Sunday, August 16, 2009


I wonder sometimes who King Mswati III thinks he’s kidding. And I’d say much the same about Barnabas Dlamini, the man the king illegally-appointed as prime minister of Swaziland.

For two days this past week the ruling elite in Swaziland has been engaged in what it likes to call a ‘Smart partnership’. In theory everyone who wanted to came together to discuss openly (without fear or favour etc) what ails Swaziland and what can be done about its problems.

The Weekend Observer, a paper in effect owned by King Mswati, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, led the cheers for the king and the prime minister yesterday (15 August 2009). Reporting on what a huge success the Smart Partnership was it told us also that the king and Dlamini were leading Swaziland to a bright future.

In particular the Observer pointed to the ‘gem’ that is the Swaziland National Development Strategy National Vision 2022. Don’t hold your breath but these two fellows are going to put Swaziland in the top 10 percent of nations in the world when it comes to ‘human development’ in terms of sustainable development, social justice and political stability.

They’d better gets their skates on if they’re going to meet the 2022 deadline.

A report out last month looking at Swaziland over the past year highlighted just how much work still needs to be done. Freedom House in its annual Freedom in the World report gave Swaziland five out of ten for civil liberties and declared that the kingdom was ‘not free’.

‘King Mswati III is an absolute monarch with ultimate authority over the cabinet, legislature, and judiciary,’ it reported.

It went on to state that political parties are banned; corruption is a major problem (Swaziland was ranked 72 out of 180 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index); freedom of expression is severely restricted in practice, especially regarding political issues or the royal family; the government has restricted freedoms of assembly and association, and permission to hold political gatherings has often been denied; government pressure – including the repeated arrest of Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions leader Jan Sithole – has greatly limited union operations; and there were numerous incidents of police torture, beatings, and suspicious deaths in custody.

Of course the king and his illegal government have no intention of improving the ‘human development’ of Swaziland. They are the problem, not the solution. And that’s why so many in Swaziland decided to boycott the Smart Partnership and leave the king and his cronies to talk to themselves.

Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2009 – Swaziland report is available here.

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