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S.Africa’s ruling ANC urges Swaziland reforms

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will push for democratic reforms in Swaziland under Africa’s last absolute monarch King Mswati III, local media reported Friday.

“We support the democratisation of Swaziland,” President Jacob Zuma’s foreign affairs advisor Lindiwe Zulu was quoted as saying by the Sapa news agency.

The ANC wants Swaziland to lift a ban on trade unions and political parties and release political prisoners, SABC radio news reported.

Zulu told reporters at a key ANC policy conference ending on Friday that the party needed to act to prevent grievances with leaders from escalating in countries where people were raising their voices.

“We should not wait until it erupts into a full-scale fire,” she said Thursday.

“We should be able as the African National Congress to act and act as swiftly and quickly as we possibly can. But of course in the same vein, we do understand that these countries have their sovereignty, we need to respect that.”

South Africa agreed last year to a 2.4 billion rand ($289 million, 230 million euro) bailout for its cash-strapped neighbour but the transfer has been delayed by Pretoria setting conditions for reform before funds are paid out.

Protests have grown since last year in the traditionally peaceful kingdom, which is bordered on three sides by South Africa, where trade unions and the ruling party’s youth are campaigning for Swaziland democracy.

The tiny mountain kingdom is locked in a financial crisis that has left the government struggling to pay wages and keep public services running, with teachers currently on an open-ended strike.

Feeding the unrest is Mswati’s lavish lifestyle, while 60 percent of his subjects live on less than $2 a day, and his refusal to implement democratic reforms.