Monday, September 5, 2011



5 September 2011


Why protests will not unseat Swaziland's King Mswati

By Louise Redvers

Mother-of-three Salom Gamedze may be struggling to feed her family and pay school fees for her children's education but she is unlikely to take part in anti-government demonstrations which Swaziland democracy activists have called, starting today (5 September [2011]).

Ms Gamedze, 42, lives in a half-brick half-mud hut in the remote Lubombo region of eastern Swaziland. She has no electricity or water and is unemployed.

"I want to get a job so I can send my children to school but there are no jobs for me here and now we cannot even afford to work our land so we are not growing much," she sighed.

"We had dreams for our children, that they would be better than us, become doctors and nurses and make something of their lives, but now that seems like an impossible dream."

Ms Gamedze is like many Swazis: She wants change in a country where two-thirds of the population lives in grinding poverty and a quarter is HIV-positive, but she is unsure about the type of change she wants.

She is unlikely to take part in pro-democracy demonstrations to demand an end to the rule of King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

Educated at a British boarding school, he has ruled Swaziland - which has a population of about 1.2m - since 1986.

The king's critics accuse him and his 13 wives of leading a lavish lifestyle, showing little concern for the plight of his subjects - an allegation he denies.

During her interview with the BBC, Ms Gamedze stayed clear of mentioning King Mswati.

For many Swazis he is almost a cult figure. Few of them wanted to talk about him, however discreetly.

One pro-democracy leader said it was "suicidal" to criticise King Mswati, while another pointed out that in Swazi culture he is the final authority so if the opposition went to him to ask for change and he refused, they would have no further avenues to explore.

Despite this fear of challenging the monarch, trade unions and civil society movements have staged several public demonstrations demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini and his cabinet.

To read the full BBC report, click here.

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