The leader of one of Swaziland’s leading pro-democracy organisations has questioned the value of the kingdom’s political parties ahead of the 40th anniversary of the Royal proclamation that deprived Swazis of many of their civil rights.
Musa Hlophe, the coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, said, ‘The biggest failure of Swazi politics is that the opposition parties think their sense of injustice at not being able to access power through the political processes in this country is shared by the ordinary people. It is not.’
Hlophe said most people in Swaziland wanted ‘a job, a family, and a sense of hope that things might get better’.
In Swaziland political parties are not allowed to contest elections and are in effect banned from the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best known of the political parties in Swaziland is banned in the kingdom because the state labels it a ‘terrorist’ organisation.
Hlophe, writing in the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland, said on 12 April 1973 King Sobhuza II declared a state of emergency that has never been openly repealed.
‘He also set up an army, which has now only succeeded in threatening or harming citizens.
‘Swaziland is now among the sickest, poorest, most corrupt and unhappiest nations in the world.’
He said ordinary Swazi people, ‘were begging’ for an alternative to their present lives which are dominated by poverty, hunger, sickness and death’.
Hlophe, who said he is a supporter of multi-party democracy for Swaziland, also said the Swazi political parties were irrelevant to people’s ordinary lives.
‘They only seem to spend their time talking about how this government is corrupt and illegitimate.
‘They hide behind the slogans of a people’s revolution and tell us what our problems should be rather than listening to what our problems really are.
‘They treat us as if we should behave like Russian peasants from another century rather than proud yet desperate Swazis living and suffering today.
‘They treat us as if we are a disappointment to them and their tired political theories.
‘When ordinary people do not fit with theory, it is time to change the theory, not to blame the people.
‘As idealists, they continue to hold onto theories and strategies that have never delivered any benefits to ordinary Swazis.’
He wrote, ‘We see activists getting arrested for another toyi-toyi where they chanted cheap, insulting and pointless slogans that ask for an end to Tinkhundla [the present system of government] but do we ever see them stage protests against a beating of one of our sons in a police station or practically helping a grandmother forced to starve herself in order to feed her grandchildren?
‘They say multiparty democracy will solve all of our problems but they don’t tell us what they will do when they are in power.’
He added, ‘The biggest failure of Swazi politics is that the opposition parties think their sense of injustice at not being able to access power through the political processes in this country is shared by the ordinary people. It is not.
‘Most of us simply want a job, a family, and a sense of hope that things might get better. We the ordinary people grant mandates to political parties when they have striven to earn them through hard work, courage and relevance.
‘Political parties do not deserve votes just because they are parties but because they are relevant to our everyday lives.
‘When they can show how they will make Swaziland better for most of us, then maybe more of us will take them more seriously.’