Interview with Prime Minister Obed DIamin on prospects for the 1990s
Obed Mfanyana Dlamini was appointed by King Mswati III to be
Swazilands sixth Prime Minister in July 1989. Born in 1937 in the
Shiselweni district, he held posts in teaching and banking before his
appointment, as well as various positions of leadership in the countrys
trade union movement, culminating in his election as General Secretary of the
Swaziland Federation of Trades Unions.
As Prime Minister, Mr Dlamini heads the modern, as opposed to
traditional, arm of Swazilands dualistic governmental system, that
comprising a cabinet and a bicameral parliament, very much along the lines of
the Westminster model, though with important distinctions. One of these
distinctions resides in the prerogative of the Head of State, the King, to
appoint the Prime Minister (as indeed all other ministers, and a proportion of
both Houses of Parliament). Another consists of the tinkhundla election process,
to which Prime Minister Dlamini refers below, by which individuals are chosen at
tinkhundla (traditional meeting places of the people) to form an Electoral
College which votes in members of the House of Assembly. At the same time, the
monarchy is advised by a council of elders, the Council of State or liqoqo.
It was on the question of Swazilands concept of
government, which is unusual in Africa, that The Courier first addressed Mr
· Swazilands system of government is authentically
African and has certainly provided for political stability. Has a different
system ever been considered?
- Our present system of government, which we call the tinkhundla
system, is relatively new. It was introduced in October 1978, just over 11 years
ago, following the repeal in 1973 of the Independence Constitution which was
tailored on the Westminster model.
So far, no major changes have been made to the tinkhundla system
of government. However, there is already a growing public feeling that this
system is now in need of some modifications here and there so as to make it more
responsive to the political aspirations of the people of Swaziland.
We are currently looking into all the possibilities and we
sincerely hope that it will soon be possible to effect the suggested
· As a small nation, the fortunes of your much larger
neighbours are obviously of great significance. What have been the effects on
Swaziland of South Africas recent degree of glasnost and
what, in your view, would be the effects on Swaziland of peace in Mozambique?
The recent political events in South Africa are extremely
encouraging. It would seem that a new era of peace is dawning on the entire
Southern African region.
As you are no doubt aware, political violence in South Africa in
the past used to spill over onto Swaziland and many Swazi nationals were killed
or injured in the process.
Naturally, Swaziland is very pleased to see peace initiatives in
South Africa replacing violence. We pray and hope that the current peace
initiatives will succeed.
We are also hopeful that the end of apartheid in South Africa
will bring about the lifting of sanctions against that country, the return of
investments to South Africa and the end of South Africas isolation by the
This, I hope, will bring about an appreciation in the value of
the South African rend to which our own currency, the lilageni, is linked.
This would, in turn, ease the current burden of expensive
imports on Swaziland resulting from the present unfavourable exchange rate for
Equally, Swaziland would happily welcome the advent of peace in
Mozambique. As you are no doubt aware, Swaziland uses the Maputo port facilities
for its major exports, e.g. sugar. The fighting in Mozambique has been very
disruptive to Swazilands rail links with Maputo.
· The refugee situation, described three or four years ago
as having reached crisis proportions is now very much worse. How
are you coping?
- So far, Swaziland has been fortunate in receiving substantial
amounts of financial assistance from the international community. For instance,
the EEC has just given us an amount of ECU 747665 to finance the expansion of
facilities at one of the refugee settlements in Swaziland in order to cater for
the accommodation and schooling needs of the growing refugee population.
However, unless the present rate of new arrivals is considerably
reduced, the crisis will certainly get out of control. Hence the urgency for
finding an early peaceful solution to the war in Mozambique so that the refugees
from that country could return home.
· Swazilands own population is also expanding
rapidly, such that the present high unemployment levels will rise unless steps
are taken. Are attempts being made to reduce population growth as well as to
- The rapidly increasing population and the growing problem of
unemployment are, at present, the two major difficulties facing the country
In an attempt to address these problems, government has launched
an extensive family planning compaign aimed at encouraging Swazi nationals to
both space and limit the number of births per family.
We have also continued to create an investment climate in order
to encourage investors to come to invest in our country, and are trying to
diversify our economy in order to encourage a greater degree of participation by
Swazis in the development process of their country.
· What is Swazilands economic strategy for the 1990s?
- The main objective of our economic policy is to improve the
welfare of our citizens through the creation of productive job opportunities.
Our record on this during the 1980s was very mixed. The early
part of the decade was characterised by slow growth rates. The middle years
required a major programme of rehabilitiation from the serious effects of
cyclone Domoina which struck Swaziland in 1984. The past two years, however,
have seen significant growth, with increases in real GDP per capita. In each
year from 1986 we have had an increase in foreign exchange reserves, fuelled by
rapid increases in exports, notably sugar, wood products and manufacturing.
Manufacturing is particularly encouraging as it indicates that the economy is
diversifying. Indeed, manufacturing now contributes as much as agriculture to
GDP, although it should be remembered that much of our industrial activity is
based on the processing of our agricultural produce.
However, we are aware that the increase in investment that
enabled this growth is partly fortuitous. Many investors have tried to distance
themselves from the Republic of South Africa while gaining access to the EEC
market and the Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa.
These circumstances could change quite rapidly, especially if
there is a peaceful transition to a non-racial democracy in South Africa. This
is something we all hope for but it is outside our control and it must be
recognised that such an event could place great strains on our economy.
Thus, the largest single impact on our economic future is
something that we are unable to plan for and incorporate in our economic
strategies for the 1990s. What we can do, however, is to ensure that Swaziland
remains as attractive an investment area as possible. This involves, of course,
offering some incentives, such as tax holidays and soon.
· Despite the considerable advantages it offers to
investors, the manufacturing sector seems not to have expanded greatly. Is this
in fact the case, and if so why? Has Swaziland been sufficiently actively
sold as a prime location?
Firstly, the statement that the manufacturing sector
seems not to have expanded greatly, is not quite correct. In Swaziland,
the manufacturing sector presently accounts for 25 % of GDP. This proves that it
has experienced a substantial growth over the past few years. Indeed, in his
1990 budget speech, the Minister for Finance stated that, since the 1985 fiscal
year, there has been an upswing in investment in manufacturing enterprises and
growth of this sector is estimated to be about 10 % per annum over the last five
Agro-industries, including wood-processing, account for about 75
% of our industrial production. Commercial agro-processing involves sugar,
wood-pulp, citrus, pineapples, cotton, maize and meat. And in addition to food
processing, the manufacturing sector includes bricks, textiles and beverages,
and much else.
As far as selling Swaziland is concerned,
substantial efforts have been made to promote the country regionally and
internationally. Indeed, a number of investment promotion seminar and/or
conferences have been conducted in South Africa, Botswana, Canada and the U.S.A.
The last seminar conducted has been recently held in Washington D.C. and was
sponsored by USAID. It was directed by a highly-powered delegation which
included the Ministers of Finance and Commerce and Industry as well as the
Governor of the Central Bank and a number of prominent businessmen from
Swaziland. The Head of State, His Majesty King Mswati III, has graciously
accepted to become the countrys ambassador at the highest level for
promoting Swaziland to investors worldwide.
Government has also established the Swaziland Industrial
Development Company as the major vehicle for promoting new investment.
Specifically, SIDC acts as the countrys first point of contact for
prospective investors by offering them both financial and advisory services.
In order to encourage potential investors to come here, SIDC has
decided in principle to establish investment bureaus in the European Economic
Community and North America. Furthermore, I would add that on the occasion of an
EEC-funded seminar in Lisbon in May 1990, Swaziland representatives made special
promotion efforts to attract Portuguese investors to the country.
· Tourism has suffered in the past from competition from
South Africas homelands. What can Swaziland offer the tourist that the
- There was indeed a small decline in the volume of tourist
flows from South Africa between 1975 and 1980 following the establishment of the
Sun City resort in Bophuthatswana. However, as Swaziland is not wholly dependent
upon South African tourists, the decline was small and was made up mainly of
gamblers who were attracted to the new gambling facilities nearby in
Following this decline, we stepped up our marketing campaigns in
Western Europe and the decline was soon reversed.
Swaziland has a unique tourism package to offer. It has a
monarchical institution which has long disappeared in most countries in Africa,
and the rich and colourful cultural heritage of the Swazi people, their
friendliness and hospitality are unrivalled tourist attractions.
The incwala and the reed dance, for example, which are held
annually, are some of the old traditional values of this nation which are very
popular with tourists. The incwala is a festive occasion for tasting
crops of the new season and is essentially a kingship ceremony which is
held in either December or January each year. The umhlanga ( reed dance
) is usually held at the end of August or early September of each year.
This is a special ceremony for Swazi maidens who have attained marriageable age.
The maidens gather at the Queen Mothers residence, then set out to cut the
reeds which end up being used as windbreaks for the Queen Mothers
residences. The process may take up to a week, culminating in two main days of
singing and dancing for the public.
There are other minor traditional dances which also form an
integral part of Swazi life. These include the sibhaca dance, with its stirring
rhythms, dramatic movements and exciting colour which has gained it much
popularity among our visitors and the traditional wedding which is almost as
colourful as the incwala ceremony. These ceremonies have no fixed period.
Apart from being rich in traditions, the country has a super
tourism structure that can suit any tourist from any part of the globe -
reasonable hotel accommodation, adequate roads, sports facilities including the
popular golf and the car rallies, wildlife, handicrafts and casinos - all within
easy reach in this tiny kingdom.
And, above all, the stability of our political system, the
favourable climate and the scenic landscape all combine to offer the visitor a
glimpse of the imagined Garden of Eden.
So as to facilitate the flow of tourists into the country,
government now grants free entry visas to all European Community nationals.
Other nationals who require visas to enter the kingdom can obtain them at all
ports of entry to Swaziland.
· SADCC is celebrating 10 years of existence this year. How
do you rate its achievements?
- I rate SADCCS achievements in the past ten years very
highly. We have, in the past decade, achieved a great deal in the area of
transport, for example.
The successful rehabilitation of the Beira railway line and the
port facilities at Beira are some of the most important achievements of our
Another important achievement has been made in food security. We
now have well documented food requiremeets, consumption patterns and well
researched food production strategies.
· What do you see, finally, as the principal benefit to
Swaziland of being a signatory to the Lomonvention?
- Swaziland derives considerable benefits from the Lomonvention. I can mention for instance, the benefit of selling a predetermined
quantity of its sugar at favourable and prearranged prices to EEC countries.