Rights and freedoms are threatened by Privatisation and economic injustice: the case of Swaziland
A paper presented by the President of PUDEMO – Cde Mario Masuku in Denmark Copenhagen at the EU-SADC Conference, held on the 4th November, 2002 to the 11th November, 2002.
Issues in this paper:
Background to the situation in Swaziland and the structure of the economy==
What is PrivatisationConcept of privatisation
Effects of privatisation on the people
The way out
Background to the situation in Swaziland and the structure of the economy
66% of the people of Swaziland live below the poverty line, according to the budget speech of 2000. Also, Swaziland is facing serious crisis of food shortage and starvation of the rural and urban majority, but the regime still goes ahead and secure a special jet for the king, which has already been leased from Canada at an expense of about 450million(about 40% of the GDP of Swaziland).
Swaziland was a British colony until 1968 when the British colonialists handed over power to an equally exploitative regime, called the tinkhundla neo-colonial regime, led by the monarchy. This regime never worked to reverse the colonial effects of the colonial past, but intensified the situation, thus creating a new black elite collaborating with the colonial masters in the continued exploitation of the poor majority.
In this regard, Swaziland is a country with high income-inequalities than in most developed countries and high by standards of the developing world according to a study by the UNDP for 2002. The situation is made worse by the fact that the economy of the country is going through a deep-seated structural crisis, resulting in the lack of growth, which is indicated by the fact that economic growth dropped to 1.5% in 2002, compared to 2.5% for 2000 and 3.7% in 1999, according to a central bank report for 2002. The gross corruption, poor management, political crisis and the general bleeding of the economy as a result of royal abuse, all account for this state of affairs.
The GNP per capita of $1360 (1999) classify Swaziland as a middle income country, disregarding the huge inequalities so obvious in the country.
The colonial regime and its creation, the tinkhundla regime, have pursued discriminatory social, political and economic policies which; amongst other things have led to; extreme levels of poverty and disease in the rural areas; the creation of urban ghettoes where people have been denied even the most basic means of survival as a result of severely limited access to decent homes, electricity, water-borne sewerage, tarred roads, and recreational facilities; an education system preparing the majority for the lives of inferiority and low wage jobs; a social security geared almost entirely to fulfilling the needs of the royal minority and their friends; a health system that has neglected the well-being of most Swazis; the social and political marginalisation of the majority of the people, through their exclusion, economic benefit and decision-making, as well as the distortion and abuse of culture by the ruling royal minority.
Gender discrimination and abuse against women has either excluded or subordinated women’s participation in all socio-economic and political institutions. Combined with tinkhundla patriarchy, this has resulted in women, rural women in particular, being the most exploited and poverty-stricken section of the Swazi population.
The alienation of land from the indigenous people and the denial of the majority of our people’s rights to land and political power are ultimately connected. These problems have led to the arbitrary eviction of people from their land, unemployment and a serious decline in the standards of living.
Both the political system and the pattern of economic development in our country, have been responsible for these developments. The royal minority and their friends have used their exclusive access to political and economic power to promote their own interests at the expense of the poor and suffering majority of Swazis and the country’s natural resources.
What is privatisation?
Privatisation is when government hands over the management or assets of government services to private interests, it takes many forms but these forms have one thing in common i.e turning over the government’s functions to private owners or managers. In the process, privatisation undermines the ability of the state to deliver basic services, like water or sanitation. It often leads to higher costs and worse quality services for the poor, and causes job losses.
The Concept of privatisation: why privatisation?
Privatization should be broadly conceptualized as a process of abolishing the social wage, state owned enterprises and other public sector – driven activities through their commodification and private ownership. This means they cease to serve the broader interests of society, but begin to serve the narrow interests of the rich few in society, who have the means to access expensive services.
The resources in society are plenty, but they need a certain control for them to be distributed. Thus, the low incomes, the absence of the wage work people fighting to survive and maintain a decent standard of living, block the people from participating in the broad democratic processes in any country or environment. This, thus, becomes a fundamental factor in blocking the people’s rights and freedoms towards any progressive dispensation. Survival will only be opened to a few privileged who have access to the resources.
Effects of privatisation on the poor.
Priovatised services do not provide well for the people, who cannot pay, because private interests must make profit. Government says it will ensure the people get good services through contracts and regulations. But, government does not have the capacity to enforce them.
Privatisation makes it harder to maintain cross subsidies. Cross subsidies mean rich communities or industry pay more so that poor households can pay less. Getting rid of cross subsidies tends to make the prices for services for the poor to go up.
Privatised companies do not take the broader economic needs of the country into account, for instance by buying goods locally as away to create jobs, and providing affordable services in remote regions.
Government just pushes for privatisation of all sorts, across the board, without a policy frame work to ensure restructuring meets broader developmental goals. Government just pushes for privatisation of all sorts, across the board, without a policy framework to ensure restructuring meets broader developmental goals. Privatised services lead to huge retrenchments which dramatically increase the amount of unwaged work we have to do in order to survive, which might involve a lot of controversies.
Workers power is weakened as a result of restructuring of the workplace.
So the people need to have access to the basic human needs like food, shelter, clothing, water, education, healthcare. So, as Maslow once said that in order to satisfy a higher need the lower needs should have been satisfied. Therefore, if such a process robs the people of their basic human needs, thus the higher needs of rights and freedom becomes a far cry and a far sight. People’s participation and association can never be in the near future and it has a tendency of hampering development. Therefore, poverty in itself prevents economic growth and development.
Privatisation blocks participation in a democratic state, the people give a mandate for what goods and services the state should provide for them through elections. Any provision of goods and services should always remain a political decision not one which lies with private interests or even narrow bureaucratic interests. Community participation should be sought in the provision of goods and services in the society.
The resources in society are plenty, but they need a certain control for them to be distributed.
Thus, the low incomes, the absence of the wage work, people fighting to survive and maintain a decent life blocks the people from participating in the broad democratic processes in any country or environment. This, thus, becomes a fundamental factor in blocking the people’s rights and freedoms towards any progressive dispensation. Survival will only be opened to a privileged who have access to the resources.
The way out in Swaziland:
In looking for an effective way we have to look at the present structure and character of the Swazi economy. Swaziland is a country with high income – inequalities than in most developed countries and high by standards of the developing world according to a study by the UNDP for 2000.
There are two major causes of the persistent inequalities in Swaziland;
First, the deliberate policy of the tinkhundla royal regime to monopolise national resources and allocate these in favour of their own narrow selfish interests, to the total exclusion of the suffering masses of Swaziland. Secondly, the economy has experienced growth that has not been translated into development and benefit for the majority of the people of Swaziland.
The key features of the Swazi economy, as indicated by the study of the UNDP include:
High levels of poverty
Land remains in the hands of a few
The economy is no longer expanding, thus it is destroying jobs and not creating new ones, which also make it fail to absorb new job seekers.
Ultimately, the economy is going through a deep-seated structured crisis.
The kind of state required to lead people centered development and guarantee the rights and freedoms of all people, particularly the poor in Swaziland;
In order for the agenda of meaningful development to take place, there must be a democratic and developmental state to actively intervene and put in place the necessary mechanisms for the empowerment of the poor. The features of that state include;
-Providing an adequate social wage for all poor people. This means services that a democratic and developmental government should provide like health, education, welfare grants, electricity, water and housing.
-It must establish a new growth path for the economy. This growth path requires that the state actively intervenes in the economy, to defend the interests of the poor by promoting production for the needs of the majority and not for w few.
-It must also ensure more equitable distribution of resources. This means more investment in poor people’s needs and areas, to advance reverse the legacy of unequal development and skewed distribution of resources.
-Finally, it must ensure greater democracy in the economy and the state itself. Privatisation of basic services turn people into mere customers, where benefit depends on their buying power. Therefore, participation in public and economic life becomes a privilege and a preserve for a minority at the expense of the poor majority.
Such a state of affairs presented by this kind of state will lead to people-centred development, thus pushing forward the frontiers of democracy, freedom and justice for all, particularly the poor.
The Swazi government has committed itself to neo-liberalism and structural adjustment programmes as shown by its recent policy statements and its recently released development framework called the National Development Strategy (NDS) and its macro-economic framework called the Public Sector Management Programme (PSMP), which is already time-framed through its implementation plan, the Economic and Social Review Agenda (ESRA). The effects of these are already being felt throughout the country. For instance, in the fiscal year 1999/2000, there were 33494 workers employed in the public service. Of these, 28 094 were regular staff. A further 5400 workers were employed as non-regular staff. This included daily paid workers, casuals and temporary teachers. The workforce is spread over 31 agencies, consisting of 16 ministries, specialised departments and commissions, the police and parliament. Women make up roughly 40% of the total workforce.
In this regard, the struggle for economic justice in Swaziland is a struggle for an alternative economic system in the country, as opposed to the current chaos of the tinkhundla regime. Further, the struggle for an alternative economic system is a struggle for a new political system, hence the struggle for change in which we, as PUDEMO, together with our allies in the whole SDA are waging, is a struggle to the end. We continue to champion the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses of our country for a new and just society.
Forward to the Year of the People’s manifesto for a democratic alternative in Swaziland