Friday, April 3, 2009


Does anyone on the international stage still support Swaziland’s King Mswati III?

I ask the question following news that leaders of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), have come out against the undemocratic regime in Swaziland, including the king.

King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, rules his subjects with an iron fist. Political parties are banned and he makes all the important decisions in Swaziland. Last year he unconstitutionally appointed Barnabas Dlamini as prime minister and most of his cabinet ministers are not elected.

Jesse Duarte, spokesperson for ANC told a seminar hosted by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) at its headquarters in Braamfontein that the ANC does not support King Mswati.

According to Swaziland’s independent newspaper, the Times Sunday, Duarte is not the only member of the ANC to have criticised Swaziland’s system of governance. Other members of the ANC have expressed similar sentiments in the past. In one instance, ANC members participated in a well attended march against the king during a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) meeting in Sandton, in 2008.

Although the ANC is South Africa’s ruling party and is expected to comfortably win the forthcoming elections in that country we shouldn’t expect any change in policy soon. I have always believed that if South Africa wanted regime change in Swaziland it could achieve it with the click of a finger. Although Swaziland is politically ‘independent’ it is in effect an economic province of South Africa, sharing a common foreign exchange rate among other economic matters.

If South Africa were to impose trade sanctions on Swaziland, the kingdom would fold inside a month. Those people who presently uphold King Mswati’s despotism would abandon him the moment it became clear the king had to be removed and political form enacted to save the kingdom.

Although King Mswati remains in power he is discredited. As the US State Department in its annual review of human rights in Swaziland noted earlier this year, Government agents continued to commit or condone serious abuses, and the human rights situation in the country deteriorated. Human rights problems included inability of citizens to change their government; extrajudicial killings by security forces; mob killings; police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force on detainees; police impunity; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and movement; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; discrimination and violence against women; child abuse; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against mixed race and white citizens; and harassment of labor leaders, restrictions on worker rights, and child labor.’

When you read a list like that it makes you yearn for the ANC to pull the plug on King Mswati right now.

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