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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs