It is Time – We Shall Speak

 Swaziland Vigil UK stands in solidarity with the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) in its quest to call upon the Swaziland (Eswatini) government to stop the exploitation of its workers. This Candlelight Vigil marks one of those unpalatable epochs in the history of Swaziland since independence in 1968. Obviously, the Swaziland we got from British rule is not the Swaziland we ended up with post the 1973 king’s decree. We got a country that is on a count-down to self-destruction due to the repressive political regime that took over our beloved country post-independence. Swaziland is continuously in a state of emergency… it is time to end that!

We are “Swazi Vigil UK activist group” based within the borders of the United Kingdom (as can be inferred from the “UK” in the name). We comprise Swazi Nationals from all walks of life, and from every political spectrum who live in the United Kingdom. We, by definition then, have members who have no political affiliation, and those who are card carrying members of political parties both inside Swaziland and outside Eswatini. We welcome views and political leanings from various political persuasions and therefore we support and stand with those who are fighting for the survival of Swaziland as a country and the pro-democratisation of Swaziland.

Earlier this year, we stood in protest against the prime minister of Swaziland at the Commonwealth meetings in London on the 19th of April 2018. We protested with other groups including the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), ACTion for Southern Africa (ACTSA) - https://actsa.org/,  UNISON - https://www.unison.org.uk/, etc - who support the struggle for democracy in Swaziland. Swazi Vigil is committed to the process and struggle to see Swaziland become a fully democratic country.

The plight of teachers in Swaziland has been in the public arena for so long but the Swaziland government is doing nothing to address them, but instead they are the perpetrators of the gross violation of workers rights and basic human rights. Swazi Vigil UK completely and utterly condemns the government’s “behaviour” of extravagantly spending on events that bring no value to the ordinary Swaziland citizen which includes teachers and other academic professionals. The millions spent on an aeroplane that no one needs, and forced contributions by government sector employees for the 50/50 celebrations, are a gross violation for Swazi citizens’ hard earned efforts. The tax funds used for such events are just one way of making the country poorer than it already is.

The international community is watching and mocking us Emaswati for letting this happen in our watch and doing nothing about it. International organisations think we must not be financially lacking enough if we can afford such luxury, and yet this perceived luxury comes at a very high price on the hard earned money from the ordinary Swazi national.

It is therefore time to shout on the top of our voices as a nation fighting for survival that WE DO NOT WANT this kind of ludicrous behaviour from the government. We the people of Swaziland want an accountable democratic government that will be held responsible by the populace for all its actions or lack thereof. The time to be ruled by “labadzala” – the invisible elders is over. We live in the 21st century and the time for holding onto mythical elders, who rule with an iron fist is over, we, the nowadays Emaswati are speaking out on the world stage and say enough is enough, Swaziland needs to rise from the ashes of the monarchy and become a 21st century nation that embraces modern livelihoods, respect human rights for freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, freedom of affiliation and the list goes on.

To SNAT we say “Aluta continua”, let us march on with hearts courageous to demand and claim our place in the world stage by ridding ourselves of the repressive regime in our so beloved country. Whatever legitimate means we can use to pressure the monarchical powers to end this oppressive conduct and behaviour, let us explore them comrades, and use them to change our country to be a liveable and prosperous place for every Liswati, young or old and male or female. We want equality before the law and before any sort of authoritarian entity, therefore we call upon the monarchy to ditch its practices of oppressing the ordinary Liswati whilst elevating themselves above the law and beyond reproach.

We say It is Time for Swazis to speak out in every sphere, in every forum they can find, and shout to the world that we may be heard and have the attention of the international community and may be, just may be, they can help us regain our country. We can have a country where the rule of law is respected unconditionally, and everyone is subject to the same laws. We want a country whose natural resources shall serve its citizens. We want a healthy and prosperous Swaziland.

 

Thank you.

 Viva!!! Swazi Vigil UK Viva!!!

 

From the Swaziland Vigil UK Office.

The Kingdom of Swaziland, now known as the Kingdom of eSwatini is a member of the commonwealth, yet it does not comply with principles and rules of the commonwealth of promoting democracy and human rights. Every citizen has a right to participate in their country's affairs.

The Commonwealth values, which include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism and world peace, emerged in independence movements and the struggles for self-government.

The Commonwealth promotes democratic consolidation, members of the commonwealth should correlate strongly with the presence of democratic processes and institutions.

Swaziland is failing to reach an acceptable standard in democracy, the Swazi government uses the 1973 Kings decree, which banned all political parties, to supress all political freedom in the country. This 1973 decree ushered the country into a state of emergency which has been in effect since 1973 up to-date. The Swazi Government also uses the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act of 1938, and the 2008 Terrorism Act to imprison those who are fighting for democracy.

The Commonwealth is well placed to be an influential player on the world stage in the years ahead. Indeed, one could even say that it has a responsibility to play such a role. Its diverse membership is committed to a set of values founded on democracy and the rule of law and embodied in the Commonwealth charter.

In Swaziland, the king is the only person who makes political, executive, and judicial decisions pertaining the country's governance, whether right or wrong no one has the right to challenge any decision that is made by the king because by Swazi tradition he is infallible (in SiSwati: he is the mouth that never lies… meaning he doesn’t lie, his word is final, it cannot be challenged). Political parties, as they are illegal, are banned from taking part in elections. Civil and political rights are constantly denied by the country's authorities.

Human rights, democratic principles, consultation, cooperation, and consensus-building are fundamental political values of the Commonwealth, yet Swaziland does not abide by these principles.

According to reports from the Commonwealth Heads of Government - Swaziland is in the lowest quartile of countries in the world for press freedom. The Sedition and Subversive Activities Act, which still remains in full force, restricts freedom of expression by criminalizing alleged seditious publications and use of alleged seditious words, such as those which “may excite disaffection” against the king. Many journalists told Human Rights Watch that they practise self-censorship, especially with regards to reports involving the king, to avoid harassment by authorities.

The Swazi law and culture does not allow citizens to voice their concerns even if they are being oppressed. Swaziland government should respect human right.

The constitution provides for equality before the law, but also places the king above the law. A 2011 directive, which protects the king from any civil law suits, issued by then-Swaziland Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi after Swazi villagers claimed police had seized their cattle to add to the king’s herd, still remains in force.

Restrictions on freedom of association and assembly continue, the government has taken no action to revoke the King’s Proclamation of 1973, which prohibits the formation and operations of political parties in the country.

In 2017, Swaziland struggled to fulfil the rights of its estimated 1.4 million population amid numerous political and socio-economic challenges, including the highest HIV infection rate in the world at 26 percent according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

We say no to intimidation, harassment, beatings and arrests of freedom fighters. We want freedom of speech, assembly, association, thought and religion.

Article 20 of the Swazi Constitution provides for equality before the law and non-discrimination, but does not prevent discrimination on the grounds of sex, language, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Swaziland’s dual legal system, where both Roman Dutch common law and Swazi customary law operate side by side, has resulted in conflicts leading to numerous violations of women’s rights.

Swazi culture also discriminates against women and girls. Swazi culture is failing on new dynamics, it is still rooted in the old culture, it does not embrace the new world of equality and equal opportunities. Women in Swaziland are not allowed certain positions. Swazi culture also discriminates grieving widows mourning the passing of their spouses. The culture dictates that women in mourning should not go to certain places for a period of 2 years.

In August 2017, human rights groups Southern African Litigation Centre and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) challenged Swaziland on these discriminatory laws in court on behalf of a married Swazi woman, who upon being deserted by her husband, was unable to sell any of the livestock she purchased with her own money because she did not have her husband’s consent. At the time of writing the matter had not been finalized in court.

The 2005 constitution allows four female members of parliament to be appointed from each region, but up to today, it has not happened. The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill has been in discussion since 2006 by the house of commons, and it was passed in 2009 but it is still awaiting the king’s signature to put it into law to protect women’s and girls’ rights, and to outlaw child marriages.

In September 2017, King Mswati told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Swaziland is committed to peace and a decent life for all. He said his government grants every citizen an opportunity to voice their views in order to constructively contribute to the social, economic, cultural, and political development of the country. He failed to mention, however, the recently passed amendments to the Public Order Act, which allows critics of the king or the Swazi government to be prosecuted, and upon conviction be fined E10,0000 (US$770), imprisoned for two years, or both for inciting “hatred or contempt” against cultural and traditional heritage.

The Commonwealth should put pressure to Swaziland to follow their principles and values.

 

By: Juliet Zodwa Dlamini

 

References:

http://www.times.co.sz/feature/118156-people-must-not-be-enslaved-by-culture.html

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2018-03-22a.422.8

https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/swaziland

“The UK is deeply concerned about the continuing decline in good governance and human rights in Swaziland, and the lack of progress towards democracy,” the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Africa Directorate says in a letter dated March 2018. The letter was addressed to the many people who had complained about Swaziland’s absolute monarch, King Mswat III’s, invitation to the British royal wedding in May 2018, and specifically calls on the Swazi regime to uphold human rights.


"The UK calls on the Government of Swaziland to abide by the 2005 Constitution, which guarantees the rights of all Swazi citizens to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression,” the letter says.

According to the FCO, the United Kingdom has repeatedly raised the issues of Swaziland’s human rights record with King Mswati III and his ministers, as well as taking action together within the purview of the European Union.

"The UK takes every available opportunity to make our views known to the Swazi authorities,” the letter stated. “Our non-resident High Commissioner, with her EU colleagues, met with King Mswati III on 10 March in Swaziland, during which human rights and governance issues were raised, whilst our non-resident Deputy High Commissioner directly raised our concerns on human rights with the Swazi Foreign Minister on 13 April.


“Following the anti government protests in Swaziland on 12 April, the UK led the drafting and issuing of an EU statement expressing concern at the actions of the Government of Swaziland. More recently, our new Deputy High Commissioner visited Swaziland in April 2018 to engage with the Government.

 

By: Swaziland Vigil UK Coordinator