News / Africa

Research Group Calls for Reforms in Africa’s Last Absolute Monarchy

Mswati III, King of Swaziland (L) tours the exhibition hall during the first day of the World Energy Forum at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Oct. 22, 2012.
Mswati III, King of Swaziland (L) tours the exhibition hall during the first day of the World Energy Forum at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Oct. 22, 2012.
Anita Powell
Respected research organization Chatham House is calling for urgent reforms in Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Swaziland - and warns that the impoverished mountain kingdom will suffer economically otherwise. The nation is preparing for parliamentary elections later this month, a vote that comes as its financial situation worsens. 

The Chatham House report describes Africa’s last absolute monarchy as being “on a non-sustainable trajectory, which the king and the government will ignore at their peril."

Swaziland is struggling financially, partly because of global trends, but also, the report’s authors say, because the country’s political situation does not inspire investor confidence. The royal household is famed for its lavish lifestyle, but that wealth is not spread around. The UN estimates that about 63 percent of Swazis live below the poverty line.

In recent years, the economic situation has inspired mass protests, which have met a fierce response by security forces. Increasingly, critics blame the nation’s problems on the monarchy’s spending habits and refusal to democratize the country.

Report author Chris Vandome says this upcoming vote can present a springboard for change.

“This is going to be an opportunity for pressure on the government and pressure for political reform. There isn’t scope in the Swazi domestic market to fill the void that the loss of revenue from outside will have. This is because of the political system. There is no link between the democratic process and the executive process; the executive process being the king,” said Vandome.
 
Royal household's lavish lifestyle

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.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.
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.
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.
The landlocked nation wedged between South Africa and Mozambique is jointly ruled by King Mswati III and his mother, Queen Ntombi, who is known as “the Great She-Elephant” (Ndlovukazi).  Although Swaziland has a parliament, the monarch appoints the prime minister and a number of lawmakers, including two-thirds of the Senate. The king is the reigning executive, and serves for life.

The report’s authors say that if the king does nothing to change Swaziland’s trajectory, the nation will sink further into poverty. That, they warn, will destabilize the nation and affect Swaziland’s neighbors and the region.

The report’s authors hope the king will heed their warning by executing urgent reforms and allowing reform-minded politicians into the government after parliamentary elections this month. 

The issue in these elections, however, is that any reform-minded candidate faces an unfair race because political parties are banned during the campaign.  That means there is no coherent opposition that can effectively challenge the status quo.

Vincent Ncongwane, who heads the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland, proposes some serious changes as well.

“Our view is that it would not be a problem to have a constitutional monarch. But ours is executive. And the problem is that if anything goes wrong, it is difficult in our culture to criticize the doings of the king. So this is why we would want to have as an executive someone like a prime minister who has been elected in and can be taken out of office,” said Ncongwane.

South Africa leverage

Chatham House's Vandome says that neighboring South Africa may have leverage - the king failed to secure a $240 million (R2.4 billion) loan from South Africa in 2011, after he refused to accept some of the loan conditions, such as political reforms.

Ncongwane says that he thinks that outside pressure may be the only thing the monarch may respond to.

“We think that it’s about time that countries that have got the necessary power also bring it to the attention of the powers that be that this process has to stop somewhere. The locals, the Swazis, are trying to demonstrate against this and put across their views. But that doesn’t count for much because our government is more concerned about what the international community will say or do. … They wouldn’t care less about what the locals are saying because, what power do the locals have? Nothing,” said Ncongwane.

Those locals will go to the polls on September 20.

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 the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

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 Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
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