Swaziland Protests for a Fifth Day to Demand Political Change

Labor groups in Swaziland, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarchy, held a fifth day of protests after the government failed in a court bid to stop the demonstration, said Barnes Dlamini, president of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions.

About 5,000 protesters marched in the capital, Mbabane, to demand political change, Dlamini said in an interview in the city today. The week of demonstrations were to mark the anniversary of independence from the U.K.

The protests to raise awareness about multiparty democracy “has been a great success because we were able to reach out to the people outside the cities,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that the police action against our Cosatu colleagues led to their deportation.”

Police clashed with protesters in Siteki, a town in the southern African nation’s eastern region, on Sept. 7. Some leaders from the Congress of South African Trade Unions joined the demonstrations in Swaziland to force the country’s king to relinquish powers and end a ban on political parties. The unions also want Tibiyo TakaNgwane, an investment company controlled by King Mswati III that isn’t taxed, to be nationalized.

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

South African Bailout

Swaziland, Africa’s third-biggest sugar producer, is struggling to emerge from a fiscal crisis that sparked riots in April. Neighbor South Africa agreed last month to give the government a 2.4 billion rand ($331 million) loan to help it plug a budget shortfall. 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 first tranche of the loan, which was supposed to have been paid over by Aug. 31 “has still not been dispatched,” Treasury spokeswoman Bulelwa Boqwana said by phone from Pretoria. “They haven’t signed the memorandum of understanding that had the conditions attached to it. I’m not sure why. There is no indication as to when” this will happen, she said.

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, part of an alliance with the ruling African National Congress, is opposed to the loan.

Swaziland, which also borders Mozambique, is in a customs union with South Africa and its currency is pegged to the rand.

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