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'Swaziland can't foot power bill'

Apr 01 2011 12:59 Sapa & AFP

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Mbabane - Swaziland's economic crisis has left the government unable to pay its electricity bill, with arrears mounting to $2m, the Times of Swaziland reported on Friday.

The debt could result in the state electricity company pulling the plug on several ministries, the paper said.

Government spokesperson Macanjana Motsa said, "We are still investigating the matter."

Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini told state media this week that unless the economic crisis was solved the southern African country would have "no money to do anything".

Swaziland's liquidity crisis has seen borrowing from its own banks to pay for the day-to-day running of the country. It needs to convince the International Monetary Fund it has made the necessary changes - including salary cuts for civil servants - to qualify for loans.

Cabinet members have taken the extraordinary step of cutting their own salaries by 10% and are considering reversing controversial bonuses they awarded themselves last year.

But efforts to impose a 4.5% salary on civil servants last week sparked the biggest street protests seen in years.

Teachers say the cabinet must resign before they will consider pay cuts.

"We think the financial crisis has been brought about by the current cabinet, so how can we give our money to people who will squander it?" teachers' union official Muzi Mhlanga said.

Nurses said they are being threatened with dismissal for embarking on a wildcat strike over unpaid overtime in March.

They are threatening to stop all non-essential duties, including initiating patients into Aids treatment programmes.

The health system is struggling to cope with the world's worst Aids epidemic.

The discontent has led to calls for national protests on April 12, inspired by the uprisings in north Africa, to overthrow King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch.


 
king maswati iii  |  swaziland  |  electricity  |  aids

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