Prodemocracy activities in Swaziland this week to mark the anniversary of the Royal decree that turned the country from a democracy to a kingdom ruled by an autocratic monarch will be muted, compared to recent years.
Friday 12 April marks the 40th anniversary of the day in 1973 King Sobhuza II told his subjects, ‘I have assumed supreme power in the Kingdom of Swaziland and that all Legislative, Executive and Judicial power is vested in myself.’
He repealed the Swaziland constitution that had been in effect since independence from Great Britain in 1968 and said that any laws in the kingdom could be changed so that they would conform to his decree and any other decrees he might make in the future.
The decree has never been properly repealed, making the state of emergency the longest in African history.
According to the Swaziland United Democratic Front, one of the more vocal opposition groups on Swaziland, ‘The decree criminalised political activity, saw the banning of political parties and the introduction of a system of governance benefitting a few elites and their cronies; all at the expense of the majority of Swazi’s who continue to languish in poverty, underdevelopment and perpetual neglect.’
In recent years the 12 April anniversary has been met with street protests and other demonstrations.
Last year four days of public protest were planned by trade unions and other prodemocracy organisations. They were brutally suppressed by police and state forces and had to be abandoned.
In 2011, a group using Facebook, called for an uprising to depose the present King, Mswati III. State forces took this call seriously and many prodemocracy leaders were arrested. Police and security forces prevented people from travelling into towns and cities to take part in demonstrations. Again, the protests were abandoned.
This year, despite it being the 40th anniversary, few activities within Swaziland have been announced, but it might be that prodemocracy activists have learned lessons from the past and have not revealed their intentions in advance, so as not to alert state forces.
One activity that has been announced by the SUDF is a public rally in the Swazi capital, Mbabane, on 13 April. The People’s United Democratic Party (PUDEMO), a banned political party in Swaziland, is also holding local events in some rural parts of the kingdom.
SUDF with the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) will host an open debate in Mbabane on 12 April on the significance of 1973.
Among the activities that have been publicised are ones that will take place outside of Swaziland itself. Among these are a picket at the Swazi Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, and a picket at the Lavumisa border gate.
Elsewhere, Freedom House will launch a research paper called, ‘Swaziland: After 40 years of dictatorial rule is there hope for change in 2013?’ in Johannesburg.
SUDF, in a statement, said different organisations in Swaziland would mark 12 April as ‘a black day in the history of our beloved country’.
It said Swaziland was now ‘paralysed by fear, docility, corruption [and] repression’.
CRITICISM OF SWAZI KING CENSORED