A leading freedom advocate in Swaziland has been branded a traitor by colleagues after saying that life in Swaziland isn’t as bad as all that.
Musa Hlophe, coordinator of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisation (SCCCO)made his remarks at a meeting to mark World Press Freedom Day held in Mbabane on 2 May 2008
Hlophe’s remarks were seized upon by state radio Swaziland Broadcasting and Information Service (SBIS). These comments from such a high profile freedom activist were a Godsend to the propaganda outfit as Hlophe seemed to be giving comfort to the ruling elite in Swaziland. In Hlophe’s own words SBIS ‘went to town about it’.
Hlophe returned to the theme in his weekly column in the Times Sunday (11 May 2008). He wrote that his remarks had brought comment from people both on the political right and the left. The left said that what he said was ‘an act of betrayal’.
Hlophe repeated his original remarks to the effect that people in Swaziland were better off than those in Zimbabwe or Burma.
‘I said that while I can criticise those in power for their misgovernance of the country, they have not found it necessary to put me and others like me behind bars. I said for that we needed to acknowledge God and thank Him for that,’ he wrote.
For this, Hlophe said, he was branded a traitor.
Calling him a traitor is a bit strong, but he is seriously misguided. To say that people in Swaziland should count their blessings because they are not as badly off as someone else is a bit like saying that a person put in jail for thirty years for a crime he did not commit should be grateful that he is not locked up for forty years.
The fact is that under any kind of definition you care to choose, Swaziland is not a free country. This is recognised throughout the free world. And Hlophe is not quite correct when he says that no one is prosecuted in Swaziland for their beliefs. Tell that to the Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) the banned political party and the people beaten by the police when they try to demand their constitutional rights. We might also ask those Swazis presently in exile abroad (because remaining in the kingdom is unsafe for them) what they think.
Hlophe is not a traitor, but on this occasion he has been a bit foolish and has given enormous comfort to the enemies of democracy in Swaziland.
SWAZILAND MEDIA FREEDOM DAY