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(The establishment of the power elite in Swaziland )
By T. Dlamini, June 2009
There is no doubt that there are growing inequalities in Swaziland between the ruling Dlamini clan and the ordinary folk. This is not only the result of the machinations of the current ruling elite, but also a legacy of colonialism which makes it as much a problem of the imperialist west. The inequalities derive from first that about on or after 1890, the Swazi rulers were given an annual stipend of Pound sterling £ 12 000 from the Boer administration under what was then known as the King’s Private Revenue Concession, recognized by the Concession Court. Further, Mugyenyi asserts that in 1909, the colonial state designated Swazi’s still holding out on concessional land as squatters who had no rights whatsoever. The 1913 Proclamation No. 24 authorised the white settler farmers to evict the squatters after a period of five years. To ensure a minimum of resistance, the colonial state granted large and relatively fertile pieces of land to the King and the Chiefs. This I would say marked the beginning of capital accumulation in the case of Swaziland, at the instance of white colonial settlers and the cooperation of the Swazi rulers. No sooner had the white settlers left, then the rulers took possession of their farms, and dubious schemes like the Lifa Fund (present day Tibiyo) were established to make the ordinary Swazi pay for this accumulation. Each household in Swaziland was required to pay with one cow in order to establish this fund (willingly and sometimes reluctantly).
Today, this clan has exclusive rights to high paying positions in politics, the private sector and government through Swazi business connection with the Lifa Fund. Lately, they have gotten into making sure that only their relatives or loyal servants make it to the police service, the defence force, and correctional services. This is driving a wedge between the King and people, and is worsening the inequalities in the country. This is not only illegal as per the laws of the land, it is inhumane and it is a disservice the ordinary folk who laid their lives for the Swazi Kings, the heirs and colonial masters in the battle of eMshadza against King Sikhukhuni of the Pedi. Today Swaziland is a more unequal society than when the Europeans ruled the land. The Gini coefficient, which measures the degree of distribution of income in the country is placed at 0.609 (World Bank, 2006) and is one of the highest in the World. This means that only a small share of the population benefits from the national income, as the richest 10% of the population controls over 50% of the total income of the country (World Bank, 2006). These findings are consistent with those of the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure (SHIES), 2001 conducted by our own Central Statistics Office (CSO) under the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development which established that the richest 20% of the population of Swaziland accounted for 56,4% of consumption, while the poorest 20% accounted for only 4, 3%. Now there is not much economic activity in Swaziland to make us believe that these are out of their own efforts as the role of government in the Swaziland GDP is high, meaning that they are mostly drawing their support for this consumption from the national coffers at the expense of poor people.
Per Capita Income
Swaziland has fairly high per capita income for a developing country with all the signs of highly indebted poor country (HIPC). By this I refer to the dysfunctional health system, and irrelevant education system, a dying population as a result of the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a hungry and disillusions farming community that leaves on food handouts. The per capita income was estimated at US$ 1360(or E 11, 560) in 2000 given the ruling exchange rate of about 1:8.5. The national budget itself, is just over E 10 billion which when shared equally between the just over E 1 million people should translate to a whooping E 10,000 per head in government goods and services. However, government services have remained very poor, and most indicators of social progress have reflected a decline. Most rural households cannot sustain livelihoods and the only tread holding them together are food packages provided by the government through the national Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).We are definitely not getting value for money from this government. The inequalities are so bad such that there is a stark contrast between and within districts. The Swaziland Human Development Report, (SHDR) 2008 showed that Swaziland’s Human Poverty Index (HPI), a composite index which captures deprivation and equates poverty to the denial of opportunities and choices most basic to human development, has been estimated at 53.9%. However, the HPI was found to be more varied regionally ranging between 49, 6% for Manzini and 60, 5% for Lubombo. The SHDR 2008 goes on to explain that this means that Lubombo has the most deprived population in Swaziland. It was also observed that a high HPI is inconsistent with Swaziland’s status as a low-middle income country and that the main contributor to the inconsistency was the high probability at birth of not living up to the age 40, estimated at 74.3% in 2004. This was followed by deprivation in basic human requirements, specifically inadequate access to safe water at 64%, something that should not be after 40 years of independence.
The Swazi rulers and government are not the only ones perpetrating poverty and inequality in Swaziland. In light of the unrelenting global financial and economic crisis, the G 20, a group of the well to do and powerful countries of the world met in London in April purportedly to find a solution to the problem. This “club”, as it has no founding treaty, has no universal representation and no transparency standard decided to commit an additional US$ 1.1 trillion to deal with the negative effects of the crisis by tripling the resources available to the IMF and increasing amongst others the Special Drawing Rights (SDR). Wrong move I say, because what kind of fiscal stimulus is contingent upon poor countries having to contract more debt in order to see themselves through the crisis. Given the uncertainty around the extent, depth and length of the crisis, would this be a wise move at all. What about the paper money that is being printed to sustain the west’s inefficient industries, what implications does this have on the global economic landscape, on inequalities within and between countries. I bet all this will lead to a more unequal world, with the developing world further indebted to the west. The plot becomes even thicker when considering countries like Swaziland, which are fragile and vulnerable states, yet as middle-low income countries do not receive budget support from the IMF or grants from the World Bank. What about us really, are we being pushed to the bottom of the pit? We cannot afford bailouts, but we can also not get support from these IFIs to respond to the crisis. Not to mention the absence of political will domestically to do so. Our industries are affected as much as those from the developing world, with current estimates indicating that only 75% industrial capacity is being utilised. The figure might be worse for Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, DRC and Zambia where mine shafts have been closed due to low level demand. Clearly, the bubble must be let to burst to allow the global economy to start from a clean slate.