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Friday, 31 October 2008

KING TOLD: APOLOGISE TO SWAZIS

Earlier this month while introducing Barnabas Dlamini (the man he had illegally chosen to be Swaziland’s new Prime Minister) King Mswati III, spoke emotionally about how ‘terrorists’ were threatening the kingdom. He gave Dlamini the mandate to get the terrorists and all who support them.


The king also made open criticisms of neighbouring South Africa for, he said, encouraging the terrorism.


Some of the Swaziland media (especially the print media) commented on this at the time and wondered why the king had lost his temper. As is the way of the media in Swaziland, they then blamed it all on the king’s ‘advisors’ (whoever they may be).


All this background is by way of introducing a reader’s letter to the editor that was published in the Times of Swaziland today (31 October 2008). The reader is not as mealy-mouthed as the journalists. The reader puts the blame squarely on King Mswati III and says what the king said was ‘shameful’.


The reader publicly questions the king, ‘How can you talk this way in front of your people?


‘How can you tell your people to be ready for blood?


‘As a king, we expect him to be a symbol of peace and of unity but what I heard at Sibaya was just shameful.’


The letter writer goes on, ‘The king declared war, his traditional warriors are ready and again his uniformed forces are ready too.


‘They are ready to fight whom?


‘It’s surprising that they are ready to fight his people.


‘Instead of the king to handle the situation, he worsens it.’


It is dangerous to make open criticism of the king in Swaziland, so it is no surprise that the writer signs himself (herself?): ‘A broken heart, Pigg’s Peak’.


The letter writer concludes, ‘It is again high time the king declares the government to the people not for himself and his family.


‘God created this world for us all and Swaziland is for us all. It can be for a certain clan if we are only threatened.


‘Your Majesty it is wisdom to apologise to our people and just for once to show them that you are also human, only God is perfect. In one of your birthday celebrations you asked for a gift of peace but all of a sudden you are ready for blood. You can change your decision and stage a government which is going to meet the people’s needs not the ‘Makhundu’ government we are all eagerly waiting to see whom it will first kill.’


To read the full letter click here.


P.S. Readers may like to know that the Times has reinstated its ‘comments’ facility on its website so that people may react to the reports.

SWAZI COPS FIRE LIVE BULLETS AT KIDS

Swazi police have fired live bullets at schoolchildren protestors.


They also fired rubber bullets and teargas.


It happened as about 700 pupils are said to have been demonstrating against their school’s deputy principal.


The incident happened on Tuesday (28 October 2008) at Nhlangano Central High School when the pupils attacked the deputy principal, who has been accused of engaging in witchcraft at the school.


The Swazi Observer reported on Wednesday (29 October 2008) that police arrived at the school ‘and fired shots to scare the pupils away, restoring order’.

The Observer continued, ‘Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Vusi Masuku confirmed that police used live rounds but said it was necessary to disperse the rioting pupils.

‘He said the police had initially used teargas but the pupils refused to budge.’

Today’s Times of Swaziland has a different version of events. It reports that some people had claimed that only rubber bullets were fired, ‘but the pictures captured by our photographer suggest rubber had very little to do with the cartridges found on the ground’.


The police in Swaziland are ill disciplined and out of control. They regularly use excessive methods, such as firing teargas and rubber bullets, to disperse crowds – even, as in the case of striking textile workers earlier this year – people who are lawfully going about their business.


The firing by police on children is disgraceful. The fact that they fired live bullets should be condemned. It shows us just how quickly the state is prepared to unleash violence against its own people.


I hope the international community condemns this action. Those of us with long memories will remember that in apartheid South Africa the tide of international opinion turned against the ruling elite once it started shooting and killing schoolkids.


Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that in Swaziland.

MORE CRITICS OF SWAZI ELECTIONS

Another of the official observer groups to last month’s elections in Swaziland has criticised the lack of democracy in the kingdom.


Political parties remain banned in Swaziland since 1973 and the parliament that is elected has few powers. King Mswati III makes all the important decisions and none of the members of the Swazi senate are elected by the people.


The Commonwealth Expert Team (CET) in a media release issued on Wednesday (29 October 2008) said there were weaknesses in Swaziland’s constitutional, legal and electoral framework. The CET said these weaknesses ‘required reforms through a process of consultation and dialogue’.


Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said, ‘What is vital now is for the Government and all political and civil society organizations in Swaziland to work together to chart a mutually agreed path for the future development of the country, with a view to ensuring its sustainable growth and stability, in line with Commonwealth fundamental values.’


The CET is not the only official election observer group to call for greater democracy in Swaziland. The Pan-African Parliament mission had previously reported, ‘The non-participation of political parties makes these elections extraordinary from any others but we hope with time things will change.’


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) observers recommended improvements to the electoral system in the future.


The latest report from the CET shows that despite Swaziland’s new constitution that came into effect in 2006 not much has changed in Swaziland. After the previous election in 2003 CET reported, ‘... we do not regard the credibility of these National elections as an issue: no elections can be credible when they are for a Parliament which does not have power and when political parties are banned’.


All observer groups have urged Swaziland to rethink its political process, which is ‘diplomat speak’ for ‘become a democracy’. They were saying such things after the 2003 election and they are saying them again now.


The fact that nothing has changed tells us all we need to know about the commitment of Swaziland’s ruling elite to democracy. The elite despise its own Swazi people and ignore the views of the international community.


With the illegal appointment earlier this month of new Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini it is clear that the king and his supporters have no respect for the Swazi constitution. We now are told by the king that Dlamini must get the ‘terrorists’ and all who support them (for that read ‘democrats’).


Now the elections are over and the eyes of the international community are elsewhere, we can expect more repression in Swaziland in the coming months.


See also

ELECTIONS

SWAZILAND ELECTIONS 2008 BLOGSITE