Currently, Eswatini is burning because its people are tired of being ruled by an absolute monarchy, the only one in the SADC region. It holds its elections every five years despite the fact that the government banned political parties on 12 April 1973. It is clear that there is no democracy in Eswatini since political parties are not allowed to participate in any elections.
In the past few weeks, the people of Eswatini have been writing petitions to MPs calling for the restoration of multiparty democracy in their country.
It is sad that SADC’s regional leaders continue to see nothing wrong with what is happening in Eswatini, while the rest of the SADC countries have political parties participating in every election. SADC leaders need to be proactive when it comes to dealing with challenges facing the region.
The SADC needs to stop being an “Old Boys’ Club” while the people of the region continue to suffer. Mozambique is the current chairperson of the SADC, but it is obvious that it won’t say or do anything when it comes to what is currently happening in Eswatini.
The people of Eswatini don’t enjoy the democracy that we enjoy in South Africa. Although the South African government claims to be a champion of human rights, it has not been vocal on the lack of democracy and fundamental freedoms in its neighbouring country. The ruling party talks about building a better Africa, but how would it advance this vision if it can’t even condemn what is happening in Eswatini and help find a lasting political solution? The South African government seems to have forgotten that there is a South African activist who is wrongfully arrested by the Eswatini regime by the name of Amos Mbedzi.
At its national conference in 2012, the governing party resolved the following: “a. The current conflict in Swaziland has negatively impacted the economy and human rights of the Swazis; b. As the tripartite alliance, we should merge our solidarity campaigns on the basis of a commonly agreed framework of action; c. The ANC calls on the Swazi monarch and leaders in Swaziland to create the space for open and free dialogue to find a lasting solution to the challenges facing Swaziland; d. The ANC confirms its strong support for the people of Swaziland and will engage the Swaziland government to find solutions to the problems facing the people of Swaziland; e. The ANC supports the campaigns for the unbanning of the political parties and the release of all political prisoners; and f. The ANC urges the Swazi government to adhere to the Memorandum of Understanding on the loan conditions, especially regarding democratisation.”
The party reaffirmed these resolutions at its 2017 conference.
It would be in the best interest of the governing party to stand with the people of Eswatini, as it has a clear mandate to support the country’s citizens who are oppressed and whose human rights are violated by the brutal regime. The South African government needs to implement its own resolutions from the conference without being selective, otherwise it would be undermining the mandate given by delegates at both the 2012 and 2017 national conferences.
When we look at economic diplomacy, it would also be in the best interests of South Africa to engage with the government of Eswatini, as South African companies are also being affected by what is happening in the landlocked country. This can be achieved through diplomatic channels. There are many South African companies in Eswatini and political instability will make things worse for them.
People of the SADC region need to stand with the people of Eswatini and support their struggle. People-to-people solidarity is needed in the region. The people of southern Africa must advocate for non-violence and peaceful dialogue and only SADC leaders can do this by appointing a mediation team to help in this process.
Democratic values are important for any country to fight socioeconomic challenges and, as we all know, the population of Eswatini is very small — just over one million. The citizens of Eswatini live in poverty while the monarchy lives a lavish lifestyle at its people’s expense.
There are numerous democratic monarchies around the world which the Eswatini government and its monarchy can observe and emulate. Lesotho is a typical example within the SADC region, and even in South Africa, there are different monarchies in different cultural communities. Several monarchies around the world allow multiparty democracy. DM