Bloomberg News

Swaziland Labor Unions Hold March for Democracy, End to Monarchy

September 06, 2011

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Labor groups in Swaziland, sub- Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy, marched in Manzini, the biggest city, today to demand democracy, said Vincent Ncongwane, secretary-general of the Swaziland Federation of Labor.

About 1,000 protesters, closely watched by police, demonstrated in the second day of a week of protests to force political change, Ncongwane said in an interview in the city. The group included leaders from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, he said.

“We want multiparty democracy because we need opposition parties to act as a watchdog for the government,” he said. “We want the king to relinquish all of his powers as an absolute monarch.”

The 43-year-old King Mswati III appoints the country’s prime minister, while its lawmakers aren’t allowed to belong to political parties. Mswati, who has ruled the nation for 25 years, has more than 10 wives and a personal fortune of $200 million, according to Forbes magazine.

A fiscal crisis is deepening in Swaziland, Africa’s third- biggest sugar producer, even after neighbor South Africa agreed to give the government a 2.4 billion rand ($338 million) loan to help it plug a budget shortfall that sparked riots in April, the International Monetary Fund said Aug. 31. The landlocked country of 1.2 million people raised taxes and cut state spending this year after losing a third of its revenue when the global economic crisis slashed income from a regional customs union.

The money from South Africa is conditional on the Swazi government holdings talks with “all stakeholders” in the country, according to Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s finance minister.

Cosatu, South Africa’s biggest labor federation that is in an alliance with the ruling African National Congress, is opposed to the loan to Swaziland.

“This loan will only sustain an unsustainable system and perpetuate the continued oppression and suffering of the people of Swaziland,” it said in an e-mailed statement today. Cosatu members planned to march on South Africa’s parliament in protest to the loan.

--Editors: Gordon Bell, Andrew J. Barden

To contact the reporter on this story: Vuyisile Hlathswayo in Mbabane at vshlatshwayo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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