Political Developments in Swaziland

Probably in July King Mswati III of Swaziland, who just added a $690,000 Daimler-Chrysler Maybach 62 to his fleet, will to attempt to impose a constitution, unilaterally, on terms to suit himself. This after 31 years of a “State of Emergency” and 21 years of The Peoples United Democratic Movement’s (PUDEMO) campaign for democracy. Here’s a very striking letter recentkly sent by PUDEMO (formed in 1983) recently to the Secretariat of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, outlining the monstrous situation in Swaziland.

Swaziland today.

* It is the smallest in mainland Southern Africa. * It has a population of 1.1 Million people. * It has the highest HIV infection rate in the world, at around 40%. * On the surface it is peaceful. * Deficit of .5 Billion Emalangeni * 67% of the population lives in rural areas and very poor. * The people are being ruled by a 31 year state of emergency (1973 – 2004) * The ruler is from the Dlamini family with absolute powers.


2.1 The powers of the King of Swaziland.

* Above the law * Controls all land * Controls all minerals * Appoints and Control the Prime Minister Cabinet * Controls the Legislature * Appoints and Control the Judiciary * Controls the Army * Controls the Police * Controls the Correctional Services Warders * Controls the Public Service * Controls the people who are not called citizens, but Subjects * Controls the Economy through what was once a peoples’ fund called Tibiyo through royalties and shareholding in many major companies in Swaziland*. * Controls everything that lives in Swaziland

It is very difficult for a reasonable person to believe that there are a people who would love and appreciate to be ruled in this fashion. Why would Swazis love to be ruled in this fashion when billions of people of the world would find it unacceptable? Is it because Swazis are some kind of people with no feelings of hurt, humiliation and human dignity?

The answer is, Swazis are just as humane like their entire fellow Africans and other people of the world. To free themselves they have been struggling for the past 30 years, and the struggle took an upward turn in the last 20 years.

3.0 A brief Historical background to the Constitutional making process.

The people under the leadership of PUDEMO were the ones who demanded a written Constitution for the country, not the Monarchy or Tinkhundla Government.

For the past twenty years of struggle, PUDEMO has been the leading voice calling for an all-inclusive political process that would ensure the free participation of all sectors of our society in the constitution making process. Such representatives would have had a clear mandate of the people through their respective constituencies.

As mentioned above, the Royal Family and its Tinkhundla government consistently opposed the idea of a Constitution as they said a constitution is a foreign idea. However, pressure from the people under the leadership of PUDEMO forced it to relent and hence the reforms.

This is a historical fact that we would like the Commonwealth and the whole world not to forget nor ignore as it has a bearing in the future of this country.

Constitutional drafting process at parallels

The reforms failed the litmus test for a democratic constitution making process by;

3.1 Refusal to allow civic formations representing their constituencies to be part of the process.

3.2 All commissions were chaired by Princess

3.3 Commissioners were handpicked from the Conservative camp.

3.4 Divergent views were not tolerated as those with differing views were discouraged to voice their aspirations and concerns during the so-called consultations.

3.5 Process was a fattening ranch where Princess were making themselves rich i.e. R120 Million over 8 years.

3.6 Lack of political education on the populace on Constitutionalism for effective participation during the so-called community consultations.

3.7 Lack of freedom of the media in reporting divergent views.

3.8 Chiefs who control about 67% of the country and its population were used to intimidate people who were pro democracy. Those who called for multi party democracy were threatened with evictions from their land.

This resulted to the process lacking legitimacy, and consequently;

* Can never be trusted to produce a universally acceptable document.

* Can never be trusted that it (the royal family) cannot reverse whatever gains have come through this document.

* It is not in the royal family’s interest to have a document that will transfer power from the family to the people safeguarded by the Constitution.

4.0 Current Constitution

4.1 Political parties

Political parties remain banned to participate in the politics of the country. According to the daft constitution, political parties will not contest for elections, and hence cannot be part of the legislature, or executive, but status quo will prevail.

4.2 Executive powers of the King

The king still retains executive authority, and he continues to appoint the following;

* Prime Minister, Cabinet,

* Judges

* Regional Administrators

* Army Commander

* Police Commissioner

* Correctional Services Commissioner

* Secretary to Cabinet

In addition he can summon and Dissolve Parliament. He has control over land, Minerals, the Armed forces.

This process is therefore prone to reversal by the monarchy just like it happened in 1973 when the King repealed the Independence constitution. This was after the opposition party had won a single constituency out of a total eight Constituencies.

5.0 The nation is still expected to make inputs on the document.

Whilst this seem a good thing for someone who does not understand the “Mafia” style dictatorship that has ruined Swaziland for the past 30 years, Swazis know what this mean. This is nothing but a ploy to give legitimacy to a process that has been cast in stone.

Just like the initial process of gathering views for the Constitutional Review process under Prince Mangaliso where group submissions were not allowed, this process will also not allow for group submissions.

The following situation will take place;

* The royal family under Prince David will continue with his family’s project

* Members of the Royal family will be allowed to have group input in how they want to see the final document.

* The population will not be educated on constitutionalism before their “views” are sought. It must be remembered that Swazis were free for only 5 years (1968 – 1973), and for the next 30 years they have been ruled under a state of emergency. What then do they understand about basic human rights to demand them?

* Chiefs will continue to coerce and intimidate those who would be calling for a democratic constitution, and threatening them with evictions from the lands. These are the predominantly rural, uneducated, powerless, landless, and majority of our people. They account 67% of the population.

* The state run media, the Television and radio station will be used to spread propaganda in favour of retaining the status quo, and differing views will be suppressed.

What then will be the final product?

From what has been described above, it is clear that the final document will not reflect the aspirations of our people. It will be a document to legitimize the suffering of our people. We have no intention to abandon our people at this time of the struggle. Our people have suffered for three decades under the family and the time for their unconditional freedom is now.

The July 2004 verdict on our people.

The King has said he will force the constitution on the people of Swaziland in July 2004.

The people have rejected this sham and come together for an alternative all-inclusive process.

To counter the abovementioned royal project,The Swazi populace is drafting an all inclusive constitution under the auspices of the National Constitutional Assembly.

Many civic organisations are part of this alternative process, and this includes NGO’s, Political Parties, Labour, Church, Youth, Women rights organisation, People with disability, University Academics, Parliamentarians*, Swazi National Council Members (Advisors to the King)*, Senators*, Traditional Women organisation* etc.

* The Government and powerful Royal family members coerced these members to withdraw from the initial process under the Council of churches.

6.0 The Militarisation of the country

There is an increase of importation of military hardware by the Government in recent weeks. This shows that it is geared for war in defence of the undemocratic system of Government and the looting of the finances of the taxpayers. Two weeks ago a large consignment of ammunition was discovered at the airport under a cloud of secrecy. Thousands of hand grenades were discovered. Current expenditure indicates more public spending is made on the army than social services like health, education and food security.

7.0 Can PUDEMO participate if invited at this stage?

PUDEMO is a movement whose members are reasonable people. It is a movement with a very proud history. Its entire leadership was arrested in 1990 and charged with high treason. For the past twenty years we have been persecuted, imprisoned, forced into exiles, our student activists expelled from schools and denied government scholarships. Our leaders have been dismissed from their places of work for their conscience. Our president spent 21 months in the royal maximum prison (2000 – 2002) for demanding the freedom of his people.

How then could we refuse to take part in a process if we are convinced it is genuine and it will help free our people?

We have been ready and prepared to be part of a genuine political process for the freedom of our people for the past 20 years. We have written numerous letters both to the government and the King requesting a meeting that would have culminated to a negotiated settlement. We never received a courtesy of an acknowledgement of receipt of such letters.

We have been vindicated. Our direct answer therefore is we are ready anytime anywhere to meet the King or his representatives, even at this late stage of the process.

Once again we reaffirm our commitment to genuine nation building and we wish to reiterate our way forward as published way back in 1992 as a foundation for taking our country forward.

Our way forward, towards a constituent Assembly is as follows;


1. Preliminary negotiation

We as a Movement are firmly convinced that a formal and properly constituted negotiation process can only be effected through a broad-based representative National Convention. However, we are conscious of the fact that certain pre-conditions have to be met to facilitate the laying down of the basis for a fundamental move towards the envisaged convention, and of creating a conducive climate for the negotiation process would be able to lay the foundation for a National Convention.

2. Memorandum of intent.

To ensure that the democratisation process is itself democratic at the initial stage, the preliminary negotiations must not only be confined to the progressive forces but also be inclusive of traditional institutions-in-fact it must be a microcosm of our society i.e. political parties, political organisations, labour organisations, the youth, women’s organisations, traditional institutions and other interest groups. The outcome of the preliminary negotiations will be a Memorandum of Intent where His Majesty King Mswati III unreservedly commits himself and the Government to formal and properly constituted peaceful negotiations through a national convention. The Memorandum of Intent shall include inter – alia the following: –

a) The outlining of all terms of reference for the national convention; b) The meeting of pre-conditions to facilitate the creation of a conducive climate for negotiations which demands the political tolerance through the lifting of the state of emergency and all other repressive laws. Hence, the three specific decrees hereinafter set forth must of necessity be repealed as they impede any genuine move towards a new political dispensation-.

– Decree no.11 which provides for the banning of political parties and other mass political organisations;

– Decrees no.12 and 13 which provides for the prohibition of meetings, processions/demonstrations, associations and forming of political parties etc;

c) The abrogation of The King’s Proclamation of 1973;

d) The abrogation of the Establishment of Parliament Order No. 23 of 1978;

e) The reinstatement of the Bill of Rights;

f) The unbanning of all political parties;

g) The unconditional return and indemnification of all political exiles;

h) The dissolution and dismissing of all “shadowy” cabals that surround the King like the “Central Committee”, The “Thursday Committee” which has ruined the judiciary so that we know exactly who we are dealing with; and

i) Such pre-conditions have to be declared in a formal legal instrument.



The Movement reaffirms its conviction that formal and properly constituted negotiations can only be done through a National Convention, with its immediate objective of creating an interim government and electing a Constituent Assembly. A national convention is a forum whereby all political parties, political organisations, labour organisations, the youth, women’s organisations, traditional institutions and other interest groups would come together to work out the details of the democratic process and to lay down acceptable parameters on the modalities leading to the Constituent Assembly.

A constituent assembly must act as the place where a new constitution guaranteeing a truly democratic Swaziland must be drawn up, but the run-in period leading up to actual election of the constituent assembly and the overseeing of the elections to the constituent assembly requires some interim authority to manage the process.

This same national convention will constitute an interim authority on a democratic basis to govern and oversee the whole democratic process. It is our considered view that a task of such fundamental importance can only be carried out by a properly constituted and impartial government. An interim government with clearly defined functions and limited powers formed by the national convention would ensure a fair democratic process without any biases in favour of one group. It should be dissolved after the outcome of the constituent assembly. We believe a minimum two-year period would be sufficient.


Subject to the outcome of the national convention, a national referendum if necessary, would have to be held to solicit views on a desirable constitutional dispensation- whether the independence constitution should be re-invoked and amended or a new one drafted.

However, from our viewpoint the issue of a national referendum becomes redundant in view of the King’s (Sobhuza II) solemn commitment on a new constitution drafted by the people of Swaziland for themselves, and the fact that the tinkhundla was not envisaged to be a substitution for a constitution.


A constituent assembly is a body elected by all the people and its main responsibility will be to draw up a constitution for the democratic Swaziland.

It is our fervent belief that there can be no genuine political dispensation and constitutional dispensation founded in such a system (Tinkhundla). A new political and constitutional dispensation can only be arrived at, in a properly constituted constituent assembly, where there can be a genuine participation of the masses, ensuring that any future political dispensation will not be dominated by royalty or minority.

The position of our Movement is that a new constitution for the country needs to be drawn up and adopted by the people through a properly constituted constituent assembly. The electoral process of the constituent assembly will be defined at the national convention.

The reason why our Movement supports the idea of elected delegates to draw up a constitution is to ensure that the new constitution reflects the interests of the people, and that those responsible for drawing up the constitution must be elected by the people in free, and fair elections. Only such an elected constituent assembly can ensure that the process of drawing up a democratic constitution is itself democratic.


Once a new constitution for the Kingdom of Swaziland has been adopted by the people of Swaziland will result in the following-

– Dissolution of the constituent assembly.

– Elections to be held for the constitution of a popular elected government based on the will of the people.

– Dissolution of the interim government.

– Repeal of all laws inconsistent with the constitution.

* All civic groups including Political parties, youth, people with special disabilities, Workers Unions, and other motive forces, and “The family”, Church should be allowed to come together to map a way forward in a free and enabling environment. * Unconditional return of political exiles including the Chiefs in Amsterdam and other exiles in Australia, RSA, and the UK. * Impartial education on Constitutionalism to the people of Swaziland (67% rural, uneducated and intimidated by Chiefs)

We challenge the King and the government to tell us the flaws of this process as we have already done with their process. We also challenge the international community to critically look at our way forward and advise where they have misgivings about our long proposed process of democratization.

8.0 What will happen if the peoples’ demands are ignored and the process proceeds?

8.1 The struggle continues until we have transferred the power from the family, which has subjected our people to oppression and poverty for 253 years (1750 – 2004), to the people. These powers will be enshrined and protected by the Constitution.

9.0 The British and Commonwealth role in the process.

We are very disappointed with the British and some members of the Commonwealth for playing double standards.

9.1 They supported and encouraged the monarchy to come out with such a document, which they know does nothing to transfer power from the family to the people. They endorse a document that does not recognize multiparty democracy. They expect our people to accept to be ruled in an autocratic fashion.

9.2 They denounce Zimbabwe where the pillars of democracy exist, and support the Monarchy, which has ruled this country with iron fist for 253 years. PUDEMO leaders have been jailed for high treason, intimidated, victimized from their places of work, and pro-democracy citizens forced into exile.

9.3 If you go to Zimbabwe today you will notice that there is a constitution with all the bill of rights. The law allows political parties to participate in the country’s politics. The legislature has members representing diverse political interests. It is true our brothers and sisters on the north of Limpompo have problems, and it pains to see a reversal of the gains of liberation.

However, Zimbabwe problems are nothing compared to Swaziland’s problem.

In simpler terms, in Zimbabwe there is a sound and very powerful political vehicle with an engine, wheels, brakes etc. However, it appears it is being driven backwards. In Swaziland there is not even an ox cart, let alone a vehicle without an engine. The British ignores this fact and wants our people to continue suffering under autocratic rule.

This reminds us about the British’s role in supporting apartheid South Africa when they opposed economic sanctions for their selfish interests. The British have no record of supporting the oppressed anywhere in the world. We are very much disappointed by the Labour party as we were hoping its policies on Africa would be a bit moderate.

We welcome the role played by some external Governments like the USA under the current Ambassador. He is a true friend of the struggling people of Swaziland. We thank the South African Government, the Mozambican Government and many international organizations like Amnesty International and others for their call for the freedom of our people. These governments and people will have a very special place in our peoples’ history.

10.0 What do our people want from any genuine constitutional dispensation;

They want a process that is driven by them, that cannot be reversed, and that can guarantee amongst others;

1. Unconditional Right to land.

* Land for our people is central to our struggle. Land should no longer be a property of the Royal Family with chiefs administering it on the family’s behalf.

2. Right to Education

* Our people must have an unconditional right to free Primary education. This has been a preserve for the Royal family, which has been sending its children, even those who never deserved, to oversees countries at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

HIV/AIDS has made it impossible for the majority of our people to go to school, and the time is now to guarantee the right to education in the constitution.

3. Right to Primary health care and HIV/AIDS drugs.

* Our people are dying of HIV/AIDS and the royal family is using our taxpayer to get treatment in a state of the art hospital at Lobamba, and in other countries. The constitution should guarantee equal treatment for our people.

4. Right for the elderly to be taken care of through social grants schemes.

* For many years our people have been made beggars by taking citizenship of neighbouring South Africa in search of social grants. We all know that this will not continue for long before the South Africans turn them back because they have their own pressing social responsibility. * The constitution must ensure that our people are afforded this right to live.

5. Right to food security and shelter.

* Whilst the royal family live in palaces and first world bungalows and driving top of the range BMW X5s with body guards and chauffeurs, and whilst there is a concerted effort to purchase an aeroplane worth 750 Million Emalangeni, it doe not make sense for our people to have a constitution that does not guarantee their rights to food security and shelter. Too many of our people are dying of hunger and starvation in the world of plenty. * Swaziland shall never be allowed to be another Ethiopia when thousands died of starvation. The only way out is for us Swazis to guarantee these rights so that the issue will remain central to successive democratic governments * Dams building should be central in a democratic government to ensure our people have sufficient food. Reliance on yellow maize from donor agencies and countries should not be the priority as it is under Tinkhundla.

6. Right to organise and belong to political parties.

* This is an unalienable right, which we have fought for with passion for many years now. We as a political party, and other parties in operation shall never be wished away. It is a complete waste of time to think Swaziland can effectively operate under Tinkhundla with the exclusion of political parties. The constitution must guarantee the free existence and operation of political parties under a multiparty democracy.

7. Executive powers to be vested in the people through the constitution.

We are where we are because of the selfless sacrifice that the People of Swaziland under the leadership of PUDEMO made. This hard fact can never be taken away from our history as a nation, and we salute our comrades, both fallen and alive for their heroic struggle and selfless sacrifice for the people to be free from 253 years (1750 – 2004) of royal bondage.

11.0 The Swazi family’s iron rule and reforms – does it meet the Commonwealth Harare declaration?

It is clear that such “reforms” are recipe for disaster in this tiny country called Swaziland. These “reforms” are only meant to prolong the oppression of our people, and can never be in the spirit of International protocols on politics, defence and security co-operation;

We know that the Swazi must fight for his freedom. However, the commonwealth must assist us as per its declarations and protocols, which Swaziland is a party to. The commonwealth must assist both the oppressor and the oppressed, as the oppressor needs as much help as the people who are oppressed. Any human being who oppresses another without regard for how that person feels is just as oppressed as the person he is oppressing. These words were true during the Afro-American fight for freedom as they are today. King Mswati III needs help. Whilst the people of the world read about our suffering, we experience it every minute of four lives.

To the International Community in general and the Commonwealth in particular, we once again reiterate what we have been saying all the years;

1.0 Help us resolve this crisis brought about by the Monarch and the Tinkhundla system of government by helping us avoid going into a civil war like the many countries of our continent, Africa.

Help us by;

1.1 Expelling Swaziland from such international bodies like the Commonwealth, African Union, and SADDC.

1.2 Exclude Swaziland from AGOA, and GSP facilities

1.3 Impose travelling ban on the King, his children, Swazi National Council, Prime Minister, cabinet Ministers and senior government officers.

1.4 Stop funding this government as it uses the money to buy arms in order to repress the population. In recent months there has been an increase of arms bought by the regime.

1.5 Support financially and otherwise the voices of resistance led by PUDEMO and the progressive forces. 1.6 Support the judges of Swaziland for their bravery under the onslaught from the regime.

Finally, on behalf of our people we are indebted to His Excellency the President of Mozambique Mr Joachim Chissano. His message of hope in April 2002 when he told King Mswati that time for democracy has come to the region and Swaziland is no exception. We felt our brothers in SADC did not forget us. We call the other leaders of the Commonwealth to take a leaf and for God’s sake say something. Who knows, may be their voice will be heard?

God Bless Africa!!

Ignatius Bonginkosi Dlamini Secretary General

to: The Secretariat; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative B117, First floor, Savodya Enclave New Delhi 110017, India E-mail:chrn@humanrightsinitiave.org Tel: (91-11) 26850523; fax: (91-11) 2686 4688