MISA-Swaziland (Mbabane)

21 February 2014

Swaziland: We Are Entering an 'Abyss of Despair' - Times of Swaziland

press release

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom's only privately owned daily newspaper, says the country's economy has recovered from an "economic nightmare" but still faces challenges.

"As with all recovery periods it cannot be expected to immediately flex its financial muscle, at least not until it has been determined that it can afford to," says the Times of Swaziland editorial.

The article says that civil servants should be patient and not ask for too much, especially when it comes to claiming overtime pay.

"The possibility of losing your job because there is no money to pay you is infinitely more horrifying than losing your benefit of claiming for working extra hours."

The newspaper suggests that civil servants should consider the bigger picture.

"It may well be that considering the bigger picture; the one that shows Swaziland back on stable economic ground and civil servants salaries receiving their overdue increments, is what we all need to be doing to get through what seems to be an abyss of despair."

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy and is ruled by King Mswati III, who has been in power since 1986. The king has power over the judiciary, the legislature and the cabinet.

Director of Swaziland's Media Institute of Southern Africa, Vuyisile Hlatshwayo, in a recent Africa Check article says the nation's system of "monarchical democracy" entrenches the power of the king and the system of monarchy.

"Fifty-five of the House of Assembly's 65 members are elected by popular vote through the tinkhundla (local council) system, in which local chiefs who traditionally answer to the monarch are required to vet all candidates prior to election. The king appoints the remaining 10 parliamentarians. The monarch also appoints 20 of the country's 30 senators (the remainder are selected by the House of Assembly). Parliamentarians are not allowed to initiate legislation, and only the king is empowered to sign bills that parliament has passed into law.

"Swaziland's executive authority is vested in the monarch: the prime minister is appointed by the king from the House of Assembly. The king appoints the cabinet on the prime minister's recommendation."

Swaziland has the highest HIV rate and TB rate in the world and 70 percent of the population live in hunger. According to the World Bank life expectancy in Swaziland is 48.

Many people are afraid to question or criticise the king and the monarchy in public.

The BBC reported that King Mswati is rated by Forbes magazine as the world's 15th richest monarch with a personal fortune of $100m.

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