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Monday, 29 March 2010

STOP THE LIES ON SWAZI DEMOCRACY

Lutfo Dlamini, the Swazi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, is getting agitated by the continuing demand across the globe that Swaziland become a democracy.


But the trouble is he is lying to the people of Swaziland and the world in his defence of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch and his puppet government.


Dlamini’s latest outburst came yesterday (28 March 2010) after news spread across the globe that democrats in Swaziland and their supporters across the world were demanding targeted sanctions against members of Swaziland’s ruling elite. One suggestion is that the European Union and others should stop paying for Swaziland’s leaders to travel outside the kingdom.


Dlamini reacted loudly and dishonestly to this suggestion. He told the Times Sunday newspaper, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, that the ‘current government was legitimately voted into office’.


He also said, ‘the Southern African Development Community (SADC) observers and other international organisations liked Swaziland’s election system.’


Let’s look at Dlamini’s statements. First, the government was not elected by the people. Barnabas Dlamini, the prime minister was not elected by anyone.


King Mswati ignored the Swaziland constitution and gave the job to Dlamini.


More than half the cabinet ministers were appointed by the king, along with 10 members of the House of Assembly and 20 senators. The other 10 senators are chosen by MPs – none are elected by the people. That’s not what I call a government ‘legitimately voted into office’.


The king also chooses members of influential committees and councils in Swaziland. The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, reckoned that in total at least 20 princes and princesses and 16 chiefs have been appointed to highly influential decision-making positions that they will occupy for five years.


In his outburst Dlamini also said the SADC and ‘other international organisations liked Swaziland’s election system’.


That statement is a distortion of the truth. The Commonwealth Expert Team (CET) that monitored Swaziland’s last election in 2008 was so unhappy with the system that it advised Swaziland to look again at its constitution, this time ensuring that there is full consultation with the people, civic society and political organisations.


The CET said that the elections were not entirely credible because the constitution banned political parties and members of parliament had few real powers.


The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) also denounced the poll because political parties were not allowed to take part.


Immediately after the election amid many accusations that MPs had bribed voters, the Times of Swaziland called many new MPs ‘cheats’. It said, ‘We no longer have an election; we have a selection of those who were able to buy their way into power.’


Even Swaziland’s Attorney General (AG) Majahenkhaba Dlamini has said that candidates bribed voters to win parliamentary seats.


After the elections, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) criticised the Swaziland Supreme Court for siding with the Swaziland state and confirming a constitutional right to ban political parties in the kingdom.


Then it was the Swazi gender activists who were angry that King Mswati III betrayed their hopes, and the Swaziland Constitution, by not appointing more women to the House of Assembly and the Senate.


And it goes on. All of this is no secret. Lutfo Dlamini knows this and we should not let him get away with telling the international community that all is well in Swaziland.

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