The people of Swaziland go to the polls Friday to elect members of
parliament amid government crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators
who are calling for political reforms under King Mswati III. Swazi police
arrested several protest leaders Thursday, saying the protesters were causing
Anarchy.But the demonstrators say today’s parliamentary
election is a façade calculated to deceive Swazis into believing that absolute
monarch, King Mswati III, is interested in democracy.
Vincent Dlamini is the main proponent of the
protest march. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Mbabane that
the protests would continue unabated until their demands for democratic reforms
“Some of the union leaders were arrested during
our protests and demonstration around the country’s border post yesterday. Some
of the were released later on after their detention, but I’m not quite sure
what happened to the others. We are still trying to locate where they are at
the moment. What we can also report is that quite a number of workers, in the
southern part of the country in Mshangano were brutally assaulted by the police
as they were conducting the demonstration against the election that would be
held this morning in our country,” Dlamini said.
He said the union workers are protesting against
he called an undemocratic system, which he said clamps down on their right to a
free democratic society.
“We are protesting against the current Nikunda
system, which we believe is undemocratic, and we are demanding that elections
must be held under a multi-party democratic system. This current system came
into place by the banning of the political parties in 1973 by the previous King
Sobhuza II. In this particular state of emergency, one significant thing that
happened was that all three branches of government were transferred to the
king. That is the judiciary, legislature and all other executive powers were
vested in the king by that particular decree, which banned political parties in
the country,” he said.
Dlamini said the protesters want to enjoy
democracy just like most people in other parts of the world do.
“We are saying that we want elections to be
conducted in a multi-party democratic environment,” Dlamini pointed out.
He sharply denied that Friday’s parliamentary
election is an attempt by the government to bring about some democratic reforms.
“No, no, no, there is no reform at all. What is
happening in our country is that the majority of the people reside in the rural
areas, which is about 70% of the population. And therefore quite a number of
them are participating in this election because they are intimidated by the
chiefs who are appendages of the monarch. The chiefs run the rural areas and
the villages on behalf of the monarch and they tend to intimidate and evict
people who do not conform to the dictates of the regime,” he said.
Dlamini accused the government of not educating
the masses on the benefits of democracy.
“What is happening is that the regime in our
country currently thrives on the ignorance of the masses. In the rural areas
there are high level of poverty and people are being abused in the sense that
what is happening, they are given food passes and all that and are being bribed
so to speak,” Dlamini noted.
He said union workers would not stop protesting
to ensure their voices for democratic reforms are heard.
“What we are going to do next is that we will
continue in engaging in mass action, we will have mass demonstrations at
certain intervals. And we are going to be educating our people in terms of what
is best for our country, as well as making sure that the international
community understands our plight and understand that Swaziland is still an
undemocratic country,” he said.
Some political observes say although the
monarch remains popular among many of his subjects, there is rising discontent
over his extravagant lifestyle, refusal to adopt democratic reforms and to
tackle Swaziland’s numerous social problems.