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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid