This video is called Swaziland residents question king’s rule.
By John Haylett:
Sham elections in Swaziland
Friday 17 May 2013
South Africa’s policy of constructive engagement with Swaziland hit the buffers this week when the kingdom began voter registration for an election charade after scorning advice from the African National Congress to introduce democratic change.
The regime of absolute monarch Mswati III expects 600,000 voters to register out of a total population of 1.1 million.
But it is impossible to call the exercise planned for October democracy since, under the system known as Tinkhundla, only approved candidates can stand.
Approval is dependent on regional chiefs appointed and paid by the monarchy.
Political parties are banned under a state of emergency proclaimed by Mswati’s father Sobhuza II in 1973 and maintained ever since.
A joint statement by Swaziland’s People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), the Swaziland United Democratic Front, Swaziland Democracy Campaign, Ngwane National Liberatory Congress and the trade union movements of Swaziland (Tucoswa) and South Africa (Cosatu) called the electoral process “frankly absurd and an insult to those who campaign for democracy.”
It pointed out that “peaceful democracy activists are languishing in miserable prison conditions without charge or credible evidence against them while awaiting the possible imposition of harsh sentences for sedition.”
Many democracy activists are in exile in South Africa, including Swaziland Communist Party leader Kenneth Kunene, whose organisation is illegal.
The trade union federation is banned, its leaders were arrested last year when attempting to celebrate May Day and the people suffer appalling levels of poverty and government corruption.
Kunene described the forthcoming election as a “rubber stamp” poll, urging people not to register, “but if they can’t … we call on them to peacefully disrupt the vote.”
He recognised that police intimidation could present serious problems to Swazis unwilling to legitimise the electoral charade.
South Africa’s ANC government has traditionally pursued constructive engagement with the Swazi autocracy, fearful of a chaotic conflict sparking mass bloodshed and a refugee crisis.
However, it spoke out on May 7 to raise concerns over an intensified crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the wake of peaceful protests on the April 13 40th anniversary of the state of emergency being smashed up by security forces.
“The democratisation of Swaziland must preoccupy the work of the African National Congress,” the ANC said, recommending that political prisoners be released and exiles allowed to return.
Referring to South Africa’s experience under apartheid, the mildly worded ANC statement said that it had been able to move from assassinations, assaults, detentions and imprisonment to “a world-renowned democratic constitutional model.”
It called on Swaziland to take a similar road and “to work towards the normalisation of the political environment by unbanning opposition political parties, releasing political activists and engaging in a meaningful dialogue with opposition political and trade union leaders to find a collective solution to the socio-economic situation faced by that country.”
Failure to do so would worsen relations between government and people and “does not augur well for economic stability.”
The ANC noted that South Africa had taken part in a number of African Union missions to end conflicts in the north of the continent.
It added that “it is also in South Africa’s interest to see a politically stable Swaziland.”
However, the response from the Mswati autocracy was contemptuous, suggesting that it would say a prayer for the ANC.
Spokesman Percy Simelane declared: “We are a democratic country. We are following our national constitution because what is in the constitution is the sentiment of people in Swaziland.
“We cannot take orders from outside because the future of this country is in the hands of the Swazi people, not in the hands of neighbours or political parties.”
His government was as good as its word, sending armed Swaziland Royal Police into the Manzini Roman Catholic Cathedral on Tuesday in search of activists whom they had driven from a Swaziland United Democratic Front prayer meeting for justice, peace and democratic change in the neighbouring St John Bosco Hall.
Pudemo condemned the cathedral incursion as “devilish and satanic behaviour” and commended the Catholic church for “remaining true to its mission of preaching justice and peace not only in words but through practical deeds even in the face of state intimidation.”
It contrasted the police conduct with Mswati’s hypocritical words at the opening of his puppet parliament when he said: “Dialogue is the answer and not the barrel of the gun.”
The South African government has not yet commented on the contemptuous response to its pro-democracy message, but KwaZulu Natal SACP and ANC activist Khaye Nkwanyana undoubtedly spoke for many South Africans and Swazis this week.
Listing the iniquities of the Swazi monarchical regime, including the yawning gap between the king’s opulence and his people’s poverty, Nkwanyana said: “The ANC as a liberation movement cannot be quiet forever in the face of all these ugly and repulsive sordid acts.”
He added that the doctrine of non-interference risked “political egg in our face,” insisting: “There is no option to democracy is Swaziland.
“There is no option to multi-party democracy and a principle of universal franchise.”
The ball is now in President Jacob Zuma’s court as his government deliberates whether Mswati’s intransigent disregard for South Africa’s concerns remains a risk-free policy.
Swaziland’s super-rich king fails to find money for Aids orphans: here.
- King Mswati to WEF: Swazi people dont want change (dailymaverick.co.za)
- Swazi regime detain PUDEMO member for handling pamphlets on state of emergency anniversary (newstimeafrica.com)
- Swaziland royal dictatorial censorship (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Vote for King Mswati III. Or Else (banananewsline.wordpress.com)
- Standing with our brothers in Swaziland (morningstaronline.co.uk)