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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.