A group of youth from the United Kingdom who visited Swaziland on a fact finding mission were left staggered by the poverty and lack of democracy in the kingdom.
A delegation of Young Fabians visited Swaziland and held meetings with the Swaziland National Union of Students, Luvatsi (a youth empowerment organisation), the EU Commission delegation to Swaziland, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF), as well as spending a day seeing the work of SWAPOL (Swaziland for Positive Living).
Adrian Prandle, Young Fabian International Officer, reported that youth organisations in Swaziland found it difficult to get recognition and to engage with government and decision-makers.
‘This is primarily because Swaziland is an undemocratic one party state controlled by the monarch, King Mswati III. His spending is focussed on himself and his coterie rather than addressing the needs of the population.
‘The lack of investment in infrastructure - i.e. school buildings and teachers - is preventing the court-enforced commitment to free primary education from being rolled out with any speed.
‘The SUDF is a coalition of banned political parties, trade unions and civil society organisations fighting for a multi-party system. Whilst passionate for their cause, the SUDF is in its early stages and has much to do to engage with the wider population of Swaziland, let alone be seen by the King as a serious force in curbing his lifestyle and pushing for democracy.
‘In terms of impact from outside of the country, there is one major stumbling block and a devastating chain that exacerbates it. Swaziland is a middle income country, meaning it is not a high priority for aid and meaning that conditional aid is limited in its effect - ultimately because the King doesn’t rely on this money, so does not feel pressured to change behaviour or spending. Swaziland’s per capita income is going up in tragic circumstances: high HIV/AIDS rates mean Swaziland has a decreasing population, hence the appearance of greater wealth.’
Prandle says. SADC, the South African Development Community, ‘has pretty much failed to stand up to Mswati’s hypocrisy in using his position as chair of SADC’s Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation to criticise the state of Madagascan democracy whilst his own country has jailed the leader of PUDEMO, the banned opposition party.
‘The friendship between South African President Jacob Zuma and Mswati does not leave Swazi activists with much confidence that help in their struggle will come across the border any time soon.’
To read Prandle’s full report click here.