Swaziland absolute monarchy


By Geraldine Donnelly from Scotland:

Swaziland: Home of the forgotten despot

Monday 05 December 2011

If you were asked what you knew about Swaziland, what would be your response? What do you know about this small country of less than a million people located between Mozambique and South Africa?

As the Scottish Trades Union Congress delegate on a recent ACTSA visit to southern Africa, I had little knowledge of Swaziland.

What I saw in this beautiful country shocked and saddened me. Seventeen years after the overthrow of apartheid, another people in southern Africa are suffering under a brutal tyranny, relatively unnoticed by the world.

Swaziland is an absolute monarchy that has been ruled by King Mswati since 1986.

The Forbes Rich List named him in the top 15 of the world’s richest royals, with a personal fortune that is in excess of $100 million, enabling him to provide palaces and new BMWs for his 14 wives.

Three-quarters of the country’s land is effectively owned by the king and administered by the local chiefs. With the government handpicked, the parliament has increased the king’s budget by 60 per cent in the last two years.

According to the US government about “40 per cent of the government’s workforce is allocated to security.”

In stark contrast two-thirds of the people survive on less than $1.25 a day.

Swaziland has the world’s highest HIV rate and half the population dies before 40.

Perhaps the saddest statistic is that one in 12 of all Swazi are orphaned children.

This is compounded by the growing economic crisis. The government is threatening to cut 7,000 jobs, pushing thousands deeper into poverty, while spending increases on the king and his friends.

The bedfellow of this poverty is political tyranny. Swaziland has the unenviable achievement of having a worse record on political rights than Zimbabwe.

Political parties are banned and it has endured a state of emergency since 1973.

Opponents of the regime are often arrested, tortured or even murdered as the main opposition is declared “terrorist” under the repressive Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Swazi NUS president Maxwell Dlamini and Musa Ngebuni of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) are still behind bars awaiting trial following their arrest before protests held in April.

Women are subjected to horrendous levels of gender-based violence.

A 2009 survey revealed that almost a third of women and girls aged 13 to 24 had experienced sexual violence before their 18th birthday.

The law provides no protection for women from domestic violence or rape by their husbands.

The laws governing marriage ensure that women are treated as second-class citizens. Married women are denied the right to own property and widows are unable to inherit property if they are forced from their homes by their husband’s relatives.

However, the people of Swaziland have continued to struggle for democracy.

The trade unions, despite their leaders being regularly arrested and harassed, have held regular strikes and protests.

Women and students have formed groups to campaign for democracy and rights and an underground pro-democracy party Pudemo was formed in 1983.

Despite constant harassment, including the arrest of one leader, Sipho Jele, who died in custody in May 2010 imprisoned for wearing a protest T-shirt, they have grown in strength.

In 2008 King Mswati held lavish celebrations costing millions of dollars to mark his 40th birthday and 40 years of independence, but the people of Swaziland responded by organising the country’s biggest pro-democracy protests with 10,000 crowding the streets of the Manzini and reassembling in the capital Mbabane the next day.

The pro-democracy movement in Swaziland has called for smart sanctions, including the denial of international travel for the royal family and their lackeys, a ban on investment in companies controlled by the regime and an embargo on military sales to Swaziland.

Until now the devastating situation in Swaziland has largely gone unnoticed by the international community, but gradually more and more voices across the world are beginning to speak out.

Swaziland needs our solidarity now. The voices of the Swazi people’s struggle must be heard as Swaziland is still the land of the forgotten despot.

While there we listened, humbled, as student leaders told us of the daily danger of death or imprisonment, but they left us in no doubt that they will continue to fight until Swaziland is free.

The international labour movement must support them in their continuing struggle for political and economic freedom.

In solidarity we must advance to strengthen the trade union and pro-democracy movements building upon partnerships and projects that have raised the profile and capacity-building of trade unions and civil society in Swaziland to bring about change.

Action for Southern Africa, the successor organisation to the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, is one of the few organisations campaigning for democracy and rights in solidarity with the people of Swaziland. If you want to get involved in supporting the fight for democracy in Swaziland contact ACTSA www.actsa.org.

9 thoughts on “Swaziland absolute monarchy

  1. THE Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) has rejected a Commonwealth plan for democratisation that it says would keep the tyrannical monarchy.

    The Commonwealth plan envisions a “collective roadmap,” including a national convention for a new democratic constitution.

    It also calls for repealing the 1973 state of emergency decree, allowing the formation of political parties and freeing political prisoners.

    These include People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) leader Mario Masuku, who has been detained for more than a year on charges of sedition and terrorism after addressing a May Day rally in Manzini.

    The Swaziland high court ruled in March 2005 that political parties were unconstitutional and all trade unions were banned in October 2014.

    In a statement released yesterday, CPS general secretary Kenneth Kunene said: “This agenda is hopelessly confused and fails totally to put the process in the hands of the Swazi people and the pro-democracy formations — including the trade union movement — that are crucial players in any democratic transition.”

    Swaziland won independence from Britain in 1968, but in 1973 King Sobhuza II declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution, ruling by decree until his death in 1982.

    Under Swaziland’s tinkhundla system of government, his successor King Mswati III (pictured) appoints 10 members of the 65-seat lower house of parliament and 20 of the 30 senators, as well as wielding the power of veto over legislation.

    Mr Kunene called on all elements of the pro-democracy movement to distance themselves from the Commonwealth, while piling pressure on the Mswati regime to lift the ban on its parties and organisations.

    “The Commonwealth is attempting to hijack any potential momentum for democratic change in our country,” he said.

    “It wants to place the pro-democracy movement as a junior partner in an envisaged transition, instead of as the key player and protagonist.”

    The general secretary warned against the “Lesotho solution” — a constitutional monarchy with no political mobilisation of the population to create a democratic state.

    “The last thing the Commonwealth or these imperialist powers wants to see is a progressive Swaziland following a socialist path for the total empowerment of the Swazi people,” he said.



  2. Saturday 5th September

    posted by Ben Chacko in World

    SWAZI communists called yesterday for all progressives to boycott King Mswati III’s “annual rape fest.”

    The Umhlanga or Reed Dance takes place each year in Swaziland and sees virgins dance for the king, who often picks one to add to his collection of wives — currently numbering 15.

    But this “repulsive display of patriarchy” is just the tip of the iceberg, Communist Party of Swaziland general secretary Kenneth Kunene charged, slamming the “porn and rape fest” as indulging the “dirty appetites of Mswati and his brothers.”

    “Each year scores of girls disappear from this event never to be hard of again. There is evidence that the Reed Dance is one of the channels for human trafficking, run by a syndicate at the heart of the royal family.”

    Tens of thousands of young girls are forced to take part in the dance each year, which has become a tourist attraction because the monarchy claims it symbolises traditional culture.

    Households are forced to pay 100 lilangheni (£4.80) to participate — not a small sum in a country where 70 per cent live below the poverty line — and if they do not send their girls in a bid to protect them, they must pay a fine of 800 lilangheni (£38.50) or donate a cow to the king.

    Attention has been focused on the dance since more than 60 girls died in a traffic accident on their way to attend, hurled off the open back of a flatbed lorry that careered into another vehicle.

    Girls taking part are “exposed to sexual abuse, including rape. Many are killed in road accidents or die from exhaustion and fatigue … some drown in rivers,” the party warned.

    “It is complete chaos. It is a porn and rape fest for men in the ruling elite. It is a cash source for Mswati and it is one more thing that impoverishes our people,” Mr Kunene declared.

    “That is why we are calling for a boycott of the Reed Dance. We must persuade tourists who are fooled by regime propaganda about colourful African traditions to stay away.

    “The event is one of the biggest celebrations of mass abuse and violence against women in the world.”



  3. Pingback: Swaziland fights for democracy | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Saturday 27th February 2016

    posted by Morning Star in World

    THE Communist Party of Swaziland congratulated public-sector workers and students yesterday for their “courageous” two-day strike and protests.

    Up to 70,000 nurses, teachers and civil servants stopped work and marched to parliament to deliver a petiton of demands.

    The undemocratic regime of King Mswati III is refusing to publish a report on a review of public-sector salaries.

    Communist Party general secretary Kenneth Kunene called the refusal “a clear sign that it has something to hide from public-sector workers.”

    Students have demanded that state study allowances be released and that university canteen prices be reduced.

    They also want the First National Bank, which holds their scholarship allowances, to lower bank charges for students, who lose a significant part of their funds to the bank.

    Mr Kunene urged the broadest possible support for the two struggles “given the general lack of international pressure for democracy in Swaziland.”



  5. Swaziland newspaper workers strike over zero-pay offer

    Workers employed by the Swaziland newspaper Swazi Observer (SO) have spent several days protesting at a distance outside the company premises. A court ruling was passed to restrict picketing outside the paper’s premises.

    The paper, owned by the Swazi monarch, is resisting demands by its employees for a wage increase and improvement in conditions. The Media Workers Union of Swaziland (MWUS) has spent several months trying to negotiate an agreement that has had no impact.

    The workers want the right to join a union of their choice, oppose nepotic appointments, reliable equipment to work with, appropriate medical aid, end of intimidation of union members and the removal of the managing director (MD). The paper has refused a pay increase and the MD sought to intimidate the staff by saying he will plant company spies in all departments.



  6. Pingback: Swaziland workers on strike | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Swaziland electricians on strike | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Swaziland workers fight absolute monarchy | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  9. Pingback: Swaziland people starve, Rolls-Royces for royals | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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