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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs