6 Aug 2011

South Africa defends loan to Swaziland

9:45 am on 6 August 2011

The South African government is defending a decision to lend cash-strapped Swaziland 2.5 billion rand after critics said it threw a lifeline to a monarch running the state as a personal fiefdom.

South Africa's Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, says it is in South Africa's best interests to have a stable neighbour.

He says political reforms will not be forced on King Mswati III, who has faced condemnation from global powers accusing him of autocratic rule and fiscal mismanagement.

South Africa, which dominates Swaziland's tiny economy and accounts for almost all of its trade, agreed to make the loan to help the country through a budget crunch that had prompted unprecedented protests against the royal family.

Critics say the bailout money will be used by the king and his 12 wives to fund their lavish lifestyles, and will deter him from instituting much-needed political reforms including lifting a ban on political parties.