Friday, January 28, 2011


Apparently, Majahenkhaba Dlamini, Swaziland’s Attorney General, says political parties are free to operate in Swaziland.

He says there is no law that bars the operation of political parties and what’s more, King Sobhuza II’s 1973 Royal Proclamation that banned them, has been overturned by the 2005 Swaziland Constitution.

According to Dlamini, the only thing that has to happen now is for the Swazi Government to make a policy that would govern how parties operate.

This news has excited the Times Sunday, an independent newspaper in Swaziland. It has been busy contacting prodemocracy organisations and others in the kingdom for ‘reaction’ which it intends to publish in its edition this Sunday (30 January 2011).

It will come as no surprise to you that my views weren’t sought by the newspaper.

But who needs the Times Sunday? Here’s what I think.

The Swazi Government is telling lies. As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t give much attention to what the government says it does (or says it will do). Instead, we should judge the government, led by Barnabas Dlamini, who was illegally appointed Prime Minister by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, by what it actually does.

If AG Majahenkhaba Dlamini really believes the 2005 Constitution makes political parties legal, why hasn’t the government already made arrangements for this to happen?

The answer is simple: the government doesn’t want them. What is different now is that there is a growing campaign for political parties to be unbanned and the Swazi Government is stalling for time.

Hanging over the kingdom is the economic meltdown that the government seems unable to control. It has gone scuttling to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help and will also be seeking aid from other international organisations.

But, the world will be reluctant to give help to Swaziland if it thinks it is run by a despot who denies freedom of speech and bans political parties.

So, to get a bit of breathing space, the government pretends it is hurtling towards democracy.

Nobody is fooled.

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