The Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, slammed the Swazi government for its handling of the protest yesterday (12 April 2011).
It called it ‘shambolic’, laughable’ and ‘arrogant’.
Unfortunately, the Times seems to be more concerned that the image of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, may have been damaged internationally by the government’s action, than by the injuries police inflicted on his subjects.
The Times misses the point. The Swazi monarchy is the whole point. You cannot have a democracy with an absolute monarch. The international media know this and so do the king and his supporters. That’s why they are clinging on for dear life.
The Times says it will be difficult to restore the ‘dignity’ of the king.
What dignity? King Mswati lost that a long time ago. There is no dignity being a ‘king’ of such a small kingdom as Swaziland. He lost any dignity when he let his greed get the better of him and he built 13 palaces, bought a fleet of expensive cars and now lives the lavish lifestyle while three in ten of his subjects are so hungry they are officially ‘malnourished’.
The Times gets it half right in its editorial. The government has failed the people. But so too has King Mswati.
Here is the editorial in full.
Times of Swaziland
13 April 2011
It is imperative that we take stock of what has happened in our country; yesterday’s march, organised by the trade unions, was a significant victory for the faceless people who had called for the so-called ‘uprising’ in this Kingdom of Eswatini—and they did this without even showing up.
It was also further evidence of this government having failed the people of this country dismally. By its shambolic handling of the protest march, government and the security forces who were deployed to disrupt this march played right into the hands of the people who have joined the chorus of calls for a regime change, let alone for Cabinet to resign. Their response to this march was so predictable it is laughable, were it not so serious.
The schoolboy tactics of the police in disrupting this march did a lot of damage for this country internationally, and shamed our King. They have singlehandedly ensured that the King dominates the world media for all the wrong reasons. By refusing people their constitutional right to march and assemble, they have portrayed our King so badly, TV channels across the continent had a field day criticising the King; by detaining the union leaders and beating up the marchers at will, they succeeded in enforcing the view that the people of this country are oppressed.
There may not have been a large number of protestors, and government may be even more arrogant by its claim that nothing significant happened yesterday, but the April 12, 2011 protest march became a success for the people seeking regime change. The denial by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lutfo Dlamini is further proof that government has lost the plot completely.
While it may be said that the unions misled the public on the true intentions of this march, there was no reason for the police and government to employ such tactics in dealing with the marchers. What could have happened had these people been allowed to stage their march, and if the police had just ensured safety for people and property? What could have happened had government continued with its dialogue with the union leaders, while allowing this march to go on—whether or not it was legal?
We will never know, except that of course we had nothing to lose—and a lot to gain. But we do know that from their handling of yesterday’s event, it makes it hard for us not to believe that there are people whose agenda is to make this country ungovernable.
What we draw from yesterday’s event is that government has failed the people of this country and therefore needs to do the most honourable thing—to resign. Nothing less will restore the dignity of the people of the country, and essentially, that of the King.