Swaziland: Striving for Freedom
This year, 2013, may prove to be a pivotal one in the campaign for freedom in Swaziland. Anational election is due sometime in the next twelve months (we must wait for King MswatiIII to tell us when it can take place) and this will focus some international attention on thetiny kingdom.King Mswati rules as sub-
Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and the ‘parliament’ that
will come into effect after the election is simply his plaything. He chooses the PrimeMinister, the cabinet and most of the people who will sit in the Senate or House of Assembly.
He has control of the judiciary and despite a ‘constitution’ that came into effect in 2006 that
purports to offer his subjects a Bill of Rights he enjoys complete control. No decisions can betaken without his permission.As a consequence, political parties are banned and freedoms of speech, the media andassociation are severely curtailed.
Seven in ten of the king’s one million subjects live in
abject poverty earning less than US$2 a day, while he has13 palaces and a private fortune of at least US$200 million.The US State Department reporting on human rights in Swaziland in 2011
said, ‘The three
main human rights abuses were police use of excessive force, including use of torture andbeatings; a breakdown of the judiciary system and judicial independence; and discriminationand abuse of women and children.
‘Other significant human rights problems included extrajudicial killings by security forces;
arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home;restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association; prohibitions on political activityand harassment of political activists; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination againstmembers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; harassment of
labor leaders; restrictions on worker rights; child labor; and mob violence.’
Clearly, there is lot of work for democracy activists to do. But, there is a growing campaigninside Swaziland for democracy and this is getting noticed on an international scale. As each
month passes it becomes more difficult for the king and his ‘traditionalist’ supporters in
thekingdom to maintain the fiction that Swaziland is free.The election is a perfect opportunity for prodemocracy advocates to focus the attention of those who rarely notice Swaziland and point out the deficiencies in the kingdom and to gathersupport for change.Social media will play a large part in getting the message for freedom out. One of these isSwazi Media Commentary which was launched in 2007 and is one of the longest runningblog or social media sites supporting the campaign for democracy in Swaziland.
Swaziland: Striving For Freedom
is the first volume of information, commentary andanalysis on human rights taken from articles first published on the Swazi Media Commentaryblogsite in 2013. Each month throughout the coming year a digest of articles will bepublished bringing together in one place material that is rarely found elsewhere.