Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Swaziland’s is a crumbling state that could become another Zimbabwe.

That was one of the warnings made in an article in the international press this week.

As hunger sweeps Swaziland – about 600,000 of the kingdom’s one million population relied on international food aid in the past year to fend off starvation – the HIV rate (nearly 40 percent) remains the highest in the world.

Added to this humanitarian disaster is a political crisis as King Mswati III has declared war against his own people in an attempt to crush a growing dissident movement.

Stuart Clark writing in The Sunday Business Post from the Republic of Ireland reported on Swaziland this week (30 November 2008). According to the newspaper one of the ‘most persistent thorns’ in the side of the king is the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO).

Stephen Donaghy of SCCCO told the newspaper, ‘Swaziland makes a great pretence of being a democracy, but political parties are banned and the king appoints both the prime minister and the cabinet.’

‘He also has the power arbitrarily to dissolve parliament, nominate the people who select the country’s judges, and outlaw organisations that are allegedly supporting terrorism.,

On 15 November 2008, the illegally appointed Prime Minister of Swaziland Barnabas Dlamini branded four political formations as ‘terrorists’. This meant that members and supporters of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the Swaziland Youth Congress, Umbane and the Swazi Solidarity Network could face up to 25 years in jail.

The police raided the PUDEMO leader Mario Masuku’s house the following day and found nothing, but still took him into custody and charged him with terrorism.

‘The question we’re asking ourselves now is, “Who’s next”’, Donaghy told the newspaper.

Despite the intervention of the Centre for Conflict Resolution, the government has refused to enter talks with the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, which is one of SCCCO’s key members. ‘An option being considered at the moment is a general strike,’ Donaghy said. ‘There were already strikes on September 3 and 4, which brought 15,000 people out on to the streets of the capital, Mbabane, and the second city, Manzini.

‘The organisers made it clear that these were to be peaceful, but unfortunately a small number of hotheads on one of the marches clashed with the security forces.’

According to the Sunday Business Post, the trade unions’ commitment to peaceful protest isn’t shared by the unknown organisation that recently planted a bomb near one of the king’s 13 palaces, or those Swazis who are widely rumoured to be receiving paramilitary training in South Africa. The king’s reaction to all of this was to authorise the army’s purchase, during the summer, of 18,000 handguns, 20,000 grenades and a million bullets.

‘Does the potential exist for Swaziland to become the next Zimbabwe?’ asked a leading dissident who asked not to be named for fear of government reprisals. ‘Absolutely. At the moment, Swaziland is surviving on handouts from other countries; 600,000 people are receiving world food aid and you’ve got the government going on record as saying “We do not fear conflict, we know how to control it.” That’s scarily similar to the rhetoric employed by Robert Mugabe who, incidentally, happens to be a friend of the king’s.’

One of the people hoping to stave off violence through democratic change is newly elected Swazi MP Nonhlanhla Dlamini. ‘I had to wait six hours yesterday to meet the king, but when I did, I told him that the government previously had betrayed us, and I intend to pursue new legislation dealing with gender violence,’ she told the newspaper.

‘They always say things are in the pipeline - well, I’ve come in to clear the pipe. I also talked to him about issues of corruption, poverty and food supply and how things are likely to get worse. We’ve had several spells of drought recently causing harvests to fail, so that’s a major consideration.

‘I will also be questioning such budgetary decisions as nine of the king’s wives being given $1 million each to go on a shopping expedition to Dubai, when there are tens of thousands of Swazis who don’t have adequate food, accommodation or health care.” Dlamini is the outgoing director of the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA).

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