'King, not parliament, should be the target of Swazi protests’
The recent criticism of the Swazi government from many Swazis is misplaced. They should be blaming the country’s absolute monarch, says exiled political activist Sonkhe Dube. Peter Kenworthy reports.
How can there be democracy in Swaziland, when parliament treats the country’s absolute monarch King Mswati III as a god? When the whole cabinet and several member of parliament are elected by the king? Why do Swazis blame parliament for the country’s ills, when Mswati clearly has the last say on everything?
These are questions that Sonkhe Dube, pro-democracy activist and International Secretary of the banned Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), says he keeps asking himself about his native Swaziland, a country where two thirds of the population languish in poverty, political parties are essentially banned and their members harassed.
Sonkhe, had to flee his country for fear of being arrested and tortured by the police, as he has been on several occasions, because of his fight for democracy and social justice.
Blaming powerless parliament is misguided
'The Swazi population came out guns blazing against the government at the Sibaya Forum,' Sonkhe says. The forum is a people’s parliament where the monarch summons his subjects to the royal cattle byre to discuss pressing issues. 'But the repeated calls for the axing of the prime minister and his government were misplaced. Parliament in reality have to serve the hand that appointed them before they serve the people, so removing the government is like cutting tree branches and hoping that the tree will be uprooted.'
He believes that his fellow Swazis fear the monarch too much to dare criticize him in public. According to international NGO’s such as Freedom House and Amnesty International these fears are not unfounded.
According to Freedom House, who speak of Swaziland as a country where 'elected members of parliament have no oversight or influence over setting government policy, making laws, or adjusting spending levels,' the population of Swaziland is one of the populations in the world with least political freedom. Amnesty International describes how 'repressive legislation' and 'politically motivated trials and laws that violate the principle of legality ... continues to be used to suppress dissent.'
Tell the King the truth
But Sonkhe Dube nevertheless believes that Swazis must confront the true root cause of their woes if they are to transform Swaziland from an absolute monarchy that benefits a few to a democracy. After all, over half the Swazi population highly disapproves of the current form of government and less than a fifth believe their country to be fully democratic according to opinion polls from Afrobarometer.
'The king should be told the honest truth about the chaos caused by his absolute power without fear or favour,' he says. 'A person with a rash caused by a certain blood disease cannot stop the rash with an ointment, without taking care of the disease in the blood.'
Sonkhe Dube is a teacher by profession. He is the International Secretary of the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), and is currently living in exile in neighbouring South Africa due to his pro-democracy activism and affiliation to SWAYOCO. He has been arrested, detained and tortured on several occasions by King Mswati’s police. He cannot go back to Swaziland, he says, because he fears the response of the brutal Swazi police.
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