We should not welcome the report that a plot is afoot to revive the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM) political party.
This is not a move towards democracy in Swaziland: in the past the INM was a front for the Swazi monarchy.
The Times of Swaziland reported yesterday (31 December 2010) that ‘a prince, a member of the King’s Advisory Council and an employee of the King’s Office’ were ‘behind a plot’ to revive the party. The Times says all three ‘work very closely with royalty’.
According to the Times, the plotters say King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, supports the revival of the party.
The INM was formed by the king’s father King Sobhuza II and his advisory council, the Swaziland National Council (liqoqo), to contest Swaziland’s election in 1964, which was held prior to the kingdom’s independence from Great Britain in 1968.
The INM’s platform focused on assistance to peasants, labelled the other parties as ‘foreign’, divisive and hostile to Swazi ‘tradition’ and sought to keep traditional land tenure unchanged while vesting mineral rights, like land, in the hands of the monarchy.
The INM had considerable resources at its disposal, including the support of King Sobhuza and the power of the chiefs who were able to force their subjects to vote for the party. The INM also had the support of capitalist interests and was able to persuade the voters that the interests of the King and the survival of the nation were one and the same.
The INM’s victory was overwhelming and it won all eight seats that were available for election, gathering 85.47 percent of the vote.
King Sobhuza banned all political parties in Swaziland following the election of 1973 when his subjects dared to elect some members of parliament who were from opposition parties. That ban has been in force ever since.
The Times in its report says that the plotters are trying to recruit members of the public for the revival of the party ‘as soon as possible’ and several meetings were held last month (December 2010) with some people earmarked to be the ‘front of the party’.
The Times did not name the plotters, but promised more revelations to come.
I don’t know what more it has to tell us, but we should remember that however much democrats might want to see political parties in the kingdom this move to reform the INM is a diversion.
We don’t want ‘plotters’ for the king reforming political parties. As a first step toward democracy we want all political parties unbanned, a free media and freedom of association. That way we can start a proper debate on the way forward for Swaziland.