Friday, February 6, 2009


The Swaziland Parliament officially opens today (6 February 2009) amid fears that King Mswati III will renew his war against his own people.

Last October he unleashed his illegally-appointed Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini to get ‘the terrorists’, who, the King believed were out to destroy Swaziland.

Although the King and his ruling elite are reluctant to admit it the ‘terrorist’ threat is in fact a growing (mostly non-violent) demand for democracy in the kingdom.

King Mswati is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and despite a new constitution published in 2006, he continues to rule Swaziland with a rod of iron. All political parties are banned and four pro-democracy groups were branded ‘terrorist’ organisations in November 2008. As a result anyone deemed to be a member or a supporter of these organisations faces up to 25 years in jail.

The parliament that is being officially opened today has no real power and King Mswati takes all important decisions. The King regularly ignores the constitution when it suits him, as when he illegally appointed Barnabas Dlamini Prime Minister in October 2008.

Since Dlamini’s appointment and with full permission of King Mswati there has been a reign of terror against democrats in Swaziland. Mario Masuku, president of the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has been in jail for nearly three months awaiting trial on ‘terrorist’ charges. Swazi police regularly raid the homes and generally harass people known to be supporters of the pro-democracy movement in Swaziland.

It is against this backdrop that today’s official opening of parliament where King Mswati will make a ‘state of the nation’ address goes ahead.

The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper today launched a blistering attack on the Swazi Government’s refusal to recognise the growing cry for democracy.

In thinly disguised criticism of the king himself (something that is absolutely forbidden in Swaziland) the Times says, ‘In recent times talk has focused not on unifying the nation, but rather on a scorched earth attack on those fellow countrymen and women who refused to be coerced to subscribe to the politics of conformity being espoused by the ruling class.’

The Times says ‘It is a given that the tone of the [king’s] speech will be no different from what we heard from the Ludzidzini Royal Cattle Byre late last year when appointing Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini the king spoke about “us and them” - the us being the leadership and those who have been coerced into supporting the obtaining political hegemony, and them being those who are opposed to the wide-scale corruption, nepotism and naked abuse of political power that are the centerpiece of the Tinkhundla political system and favour multi-party democracy.’

The newspaper says that the ruling elite believe that anyone who is against the present system and for democracy is a terrorist and an enemy of the state.

The Times fears that King Mswati’s speech will unleash ‘the full might of [the] security apparatus to crush those advocating for an alternative system of government to the failed Tinkhundla system.’

It goes on, ‘Not surprisingly this government’s mandate as spelled out by the king is essentially to use the iron fist to crush all those who are opposed to the Tinkhundla system.’

The newspaper, which recently has been publishing articles by Mfomfo Nkhambule critical of the king, asks, ‘is it too late to ask of the king to start leading not some, but the whole Swazi nation towards a political dispensation that is built on the foundation of freedom and equity?’

It concludes, ‘... if the king is king of us all he must extend an olive branch even to those who think differently from those orbiting his royal court, the advocates of multi-party democracy.’

To read the full article click here.

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