Saturday, February 26, 2011


Some Swazis are reportedly saying they would rather be in Zimbabwe and not Swaziland as far as exercising their democratic rights is concerned, according to this report in the Africa Review, Kenya.


Muting opposition the royal way

26 February 2011

Behind beautiful sceneries and rich culture in a tiny landlocked country in South Africa lies the real face of oppression. This is the reality in Swaziland, which has only come in the limelight because of the famous Reed Dance and its leader whose appetite for marriage only rivals the biblical King Solomon.

Issues dogging Swaziland include economic stagnation, poverty, open corruption, censured democratic space, and high unemployment rate among others.

These put King Mswati’s III leadership style at par with the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak who was recently given the boot by his subjects during the mass protests that have been sweeping across the Arab states. The situation is so desperate in this country that some Swazis are reportedly saying they would rather be in Zimbabwe and not Swaziland as far as exercising their democratic rights is concerned. Here, disapproval of the king decree puts an individual at risk of losing land, job, house or even life if the king deems so.

As strange as their preference for their northern neighbour may sound, they are arguing that while Zimbabwe is currently facing political turmoil, it is better off as the world knows about her affairs, unlike this little kingdom which is a cauldron of human rights abuses.

The Kingdom of Swaziland became independent from Britain in 1968, but the government has successfully silenced opposition parties by banning all political organisations, frustrating human rights groups, trade unions, and civil society by declaring them as "enemies of peace, stability, security and national progress."

This iron-fisted rule did not start with King Mswati III. In 1973 King Sobhuza II dissolved parties, banned political parties and declared the country an absolute monarchy. The royal family reportedly owns everything from the land, mines and even the mobile phone company, which the ruler can switch on and off as he pleases.

King Mswati remains the ultimate determinant of law and under his ‘visionary’ guidance; sedition and subversion laws scare off any form of resistance to his policies. Although, the country’s constitution was ratified in July 26, 2005, the level of power invested in the king is still enormous such that executive, legislative and judicial powers are all levers in his hand.

And he is not stopping there; he also introduced the controversial terrorism legislation - Suppression of Terrorism Act that gives powers to the Prime Minister to declare anyone or anything to be a terrorist entity. The law gives the government discretion to declare any organisation, statement or documentation a terrorist threat.

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