Monday, September 21, 2015


The Swaziland Government has rejected a report from a group of internationally respected researchers that found only seven in one hundred Swazi people were ‘very satisfied’ with the way democracy works in the kingdom.

Percy Simelane, the official Government spokesperson, said the research was designed to tarnish the image of the Swaziland.

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, political parties cannot take part in elections and groups advocating for multi-party democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Research published by Afrobarometer showed that 59 percent of the people did not think they could freely express what they thought. It also showed that about 51 percent of the population doubted the kingdom embraced the tenets of democracy.

Voice of America (VoA) reported, ‘Spokesman Percy Simelane says it is obvious that the survey was conducted to tarnish the reputation of the kingdom and not intentioned to help Swazis, who he says support the monarchical governance as enshrined in the constitution.’

VoA also reported Simelane saying, ‘Even before the elections, two years ago, the King and the government allowed the people to say whether or not they still wanted to continue with the way the constitution says we should. And the people said they still want the constitution followed to the letter.’

However, no such constitutional review took place. The Swazi people have not been consulted on the constitution since it came into force in 2005.

The writing of the constitution itself was controversial. The International Bar Association , a group of experienced lawyers, was called in by King Mswati in 2003 to comment on the first draft of the constitution. It called the process ‘flawed’ and reported that one critic went so far as to call it a ‘fraud’.  

The IBA pointed out that the judiciary and non-government organisations (NGOs) were not allowed to take part in the consultation before the constitution was written. Also, individuals were interviewed in front of their chiefs so were not free to say what they really thought about the powers of the King and what he and his followers like to call Swaziland’s ‘unique democracy’, the Tinkhundla system.

IBA said the consultation did not allow for groups to make submissions and incomplete records were kept of the submissions that were made so, IBA said, there was no formal record of how Swazi citizens presented their views and of what in fact they said.

On top of this the IBA reported that the Swaziland media were not allowed to report on the submissions.

‘Furthermore, information was elicited in a highly charged atmosphere. Individuals were reportedly asked, in the presence of chiefs, whether they wanted to retain the King and whether they preferred political parties,’ IBA said.

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