Swaziland. The conflict between the authoritarian and extravagant king and the oppressed opposition intensified during the year as Swaziland’s economic crisis worsened.
In March, the government announced that the salaries of government employees would be lowered, forcing thousands of public servants into the biggest protest in the country in several years. They demanded that the government resign and political parties be allowed. The protesters said they were inspired by the riots in North Africa. Mario Masuku, leader of the banned opposition party People’s Democratic Movement, PUDEMO, explained that Swaziland cannot remain an island of dictatorship in the sea of democracy.
According to Countryaah official site, the criticism of the King grew when he chartered an expensive private flight to London for the Royal British wedding in April. Protests were held in several places but were knocked down by riot police with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. PUDEMO’s leaders were placed under house arrest.
Swaziland’s main source of income, the Customs Union in southern Africa, fell by 60% due to new customs duties, while the military, like the king’s and his 13 wives and families, drew large sums from the budget. The state budget deficit was over 14%, and the foreign exchange reserve had shrunk to a minimum. Swaziland was forced to ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for crisis loans, but the IMF demanded tightening that the government did not agree to. Swaziland then sought help from South Africa, which promised an emergency loan of $ 355 million so that government employees would get their salaries. At the same time, South Africa demanded economic measures and political democratization – as a dialogue between government and opposition – something Swaziland’s regime refused. This meant that the loan had not been taken out at the end of the year.
Unemployment was estimated at 40%, and more than two-thirds of the population was estimated to live on less than a dollar a day. The state lacked funds for necessary health care in a country with one of the highest rates of HIV-infected in the world. Swaziland University was unable to open a new semester in August, and most primary schools were also closed, as there was no funding for student and student costs. More than 60% of the country’s schoolchildren are estimated to live in poverty or are orphans, but the school food was withdrawn due to lack of money. According to the IMF, the authorities could not pay out the funds that would go to tens of thousands of children, whose parents died of AIDS.
In November, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church, Meshack Mabuza, demanded that the king abdicate and open to a democratic political leadership of Swaziland. According to the bishop, it was the country’s “archaic” form of government that pushed Swaziland down into the deep crisis.
When it became known that the state November salaries would not be paid until December, great concern was erupted among government employees. The government was then reported to have taken emergency loans from private banks and companies in order to pay the salaries. In December, it was reported that the government illegally withdrew money from the public employees’ pension fund in order to meet their expenses.
The king, who has the right to take a new wife every year, was reported during the year to have driven one of his 13 wives out of her castle, accused of infidelity. The regime denied the task.