Lucky Lukhele, Swaziland Solidarity Network

Radio France Internationale

“The king is now demanding 25 per cent of the entire thing [the bailout], saying that he has helped the country to secure it,” says Lucky Lukhele, a spokesman for the Swaziland Solidarity Network.

Lukhele claims that he learned of the king’s 400 million rand (57.8 million euro) commission from high-level contacts who attended a Tuesday cabinet meeting.

“They are highly reliable. In actual fact two of them are ministers, who were part of this meeting,” says Lukhele. “Five of them are based at the royal residence. Some of them are senior princes and princesses, who are also acting as advisors to the king,” he added.

South Africa came to the rescue earlier this month when Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan confirmed a five-year loan to Swaziland. Political and governance reforms were a key part of the loan conditions.

“Do not give the Swazis this money without these conditions,” says Lukhele. “The people of Swaziland feel betrayed by their trusted comrades, because there is no other country that can put on more pressure than South Africa,” says the Johannesburg-based activist.

The Swaziland Ministry of Finance was not available for comment when contacted by RFI on Saturday. A source at a South African trade union, which has supported protests in Swaziland, told RFI that it is hard to determine the legitimacy of Lukhele’s claims, although it “does seem quite likely”.

Swaziland turned to South Africa for help after being refused a loan this year by the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, when it failed to implement fiscal reforms that had been specified in the lending conditions.

The money was provided by the South Africa Reserve Bank at an interest rate of 5.5 per cent.

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Written by Daniel Finnan

27 August 2011 at 17:00

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