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Swaziland: Southern Africa's Forgotten Crisis

Programme Report
Christopher Vandome, Alex Vines and Markus Weimer, September 2013

  • This report assesses Swaziland's economic and political trajectories, and outlines its options for reform. Concerns over the lack of accountability and the exclusion of the majority of the population from the policy-making process have circulated for many years. However, the recent international economic crisis and the subsequent fiscal crisis in Swaziland have brought these concerns to the fore.
  • Swaziland’s development trajectory is worrying. The government has made little progress in boosting the economy's resilience to fiscal shocks, and the country remains dependent on sugar exports, Southern African Customs Union tariffs and remittances from migrants. Inequality and poverty are growing and the economy is increasingly being eclipsed by those of its powerful neighbours. The current system of governance has led to the mismanagement of public funds, conspicuous royal consumption, and a stubborn resistance to reform, culminating in a fiscal crisis in 2011.

  • Reform and progress towards a model of constitutional monarchy are possible in Swaziland. As such, the international community needs to remain involved and engaged, and not miss the opportunity to encourage reform and pro-poor change. The opening of a full EU mission in Mbabane represents an opportunity for King Mswati and the government to have more senior-level and regular input from the EU in efforts towards resolving the HIV/AIDS epidemic, investing in agriculture and promoting positive public policy.

  • Although Swaziland is not of strategic significance or a major threat to regional peace and security, continued inaction will cause greater sub-regional insecurity for its neighbours. Swaziland also offers the opportunity for the United States, the EU and even SADC to maintain values-led policy, based on good governance, rule of law and democracy.

Expert Comment

Monarchy and Change in Swaziland, Chris Vandome, September 2013

Report dissemination

Swaziland's King chooses 15th bride and installs new government, WBEZ, 4 October

Swazi MPs face tough challenge, Mail and Guardian, 27 September

Africa's forgotten crisis, Times of Swaziland, 22 September

Swaziland: un scrutin pour la forme, BBC, 20 September

Swaziland votes for new parliament, TIME, 20 September

Swaziland votes for new parliament, but opposition says king wields the ultimate power, The Washington Post, 20 September

Monarchie in Swasiland: Majestät lässt wählenDer Spiegel, 20 September

Swaziland votes in parliamentary polls, France24/AFP, 20 September

Swazi application for SA loan is 'unfinished story', BusinessDay, 20 September

Swaziland's royal ruler squashes reform hopesReuters, 13 September

Swaziland's election: Royal revelationsThe Economist, 13 September

Swaziland: Southern Africa's forgotten crisis, South African Foreign Policy Initiative

Will Swaziland become a Bhutan or a Nepal? Let the debate begin, Institute for Security Studies, 12 September

Overvalued lilangeni renders exports uncompetitive, Swazi Observer, 12 September 

Is Mswati warming to democratic reforms?, Daily News, 10 September

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