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Swaziland Newsletter 50

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  • Morten Nielsen
    Swaziland Newsletter 50 Published by Southern Africa Contact (Denmark) Earlier issues can be read at http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/SAK-Swazinewsletter
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 4, 2007
      Swaziland Newsletter 50
      Published by Southern Africa Contact (Denmark)

      Earlier issues can be read at
      http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/SAK-Swazinewsletter together with
      documents and other materials not included in the regular newsletter. If
      you wish to subscribe to the newsletter, please send mail to:
      See photo section on the land, life and struggle of the Swazi people.
      All correspondence to sak@...

      1. King has eyes for 14th wife, http://www.iol.co.za, 3. September 2007
      Media, Protocol Officers clash, http://www.observer.org.sz, 4.
      September, 2007
      2. The elderly have no time to retire, http://allafrica.com, 28. August 2007
      3. Only $3.1 million to feed 400000, www.reliefweb.int, 29. August 2007
      4. SBS' ploughs back E44 000 to OVC, http://www.observer.org.sz, 3.
      Spetember 2007
      5. Bring Aids infection to zero percent, http://www.observer.org.sz, 3.
      September 2007
      6. Swazis still shun local products, http://www.observer.org.sz, 3.
      September 2007
      7. SADC customs union is on slow track – Manuel,
      http://www.busrep.co.za, 30. August 2007
      8. SA's plans to reduce import tariffs, http://www.observer.org.sz, 3.
      September 2007
      9. Swaziland’s king rejects criticism of political, economic policies,
      http://www.iht.com, 7. August 2007
      10. Swazis strike for multi-party democracy, http://www.int.iol.co.za,
      25. July 2007
      11. Report on the Assessment of Neighbourhood Care Points. Swaziland
      2006, http://aidsarticles.wordpress.com

      1. King has eyes for 14th wife
      Lobomba - Tens of thousands of bare-breasted virgins lined up for
      inspection by King Mswati III on Sunday in Swaziland's annual reed
      dance, which is always rife with speculation over whether the king will
      choose a new bride.

      The event is an important fixture in the cultural calendar of this
      deeply traditional southern African kingdom of around one million people
      and is held in honour of the Swazi queen mother.

      But the 39-year-old king, who already has 13 wives, also sometimes
      controversially uses the occasion to select a new bride.

      Participation in this year's dance was thought to be up on previous
      years with some reports putting at up to 40 000 the number of girls who
      converged on the royal residence at Ludzidzini, 25km south of the Swazi
      capital Mbabane.
      The festival kicked off on Wednesday when the girls were dispatched by
      the king to cut reeds on a nearby river bank and ends on Monday with a
      second dance.

      In the absence of shower blocks, some girls had to wash in a river
      before lining up in their "regiments" to present the reeds to the queen
      mother and file past the king.

      The monarch was clad in a leopard-skin loincloth worn over a wrap skirt
      indicating his clan and carried a traditional arrow-shaped axe for the

      In searing 35-degree-Celsius temperatures, the girls then re-assembled
      on an open plain in front of the kraal, known as the "arena", to dance
      in front of the king, his retinue and thousands of tourists.

      Visitors from Australia, the United States and Britain were among the
      spectators, who were under strict instructions not to wear hats, point
      or kneel.

      Among the king's guests were Zambian King Levy Mwanawasa and South
      Africa's ANC deputy president and ANC presidential candidate Jacob Zuma.

      As part of the celebrations dozens of cattle were slaughtered and their
      hides hung to dry on the walls of the kraal, giving off a powerful
      stench in the hot sun.

      The reeds collected by the girls are used as a wind breaker in huts and
      fences. - Sapa-dpa

      Media, Protocol Officers
      MEMBERS of the media and protocol officers in the reed dance yesterday
      almost engaged in a major showdown after members of the fourth estate
      expressed their disappointment in the manner in which the protocol
      officers were treating them.
      The international media, including journalists from France, Belgium, the
      United Kingdom, Taiwan and other European media houses as well as
      journalists from the South African media including SABC, the Sunday
      Times, Beeld newspaper and other media houses were present at the reed
      dance yesterday.
      Confusion was the order of the day at the dancing arena as some of the
      protocol officers constantly demanded that the journalists move from
      where they were standing to give way to some of the spectators who
      wanted to pass through and have a seat in the arena. However, some of
      the journalists wondered why they were being moved around because there
      was obviously plenty of space where other spectators could easily pass
      through. At first, journalists took the stiff orders they received that
      they move away, but they later refused to budge as they felt that they
      were taken for a ride. One of the protocol officers was heard shouting:
      “yeyi nine asenisuke lapho kani niva njani senifuna kusetjentiswe
      emandla yini” loosely translated to “you guys move from where you are
      seated don’t you understand, do you want force to be used on you
      eventually.” However, one of the brave journalists from a South African
      newspaper who had had enough of the nagging from the protocol officers
      shouted back and said “bese sisebenza njani? njengoba nawe usemsebenzini
      nathi sisemsebenzini kanjalo sicolele bakwethu” loosely translated to
      “how do you expect us to work, in as much you have been assigned to work
      we are also at work so please give us a break.”
      However tempers eventually cooled down when one of the protocol officers
      later came to the journalists and informed them that they should prepare
      themselves because His Majesty King Mswati III would come and pose for a
      picture and that the journalists should calm down because they would all
      be awarded the opportunity of taking the King’s picture.
      Meanwhile, the King and his guests before doing the giya dance in front
      of the maidens came down to where the journalists were standing and
      posed for a picture much to the satisfaction of the journalists.
      Meanwhile, attempts of preventing journalists from carrying a footage of
      the King doing the giya dance in front of the maidens proved futile as
      the journalists persisted and made their way through to get a coverage
      of the King. “The protocol officers here are just too rigid, don’t they
      understand that the reed dance has gained popularity around the globe
      and that people out there are eager to see what really happens in the
      reed dance,” wondered one of the disgruntled scribes adding that it was
      high time Swazi protocol officers respected the media if they expected
      respect in return.
      “You guys I am honestly in love with the Swazi culture, the people,
      landscape and the warm hospitality everywhere else in the country has
      really impressed me, but you can’t tell me that journalists are being
      given this kind of treatment,” remarked one of the scribes.
      2. The elderly have no time to retire
      At a time when Swaziland's elderly are taking on an increasingly vital
      role as household heads or caregivers to AIDS orphans, they often slip
      through the nets of humanitarian organisations, and government stipends
      are too small to cover basic needs.
      "The elderly are rife for exploitation, and they are being exploited by
      a society that requires them to do demanding work, regardless of their
      age or infirmities," said Thandi Maphalala, a social welfare worker in
      the commercial city of Manzini, 35km southeast of the Swazi capital,
      Although relatively few Swazis know their HIV status, more than a
      quarter of all sexually active people are infected with HIV, and life
      expectancy has dropped to 31 years.
      Largely due to HIV/AIDS, the number of orphans has skyrocketed since
      2000, reaching 100,000, according to the United Nations Children's
      Agency (UNICEF). "The crisis is likely to worsen, as HIV prevalence
      rates among 20-to-30-year-olds are approaching 50 percent."
      Taking care of an AIDS patient is extremely difficult. On top of that,
      the elderly now have to run a household - that means they must go to
      some distant spot to fetch water and firewood; they must cook, clean and
      raise grandchildren
      About 15 percent of Swaziland's one million people are older than 49,
      and 3.4 percent are 65 or older. People who have lived beyond 49 -
      statistically the upper cut-off point for the "sexually active"
      demographic - are mostly free of HIV.
      Rather than being supported by their grown children, which has been the
      cultural norm in Swaziland, the elderly are now required to nurse their
      ailing offspring.
      "Taking care of an AIDS patient is extremely difficult. On top of that,
      the elderly now have to run a household - that means they must go to
      some distant spot to fetch water and firewood; they must cook, clean and
      raise grandchildren," said Maphalala. "All this comes at a time when
      they should be slowing down and enjoying their golden years."
      Meagre incomes
      Rev Jabulani Dlamini, who works in the Luve area, 60km north of Manzini,
      often drops in on his elderly parishioners to give them moral support
      and provide donations of food and other essentials.
      "These good people went through all the work of raising children. Now,
      with the AIDS-related deaths, they must do it all over again and raise
      their children's children, who may also be infected by HIV. Who gives
      them assistance, other than a little charity? And that is not enough."
      Dlamini noted that the days when the extended family lived together in a
      single multi-generational homestead had gone. About 80 percent of Swazis
      still live in rural areas, but families have been fragmented into
      smaller households.
      "There is no one to look after these good people. How many times have I
      found a granny sitting in the dark because there is no candle, and
      hungry because there is no food, and dirty because she is too weak to
      fetch water?" he asked.
      When the government finally raised monthly stipends for the elderly from
      US$12 to $15 earlier this year, the increment came just as food prices
      were spiraling beyond affordability.
      A 10kg bag of maizemeal, barely enough to feed a family of four for a
      month, now costs almost $6, while two litres of cooking oil costs about
      $3. In an ongoing drought the country recorded its worst-ever harvest
      this year, and about 40 percent of Swaziland's population is facing
      acute food and water shortages.
      Some food aid
      A record number of households receive food assistance from agencies like
      the World Food Programme. Humanitarian aid workers said there were no
      reports of widespread starvation in the country but, indisputably, there
      was hunger and suffering.
      "My grandchildren are fed, they are even well-fed, at school or at the
      neighbourhood Care Point [funded by the UN Children's Agency, UNICEF].
      It is only one meal a day, and only five days a week, but it is godsend
      for them," said Gogo (Granny) Tsela, who lives in a stick-and-mud shack
      outside Manzini.
      "But no one prepares meals for the elderly. I am at home with my little
      bit of porridge, if I am lucky enough to have that." A black iron pot of
      white maizemeal porridge was cooking over an open fire in her yard,
      augmented by wild spinach that had managed to survive the drought.
      Every fortnight Tsela receives maizemeal, cooking oil and beans from the
      local food aid distribution point, which she shares with her two
      granddaughters, the children of her deceased daughter. Their father has
      left the family.
      Like many other elderly people, she has no cash support other than her
      small monthly allowance from the government, which arrives erratically
      and often requires a long, expensive and bus trip to fetch.
      The government subsidises four urban hospitals and a network of rural
      clinics but user fees are still required, and medication must be
      purchased. Although medicines come at a reduced price, chronic shortages
      often make them unavailable. This means they have to be bought at
      commercial pharmacies, where the prices are mostly unaffordable.
      Formal-sector employment stands at 27 percent and pensions are not
      always guaranteed. "Don't talk about pensions; only a few people have
      pensions," said Amos Shabangu, a retired bus driver. He received no
      compensation after leaving his job because his employer lied to him when
      he said he had paid into a national provident fund in Shabangu's name.
      A farm revisited
      When IRIN visited another grandmother in similar circumstances, Gogo
      Nhlabatsi, in April, she was all alone on her isolated farm near Manzini
      and very worried about how she would support five grandchildren, aged 7
      to 12.
      The recent rain had come too late to save the stunted maize crop. "There
      is nothing, nothing," she said, gazing bleakly over the withered brown
      maize stalks.
      Desperation led Nhlabatsi and her grandchildren to comb through every
      metre of field, salvaging whatever they could. The dwarfed cobs yielded
      only a few bags of kernels, but every little bit helped.
      It was a struggle Nhlabatsi had not expected to endure so late in life.
      "I will find rest in my grave," she said.

      3. Only $3.1 million to feed 400000
      Despite the worst harvest in the country's recorded history and the
      aftermath of fires that destroyed crops and plantations, Swaziland's
      appeals for international assistance are falling on deaf donor ears.
      In July UN agencies appealed for US$18 million to feed about 40 percent
      of Swaziland's one million people, who are facing acute food shortages.
      So far, only $3.1 million has been forthcoming, according to the UN
      Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
      "The low funding of the appeal is extremely worrying. The food reserves
      that people have been living off of will begin to run out in September,
      and it is very likely that many households will have eaten the seeds
      they would have planted in the coming agricultural season, thus
      prolonging their situation of food insecurity," Kelly David, head the
      OCHA Southern African regional office, told IRIN.
      "Without assistance, there is no question that people will be facing
      serious food shortages in the coming month [September]."
      To date, funding for relief aid by the World Food Programme has received
      roughly $1.6 million; the promotion of self-feeding schemes like
      backyard and community gardens, just over $1.5 million.
      Are donors drained by drought?
      "Swaziland has experienced chronic drought for at least 15 years," said
      Chinwe Dike, Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme
      (UNDP), explaining why some donors have been less than prompt with funding.
      "An important issue arising from this is that the challenge of drought
      has always been addressed as an emergency, and no long-term or
      development approaches have been adopted in addressing chronic drought,"
      she commented.
      David agreed: "I think donors want to see more clarity on how
      governments and their partners plan to address the underlying structural
      problems related to drought. Both donors and responders are fully aware
      that a once-off humanitarian response will protect lives and help some
      recover their livelihoods in the immediate term, but is not going to
      change the long-term situation of the affected population."
      But the lack of rain this year has been described as the worst in living
      memory. "The drought in 2007 has become an emergency and has been
      declared as a national disaster because, unlike in the past, the
      Highveld, which is normally considered the breadbasket of the country,
      was also affected," Dike told IRIN.
      The fires that raged through the country in early August had added to
      the mountain kingdom's woes, she said. "These events were also declared
      a disaster by the government because of the devastating impact on the
      forestry industry, and the loss of homes, livestock and livelihoods."
      An underestimated bad situation made worse
      The drought and the fires have compounded the vulnerability of people
      already struggling to get by. Despite being classified as a
      middle-income country, the government estimates that two-thirds of the
      population earn less than a dollar a day.
      This classification, some observers feel, takes Swaziland out of the
      donor spotlight. The UN appealed for $18.9 million to feed more than
      500,000 drought-affected rural people in impoverished neighbouring
      Lesotho, and has already received 60 percent of the funding.
      "That represents cash already in hand or in the pipeline. By comparison,
      the Swaziland appeal is only 17 percent funded, and the vast majority of
      that money was provided through a central fund for humanitarian
      assistance managed by OCHA, rather than by individual donors responding
      to the appeal," Kelly said.
      As Dike pointed out, "It is important to note that although Swaziland is
      classified as a middle income country, most of its human development
      indicators are those of a LDC [least developed country]." Wealth is
      highly skewed and poverty in the rural areas is widespread.
      At 0.609, Swaziland has one of the highest Gini Coefficients in the
      world, according to the UNDP. The Gini coefficient uses a measurement
      between 0 and 1 to determine income distribution - the closer to 1, the
      more unequal a society; the closer to 0, the more equal a society.
      "These disasters have taken place within the context of a country
      ravaged by HIV/AIDS. Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate
      globally: the most recent population base prevalence rate is 26 percent
      of the entire population," Dike said.
      "The stresses and strains of these events manifest in increased
      incidences of gender-based violence, crime and increased child
      abandonment and child abuse."

      4. SBS' ploughs back E44 000 to OVC
      THE Swaziland Building Society has committed E50 000 to the school fee
      challenge promotion to aid schools’ orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC).
      The schools were identified Thulwane Primary, Ekuphakameni high, Mater
      Dorolosa High and the School For The Deaf.
      They all share E44 000, with each school getting E11 000.
      Petros Shongwe, Building Society Operations Manager said the school fee
      challenge competition was the bank’s way of ploughing back to the
      society as well as contributing to the improvement of the economy
      through education.
      “As the whole country and its economy are facing huge challenges in
      various sectors, we feel our contribution will go a long way towards
      easing some of those burdens.
      “A lot of the young children today are facing major challenges as a
      result of HIV and AIDS, so it is our collective responsibility to share
      the little we have with our neighbours,” he said.
      He observed that Swaziland was facing an uphill battle against
      unemployment, which in turn is lays a heavy burden on government as she
      left with a limited revenue base.
      Swaziland Building Society General Manager Timothy Nhleko said it would
      be a win-win situation for both the families and pupils to benefit and
      the country.
      “The families as well as the whole Swazi nation will reap the rewards,
      as this is an investment in the future”.
      NEW branch for Siteki
      Siteki residents and surrounding areas can look forward to the opening
      of a new Building Society branch before the end of next year.
      The branch will be opened at Siteki, due to the good relations The
      Swaziland Building Society has with the School For The Deaf, which was
      one of the winners in the School Fee Challenge promotion.
      Building society’s Timothy Nhleko said they were just finishing up on
      the minor details.
      “Construction will commence soon. We are glad to announce this, as we
      will now have an even representation in all four districts in the
      country,” he said.
      The Lubombo district was the only one that did not have a Building
      Society branch of the country.
      Businessman gets refunded for OVC’s school fees
      Sibusiso Dlamini, Managing Director of Skhumba China car wash was the
      winner in the refund of school fees category.
      He got back E1672 in cash, which he had paid for a needy pupil of SOS in
      Dlamini said he would use the money to pay the same child’s school fees
      for the next academic year.
      The businessman also helps another needy pupil who attends at Jubukweni
      High school.

      5. Bring Aids infection to zero percent
      THE country has the capacity to stop HIV and AIDS.
      This was an observation made by Senior Vice President for Health in the
      Anglo American Group, Dr. Brian Brink, during a breakfast meeting hosted
      by BCHA and the Global Business Coalition on HIV, Tubercu-losis and
      Dr. Brink said instruments and all necessary policies were in place, but
      what was lacking was only the will to implement all necessary steps
      towards it.
      He stressed that it was possible to have all statistics about the
      pandemic coming down to zero, which will mean victory over the epidemic
      by the country.
      “Swaziland can beat AIDS and stop HIV infection. The devastating
      consequences of HIV and AIDS in our communities are visible for all to
      see but we can beat it. The tools are all there to deal with the
      pandemic but what is now needed is the will to move forward to
      implementation,” he added.
      Dr. Brink mentioned that people always believe that money is needed to
      fight HIV. He said if the country organised its plan and involved more
      partners, even international donors would want to lend a helping hand.
      He assured that money would always be there for projects aimed at
      fighting the pandemic if the situation on the ground could be correctly
      Dr. Brink said there was need to expand HIV testing and counselling
      services for the public.
      He encouraged the business community to adopt what he termed the zero
      target, which is his theory towards combating HIV and AIDS.
      “We can achieve a zero outcome on new infections, zero people getting
      sick or dying of AIDS and zero babies born with HIV,” he stated.
      The event was also attended by Enterprise and Employment Minister Lutfo
      Dlamini, who pledged government’s commitment towards partnering with the
      business community in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
      He described the pandemic as a devastating storm that is a catalystic
      occurrence to all problems faced by the country, including poverty,
      crime and unemployment.
      Dlamini said this was influenced by certain attitudes of discrimination
      which are to be dealt away with.
      These were some of the steps shared by Dr. Brink to declare victory
      against the pandemic:
      * Expand HIV testing and counselling services
      * Prevent new infections - promote that those who test negative remain
      * Positive prevention - when one who tests positive should have access
      to Anti Retroviral Therapy to contain situation.
      * Maximise protection - through condom distribution.
      * Accelerate treatment scale up.

      6. Swazis still shun local products
      IT would seem Minister of Enterprise and Employment Lutfo Dlamini, a
      great fan of Swazi empowerment, would have to do more as Swazis still
      detest locally produced stuff.
      Yesterday at Tum’s George Hotel, PSI Swaziland confessed it experienced
      problems having ICE materials of the wormfree chewable tablets in
      vernacular (siSwati) as this could have caused people to shy away from
      “Swazis are brain washed into thinking anything local is taboo and it
      would seem much effort has to be done in convincing them otherwise,”
      said Victoria Masuku, PSI Swaziland’s Technical Advisor.
      She was presenting research findings on the Wormfree Albedanzole tablets
      they conducted as an organisation recently. The research was carried out
      in both urban, peri-urban as well as some rural communities to determine
      acceptance, facts and barriers around the Albendanzole tablets.
      The enterprise minister has persistently called for products
      manufactured locally to be supported, questioning the patriotism of some
      who prefer foreign things above those local. To that end, he has even
      called upon government to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
      when it comes to tendering for contracts there.
      Meanwhile, PSI said at least eight focused group discussions were held
      in the cited areas wherein it emerged that people held the view that
      de-worming was exclusively for children and not adults.
      “Amongst barriers noted was the pricing of the Albendazole tablets,
      especially in pharmacies, where parents could part with up to E25
      whereas health centres under government charge E5. Respondents proposed
      that the charge ranges between E9 and E15 for each tablet. Also, the
      question of availability comes to play since it (Albendazole) could only
      be accessed from pharmacies and not in places where the people are,”
      said Masuku.
      She said the suggestion was that all Information Education and
      Communication (IEC) and Interpersonal Communication (IPC) materials
      should be in the vernacular as opposed to the English language.
      This was after the respondents noted that everything was in English yet
      not all of them were conversant with the language.
      PSI Swaziland will be distributing the Albendazole tablets to retail
      outlets such as shops, supermarkets, as well as through Community Based
      Organisations (CBOs).
      They would be using wholesalers such as Metro who would ensure
      distribution filters into the communities and retail outlets.
      The PSI Swaziland technical advisor also clarified that her organisation
      was doing other aspects of social marketing and health, not that it had
      deviated from its mandate.
      “We became synonymous with the use of condoms and a lot of people were
      asking about the relevance of us launching the Water Guard (water
      disinfectant tablet) last week and the deworming tablets today. This is
      part of our work as an organisation into health matters and social
      She said their work was informed by research since they were pursuing
      what is known as ‘evidence-based marketing’.
      PSI Swaziland Deputy Country Representative Babazile Magongo said they
      could also venture into malaria and Maternal and Child Health (MCH)
      programme and were capable of doing so as their mandate entailed.

      7. SADC customs union is on slow track - Manuel
      Cape Town - The 2010 target for creating a Southern African Development
      Community (SADC) customs union was unlikely to be achieved, finance
      minister Trevor Manuel told members of the national assembly portfolio
      committee yesterday.

      Manuel was reporting on his interactions with the World Bank, SADC, the
      Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) and the International Monetary Fund.

      "My submission is that we won't get there by 2010. But this does not
      mean that we should abandon the idea," said Manuel, responding to
      questions from MPs about the timeframes for setting up a larger customs

      He said his office had been "peppered with" letters after treasury
      director-general Letsetja Kganyago's recent report to the finance
      committee on the Sacu customs pool.

      Manuel said this was an indication that there was political sensitivity
      among members of the customs union over reporting matters relating to
      the pool.

      The countries might not want their respective citizens to know what came
      out of that pool; there might also be the notion that these countries
      were "too dependent" on South Africa, said Manuel.

      The finance minister said that the aim to have a wider free trade area
      by next year also faced challenges.

      There were some countries in the region who were dependent on customs
      revenue ''because they don't have sufficiently developed tax systems and
      inland revenue".

      Manuel said 50 percent of Lesotho's budget and 63 percent of Swaziland's
      budget were accounted from transfers from the customs pool managed by
      South Africa.

      He said Sacu combined transfers to Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and
      Swaziland had increased from R3.2 billion in 1994/95 to R23.1 billion in
      2007/08, with the revenue-sharing agreement based on customs and excise
      revenue from extra Sacu trade.

      Manuel said that while there was support for a free trade area, the
      remaining challenges included achieving an effective alignment of the
      tariffs and dealing with states that belonged to more than one economic

      Swaziland ,for example, is a member of Sacu and SADC, as well as the
      Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, which extends all the way
      to Egypt.

      Manuel said this created "a bit of tension".

      Members of the SADC are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the
      Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia,
      South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


      8. SA's plans to reduce import tariffs
      EVEN though South Africa's plans to ease import tariffs under its
      recently launched industry policy framework could leave its Southern
      African Customs Union (SACU) counterparts with little policy space if
      they wanted to embark on their own industrial deve
      Swaziland is heavily reliant on the shared income from the common
      revenue customs pool which accounts for more than half of both the
      Kingdom and Lesotho's national budgets while the other member states -
      Namibia and Botswana - also benefit substantially.
      That country's publication, Businessday, yesterday reported that SA
      wants to use the SACU tariff book to enhance and aid its industrial
      development. It was said the SA government was planning to review and
      streamline import tariffs in all relevant sectors, ultimately with the
      aim to lower the costs of inputs into downstream activities.
      It quoted Deputy Director-General of International Trade and Economic
      Development Xavier Carim who played down the threat to other member
      states, saying there was not necessarily a correlation between tariffs
      and revenues from the customs pool, as the lowering of tariffs tended to
      boost imports, which in turn could swell customs revenues.
      However, it was stated that SA's plan to unilaterally tinker with the
      tariff book also goes against stated objectives in the SACU treaty of
      2003; recognising the importance of balanced industrial development of
      the common customs area as an important objective for economic
      development as well as agreeing to develop common policies and
      strategies for industrial development.
      Further, the report said the national industrial policy framework's aim
      to use import tariffs to facilitate SA's industrial development
      ostensibly undermined this commitment.
      "SA's streamlining of the tariff book means Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia
      and Botswana would be left with little policy space if they wanted to
      embark on their own industrial development," the report stated.
      It was also noted that even though SA could not change customs tariffs
      without consultation, the political pressure on other SACU member states
      - which are deeply dependent on SA - might mean they would be reluctant
      to cross the big power in the region and therefore, go along with the move.
      Meanwhile, local economists have said these developments would not
      necessarily impact negatively on Swaziland and other SACU members,
      depending on various economic factors.
      In an interview, Federation of Swaziland Employers and Chamber of
      Commerce (FSE&CC) Economist Muzikayise Dube said the neighbouring
      state's plans could benefit the whole region.
      "If SA reduces its import tariffs then this applies for the whole region
      as this would mean reduced income which in turn means reduced revenue
      from the SACU income pool," he said. "However, the flipside is that
      reduced tariffs should increase the volume of imports and thus, can
      expect to compensate for the loss."
      He said the outcome of these developments also depended on which sectors
      SA planned to effect the tariffs. "If these apply to critical industry
      sectors which mostly import raw material, then the reduced tariffs will
      improve production costs and therefore, overall production."
      The policy framework primarily identifies four lead sectors; capital and
      transport equipment, metals; automotives and components; chemicals,
      plastic fabrication and pharmaceuticals; as well as forestry, pulp,
      paper and furniture. However, an array of other sectors will also
      ultimately receive support, including clothing and textiles,
      agri-processing, biofuels, information and communication technology
      (ICT), white goods and retail.
      Dube said if the policy meets the objective to improve the level of
      import volumes, then there was no reason for SACU members to reject the
      "It is not necessarily true that SA could go ahead and implement these
      plans without consulting its SACU counterparts even though it is the
      'big brother' in the region," he said, adding "even though it is
      directed at SA's economic development, the other countries can stop the
      policy if it is to have adverse effects."
      Co-ordinating Assembly of Non-governmental Organisations (CANGO)
      Economist Thembinkosi Dlamini concurred, adding that such a development
      was long overdue as SACU tariffs had not been globally competitive for
      years because they were relatively high.
      He said SACU tariffs were not competitive because they were set by SA
      and yet the tendency was for all global destinations to reduce import
      tariffs to increase competitiveness.
      "SACU has not reduced its import tariffs for years, leading to the
      region having high cost producers because of common external tariffs,"
      said Dlamini, adding that decisions on the industry policy should be
      based on the premise that economic activity to arise from the strategy
      would be big, in terms of revenue for the SACU pool.
      Dlamini said the local government needed to address and satisfy the
      issue of revenue neutrality as well as attracting foreign direct
      investment (FDI) to promote economic growth.
      "This is a good starting point, as long as SA can prove that the move
      will be revenue neutral. Swaziland now has to look at measures to take
      into consideration in order to maximise the benefits to be accrued thereof."

      9. Swaziland’s king rejects criticism of political
      LANGKAWI, Malaysia: Swaziland's King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute
      monarch, said Tuesday he is working to ensure democracy and reduce
      rampant poverty in his agriculture-dependent country, despite
      long-running criticism about his political and financial policies.
      Mswati, who has faced growing domestic and foreign pressure in recent
      years to relax his grip on his kingdom, confirmed that Swaziland no
      longer bans political parties following a constitution adopted last year.
      "This constitution was a result of many people participating," Mswati
      said in an interview with The Associated Press and selected Malaysian
      media on the sidelines of an economic gathering of African and Asian
      leaders in Malaysia.
      "The people are the ones who decided the structure as it is," Mswati
      said. "There is no ban on political parties."
      Swaziland has been ruled by royal decree since a state of emergency was
      declared in 1973, when the late King Sobhuza II outlawed political parties.
      The new constitution has been considered vague about whether it allows
      political organizations to function because it still does not allow
      parliamentary candidates to run as members of political parties.
      Swaziland's pro-democracy movement has stepped up its push for
      multiparty elections. Demonstrators led a strike last month that nearly
      paralyzed the important sugar refining industry in this landlocked
      country of 1 million people.
      Activists have also objected to Mswati's economic policies, including
      plans to tax pensions.
      Mswati, who ascended the throne in 1986, has been criticized for his
      lavish spending, his love of luxury cars and the palaces that house his
      13 wives in a nation where an estimated 70 percent of the population
      lives in poverty.
      More than two-thirds of Swaziland's people live in rural areas that are
      often ravaged by drought and crop failures. The unemployment rate is
      estimated to be 40 percent, worsened by one of the world's highest AIDS
      10. Swazis strike for multi-party democracy
      Thousands of striking public sector workers brought Swaziland's second
      city to a standstill on Wednesday as they took to the streets to demand
      the introduction of multi-party democracy.

      Schools and government factories were closed, while hospitals and banks
      were forced to run skeleton services during a strike called by the
      country's main trade union body to denounce the current system of
      government which ensures that absolute power resides in the hands of
      King Mswati III.

      A two-day stoppage by public sector workers was to have begun in the
      capital Mbabane but organisers were forced to have a last-minute rethink
      after failing to get authorisation from the security services.
      Instead they made Manzini, where they had planned to strike on Thursday,
      the centre of their protests and hundreds of unionists made the
      30-minute journey by bus from the capital in a show of solidarity.

      "There are no lessons in school everywhere today as most teachers are
      here," said Stones Ginindza, general secretary of the Swaziland National
      Association of Teachers.

      "Even though we have got exams (due to be held in early August), we are
      facing a time of crisis and so no teacher is going to sit down and think
      about preparing the students unless the government honours our demands.

      "If they do not respond to our call, I'm afraid this is going to continue."

      Unions and rights groups are hoping that their show of strength will
      lead to a dismantling of the traditional tinkhundla system of government
      under which King Mswati III retains full executive, legislative and
      judicial powers.

      Despite the introduction of a new constitution in February 2006,
      political parties are still not allowed to contest general elections
      scheduled for next year and are demanding the introduction of a genuine
      system of democracy.

      While there was no sign of violence, many stores shut up shop as the
      demonstrators marched through the city.

      The protesters carried banners and chanted songs that warned: "We are
      tired of being oppressed, we want better living."

      Gugu Malindzis, deputy head of the Swaziland Federation of Labour, said
      that the government had to listen to the concerns of the population.

      "We want to force the government to pay attention to our demands," he
      said. "People are not getting an accurate picture, about the situation
      of the workers and how we are being governed."
      11. Report on the Assessment of Neighbourhood Care Points. Swaziland
      2006. Published by
      UNICEF, 2006. This report is about care for orphans and children
      affected by HIV deaths.
      AIDS in Africa Articles

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