One of Swaziland’s most significant prodemocracy organisations has reached its tenth birthday.
The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) was launched in 2003 after the Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini refused to be bound by decisions of the law courts. That led to a judicial crisis and all the Appeals Court judges resigned in protest.
Musa Hlophe, the SCCCO coordinator from the start, has been reflecting on the past ten years of the organisation.
Hlophe said Dlamini felt he was above the law. ‘We found that we had nobody to speak up for us.
‘Political parties were banned.
‘Trade Unions had done some great work in mobilising the people but were stopped by the law from speaking about matters that were not to do with the social and economic conditions of their members,’ he wrote in one of his regular weekly columns for the Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland.
He added, ‘So we all came together along with lawyers, journalists, gender activists and many others and formed a Coalition where, we hoped, our collective voice could be heard as the voice of reason against the government and traditional authorities’ irrational and self-serving actions.
‘Our vision was that we would try, as organisations that served ordinary Swazis, to achieve together that which we had not achieved alone.
‘We wanted a country where we were seen as proper citizens, not just lowly subjects. We wanted a government where the MPs were elected on their policies not through bribery.’
On the face of it, he wrote, SCCCO had not been much of a success in the past ten years.
Last year, Dlamini, who is once again Prime Minister after a spell out of office, refused to respect a properly constitutional Vote of No Confidence in the Swazi Parliament. ‘He now is happy to say that he respects neither the courts nor Parliament.’
But Hlophe is not despairing. ‘One of the things that has definitely changed in the last 10 years is the international image of Swaziland.
‘The government was keen to tell the world that it was a peaceful nation with full support for its Tinkhundla system of governance and that there were no voices of dissent or opposition.
‘Now the government finds itself on what is known as the ‘special paragraph’ of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which is a serious indication of the world’s concern at the lack of respect for workers’ rights.
‘It has also found itself receiving strong criticism from the United Nations on its Human Rights Record.
‘The Commonwealth has appointed a special envoy to investigate the country and report back. The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has made findings against us as well. The world has woken up to the fact that while Swaziland has all the symbols of democracy, the reality is far from it.
‘So in the 10 years that we have been operating we have seen some progress especially in the international arena. But we, the Swazi people, need to become much more active in working for the country we want. It is only when you, the ordinary citizens tell our leaders that you have had enough of their antics that they will listen.’