S.Africa urged to put squeeze on Swazi king

Thu Jul 7, 2011 3:30pm GMT

By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Leading dissidents from Swaziland urged South Africa on Thursday not to bail out the cash-strapped government of King Mswati III in order to keep the

pressure on Africa's last absolute monarch.

With his appointed administration facing a Greece-scale budget deficit and moribund economy, the UK-educated monarch has turned to Pretoria for help, having tried and failed to get any cash from the International Monetary Fund or other lenders.

His opponents fear that even a small amount of aid from his giant neighbour will take the heat off Mswati, who has at least a dozen wives, an estimated $200 million fortune and runs the landlocked nation of 1.4 million as a personal fiefdom.

"If there are people who want to bail out the Swazi regime, it must not be a blank cheque," Mario Masuku, president of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), told a news conference in Johannesburg.

Like all political parties, PUDEMO is banned in Swaziland, and Masuku has been imprisoned for criticising the monarchy during previous crackdowns on dissent.

Mswati's immediate fiscal problems stem from a 2009 recession in South Africa that triggered a collapse in revenues from a regional customs union that has historically accounted for two-thirds of Swaziland's budget.

However, Masuku said the root cause of Swaziland's woes was Mswati's autocratic and nepotistic rule, in particular his refusal to axe a military and civil service whose wages consume 18 percent of GDP -- the highest proportion in Africa.   Continued...

<p>Swaziland's King Mswati III arrives for the annual Reed Dance at Ludzidzini in Swaziland August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>
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