News / Africa

Swaziland King Faces Growing Unrest

King of Swaziland Mswati III (Front) and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012. (Reuters)King of Swaziland Mswati III (Front) and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012. (Reuters)
x
King of Swaziland Mswati III (Front) and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012. (Reuters)
King of Swaziland Mswati III (Front) and one of his 13 wives disembark from a plane after arriving at Katunayake International airport in Colombo, Sri Lanka, August 13, 2012. (Reuters)
Growing protests have rocked the Kingdom of Swaziland recently. The protests are being led by young people, who say they want democracy for their country.  

Facing a packed crowd of protesters, Swazi student leader Maxwell Dlamini gave another speech to the cheers of the crowd. It is one of the many protests that have taken place over past months in Swaziland. Students and teachers have been protesting new education measures, though Dlamini said the grievances are wider.

“These protests are not an isolation of a critical demand, which is a constitutional multiparty democracy in Swaziland," said Dlamini.

Seeking democracy

Swaziland is a small kingdom land-locked by South Africa and has been ruled by King Mswati III since 1986. It is Africa’s last absolute monarchy with the king holding all powers. It also is one of the poorest countries in the world, where 40 percent of the population is unemployed, more than 70% live under the poverty line and one out of four people are HIV positive.

Dlamini said the key to development in Swaziland is democratization.

“The bigger problems that are in Swaziland can actually be addressed by a democratic government which will allow each and every citizen to actually participate in the decision-making processes of the country," said Dlamini. "Those governments have to pursue policies that will benefit the majority of the country, unlike the current system which actually perpetrates corruption and nepotism. It serves the interest of the monarchy and their friends, while the majority of the people are left out of the processes of development and empowerment.”

Outrage over indulgences

Anger has been growing for years in Swaziland over what is seen by many as the King's extravagant lifestyle. He has more than a dozen wives, holds an annual dance of tens of thousands of bare-breasted virgins from which he can select another wife, and has a personal fortune estimated at about $100 million.

Political parties and activists are routinely arrested. Earlier this year, as another protest was being put down, Mswati asked international donors to help contribute to his birthday celebrations. He also asked his subjects to donate cows to contribute to the feast - further angering many.  

Rhoda Mdzingase Mkhabela comes out slowly of the shack where she lives with her family before collapsing on a branch outside, due to exhaustion. The 74-year-old is tired. She said her living conditions have worsened her already fragile health.

She said she was expelled a few months ago from her concrete house on land she owns, where she had been living for the last 60 years, in what appears to be a government development deal.

She survives today with $33 given to her every three month by the government. The money has to support her and a grandchild.  

She said she does not trust the current government, sees nothing positive in Swaziland and would leave the country if she could.
Activists say property rights in Swaziland benefit the wealthy and powerful.  

VOA's efforts to contact the Swazi government on its policies and popular discontent went unanswered and the Ministry of Information refused to take calls.

Traditional stranglehold

Noel Kututwa, Southern Africa director for Amnesty International, said recent protests have done little to loosen Mswati's hold on power.   

"It is very difficult to assess the extent in which the king to be in power and continue to have the absolute and the firm grip, but it is correct to say that the government is still in control," said Kututwa. "The government is still brutally repressing any protest or any uprising, and they are using force to make sure that the Swazi people remain silent. "

Kututwa said he believes this might change, though, as civil society begins to act despite threats.  

“What has changed has probably been the fact that the civil society has become more organized. There are more and more protests, networks outside Swaziland. And Swazi civil society is also working with other civil societies in Southern Africa to bring attention to the human right issues within the country," he said. "Their lobbying is becoming more targeted, they are being able to raise issues on Swaziland and each time something happens in the country, that is being reported, and the international community is taking attention.”
 
It remains unclear whether that growing activism among civil society organizations will have any effect on the situation in Swaziland. A few weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund released a report stating the country was in serious financial trouble. The IMF recommended reforms - especially land reform and cutting heavy spending on the security forces. In an angry response, Swaziland's government called the report wrong and pessimistic saying it would only discourage efforts at reform.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid