Sunday, November 29, 2009


The joy in some progressive circles that has greeted news that Swaziland’s schoolchildren will be made to learn about the banned pro-democracy organisation PUDEMO in their history classes may be misplaced.

PUDEMO will form part of the syllabus in the new Swaziland General Certificate of Secondary Education (SGCSE), which has been devised by the University of Cambridge, UK.

Children will also be required to learn about how King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and his backers manipulated his way to the throne and how King Mswati’s predecessor King Sobhuza II tore up the Swaziland constitution and ruled by decree thereafter.

Or maybe they won’t. It seems true enough that a new history syllabus has been drawn up that centres on Swaziland's history, but it is far from clear what schoolchildren will actually be taught.

It was Winston Churchill who said that history is written by the victors. Or put another way history is written and taught from the point of view of those who hold the power.

In Swaziland, King Mswati and his hangers-on rule and it is not in their interests for people to learn that the king isn’t sent from God (as many of his supporters want us to believe) but his capture of the throne was as the result of a power struggle within the ruling elite worthy of any Shakespearean play.

Nor, will they let the children know that Swaziland is not a democracy and that groups like the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) are fighting for human rights in the kingdom.

I can’t see how history teachers in Swaziland who do not know the real history of their own kingdom will be able to teach such a syllabus even if they were allowed to.

Wandile Dludlu, president of the PUDEMO youth wing Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) is quoted by the Times Sunday today (29 November 2009) saying the news of the new history syllabus is good news and too good to be true.

Sorry, Wandile. It is just that: too good to be true.

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