Saturday, May 9, 2009


Unsurprisingly, King Mswati III of Swaziland has ignored calls from democrats in South Africa not to attend the inauguration of Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa today (9 May 2009).

Calls have come from trade unions, civil society and at least one political party for the king not to be invited because he is the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa and there is no democracy in Swaziland where political parties are banned, parliament has very few real powers and the king makes all the important decisions.

The Swazi Observer, the newspaper in effect owned by the king, reported yesterday that the king is ‘not worried’ about calls from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) for the boycott of the king and his entourage.

The Observer showed itself to be no more than a propaganda sheet for the king when it stated in what purported to be a news story, ‘COSATU, which is not new to meddling in Swaziland’s affairs and rubble-rousing about border blockades, released a statement to media outlets including the South African Press Association (SAPA) making unsubstantiated and disparaging remarks about the Swazi delegation.’

The Observer quoted Bheki Dlamini, Chief Officer in the King’s Office, saying, that the country’s activities and movements are not dictated to by COSATU or its ilk.

It went on in similar vein when it said ‘Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Lutfo Dlamini lamented that COSATU and its ilk were relying on lies, hearsay and deliberate distortion of facts by elements that are against the peace and progress in Swaziland.’

And so on and so on. King Mswati and the Observer can huff and puff all they want but opinion internationally is against the king’s visit to South Africa. The line being taken is that as dictator in his own kingdom, he has no place at the inauguration of a man who was democratically elected.

South African newspapers, in particular, have been reporting opposition to the king’s visit. Among reports that I saw are from the Star, the Sowetan, the Independent, the Cape Times and the Dispatch.

Opposition has carried beyond South Africa. The international news agency AFP,
The Morning Star, UK, and the Tribune of India have also reported on the opposition.

Meanwhile, news comes through that the regular Friday protests for democracy in Swaziland that have been taking place at the Swazi embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, since February are gathering strength. At least 100 people turned up yesterday even though it is reported that King Mswati tried to put pressure on South African authorities to have it stopped. A South African court declared the protest legal and it went ahead.

The king seems to have forgotten where he is. He gets away with turning his state police on progressives in Swaziland but he can’t get away with it in a democracy.

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