Opposition is growing after the announcement from Barnabas Dlamini, Swaziland’s illegally-appointed Prime Minister that he and his unconstitutionally-formed government are to start a witch-hunt against civil servants who speak out in favour of democracy.
Dlamini told the Swazi House of Assembly that civil servants who are considered by the Swaziland ruling elite to be ‘political’ would be given the chance to recant and if they didn’t they would be sacked from their jobs.
Dlamini, who has a long history of disregarding the rule of law in Swaziland, gave no details of how ‘political’ civil servants would be identified and what processes would be put in place to determine guilt or innocence.
But Dlamini’s move is not supposed to be rational, or even legal: he just wants to silence any and all opposition.
The Secretary General of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions Jan Sithhole accused Dlamini of violating the Swazi constitution and the rule of law.
He said, ‘What is very concerning is that protection of the constitution should be one of the core business of parliament and the office of the Prime Minister as head of government.
He added, Section 25 (i) of the constitution allows for freedom of assembly and association. Sithole also pointed out the inconsistencies of the Swazi Government which has signed international conventions on human rights.
The People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), a political entity branded ‘terrorists’ by Barnabas Dlamini last year, said in a statement that the Swazi Government has already identified targets ‘and the Intelligence Branch will be used to hunt down and identify more targets’. The statement said members and supporters of PUDEMO were prime targets in the clampdown.
PUDEMO said, ‘The offensive will not only end in the public sector, but will be extended to the private sector, especially because the king and government hold shares in many of the leading companies and parastatals.
‘Comrades will now be rendered unemployable in the country. Job opportunities will now be reserved as a reward for the passive and those who are pro-status quo. Employers will be forced to either toe the line or lose business.’
The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, in an editorial comment today (11 March 2009), said the Suppression of Terrorism Act had become the supreme law in Swaziland over-riding the kingdom’s constitution.
It called for a Human Rights Commission to be formed to protect the constitution and criticised members of parliament who are failing to bring cabinet ministers to account.
‘Meanwhile, government will stop at nothing to trample on every right that it sees as posing a threat to its existence,’ the newspaper said.
Some areas of civil society see the government’s new repressive dictate as a move towards dictatorship.
Vusi Sibi, a political columnist in the Times, remains optimistic that democrats will eventually win through.
He wrote today, ‘In fact what the government is plotting is not different to the bloody purges dictatorships across the globe routinely unleashed to whip the people into conformity. But as history has taught us, such unbridled abuse of political power did not permanently enthrone these dictatorships as legitimate governing regimes.
‘A good majority of these dictatorships eventually collapsed from the unstoppable overbearing weight of democratic winds of change.’