Swaziland’s absolute Monarch, King Mswati III, wants citizens to protect the country from pro-democracy groups he blames for tarnishing the image of the Southern African kingdom abroad.
In his speech at the opening of parliament, King Mswati said activities of the groups have deprived the country of good opportunities and benefits that could help improve the living conditions of Swazis.
But, Wandile Dludlu, the national coordinator for the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), a pro-democracy group, says the king’s accusations are unfortunate and misplaced.
He says the international community is aware that state security agencies intimidate, harass and abuse the rights of citizens critical of the king and his administration.
“We are not surprised by the utterances of his majesty. We live in a global village and it is not possible to keep hiding the shenanigans of his majesty,” said Dludlu. “He is denying the reality that he is the cause of the main problem that continues to pain the country negatively out there. By refusing to democratize, respect human rights, [and] respect the rule of law, these are the things that cast negatively about the country out there.
Pro-democracy supporters worry that the king’s latest pronouncement enables security agencies, including the police, to violently crack down on their activities including meetings and protests. Dludlu said he agrees with the concerns of pro-democracy supporters.
“His majesty is taking a more tougher stance on demonstrations on dissidents as he calls us," he said. "Going forward, we will continue to do our best to mobilize Swazis to continue protesting. We are making a call because these utterances are educative enough for the world to see what type of a leader and leadership is in Swaziland.”
He said there is a need for the international community to pressure the king to create the enabling environment to ensure the administration respects human rights and the rule of law.
“In our view his majesty will continue to posture so bad as he does if many governments in the world continue to treat him with white gloves, continue to trade with Swaziland without taking a good look at the human rights record of Swaziland,” said Dludlu.
The United States recently removed Swaziland’s membership in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) after the country failed to meet benchmarks to be part of the trade agreement. The king blames pro-democracy groups for the country’s AGOA exclusion. About 17,000 people reportedly lost their jobs after Swaziland’s was excluded from AGOA.
But, Dludlu says opposition and pro-democracy groups are not to blame.
“His majesty is the one whose government has not honored the five benchmarks required by AGOA in trading with the U.S. government,” said Dludlu. “It is his majesty who has been detaining and arresting for instance Mario Masuku, the president of PUDEMO, Maxwell Dlamini, the secretary general, [and the rest]. It’s not the pro-democracy forces."
“It is not the pro-democracy forces who are corrupt and who are squandering at least in their own admission nothing less than $6,873,894 per month, in an economy so small are misdoings of his majesty. So he cannot shift blame and he cannot play the blame game. He has to face the reality of democratizing this country and allowing it to develop and prosper as a country in Africa as it should,” Dludlu added.