Swaziland: Defence Equipment Spending Up 50 Fold

Secrecy surrounds Swaziland Government plans to increase its spending on defence equipment more than 50 fold to E63.19 million (US6.8 million) this year from E1.26 million last year.

And, there are plans to spend another E66.35 million on defence equipment in 2014/15 and a further E69.67 million in 2015 / 16.

The Swaziland Government, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, will not reveal what the money will be spent on, citing national security as an excuse.

On top of the spending on equipment, the government intends to spend a further E61.97 million on consumerable materials and supplies in the Ministry of Defence in 2013 / 14. The spending in 2014 / 15 will be E65.07 million, with a further E68.33 million in 2015 / 16. Last year spending on defence consumables was E61.41 million.

Since the Swazi Government is not telling us what it intends to buy with the budget, Swazi people are left to speculate on what it could be. The budget for 'durable materials and equipment' could be spent on anything from paper clips to tanks, but it is safe to assume that office supplies are not high on the list of King Mswati's priorities.

We know from activities in the past that the Swaziland Government can get a lot of bang for its bucks. In 2008, it was revealed that King Mswati had authorised the spending of E25 million to purchase 'hundreds of guns and millions of ammunition', as well as 'security gadgets'.

The Swazi News reported in May 2008, that assault rifles worth E1 million, pistols worth E500,000, bullets worth E14 million and E5 million of 'security gadgets' such as mine detectors had been bought to protect the eight heads of state and other overseas' dignities who were due to attend Swaziland's 40/40 celebrations in September 2008, to mark both the 40th birthday of King Mswati III and the 40th anniversary of independence from Great Britain.

Of course, nobody believed such equipment was needed to protect a small number of visitors. In the event, the celebration went off without trouble, so we can assume that the equipment is still stored in an arsenal somewhere in Swaziland.

Swaziland has been criticised for many years for the high level of its defence spending, which accounts for about 6 percent of the kingdom's gross domestic product (GDP).

Last week, the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported the Ministry of Defence was to be allocated a total of E867.29 million for the 2013/14 financial year.

It said overall the government would spend E1.9 billion on the three security forces: army, police and correctional services from a total budget of about E12.6 billion. It said this was just over 15 percent of the kingdom's annual budget.

Mtiti Fakudze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told the newspaper the budget allocation to the Ministry of Defence was too small.

The Times reported, 'He said the department needed the money to beef up security of the country.'

It added, 'He could not disclose which areas needed to be strengthened and how they would be fortified, because issues of national security were top secret.'

The Times reported, 'The minister was quick to add that Swaziland was being menaced by cattle rustlers who forcefully took stock from owners. He said among other things more funds were required to deal with the issue of stock theft because it was becoming a threat to the nation's peace.

'The minister said cattle thieves were on the rampage along the country's borders, where livestock is stolen and taken to countries like Mozambique. He said the army, among other things is presently dealing with this problem and it needed more resources to deal with this "war."'.

Swaziland is in effect broke and has been struggling for the past three years to come up with a recovery package that could revive the economy.

It has ignored advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cut its public service wage bill and to increase the amount of money it collects in taxation. The IMF wants moneys to be transferred from capital expenditure projects to help poor and disadvantaged people.

This week it was revealed that the Swazi government had sold US$3 million worth of maize donated by Japan as humanitarian aid to feed malnourished people, including children. It put the money raised in a special account at the Central Bank of Swaziland.

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