This is an article from the Swazi News, an independent newspaper in Swaziland, written by Dr A T Dlamini, who is not to confused with A T (Themba) Dlamini, the former Prime Minister of Swaziland.
Change is going to come:
Government has a duty to uphold and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is in that context both their Majesties King Sobhuza II and Mswati III took oaths respectively to ‘uphold and defend’ the 1968 Constitution and the 2005 Constitution. Human rights and fundamental freedom are universal.
Every Swazi citizen is entitled to these rights and freedoms. Government does not have to violate these rights justifying its actions on grounds of security, culture and sovereignty.
An opposition party, the media, civil society and ordinary citizens hold a ruling government accountable. In the absence of opposition parties, in Parliament it is important that Swazi citizens participate in protest actions, debates and boycotts organised by pressure groups to hold government accountable for a variety of human rights violations.
Today I will to address a few pressing issues and put forward the stance of this organisation.
Freedom of association
Civil servants have a right to associate with a political party of their choice. It is wrong for Parliament and the head of government to force them to resign from their political parties follow another system of governance. I put forward the NNLC’s position on the current crop of Parliamentarians, who as time moves on, are fitting perfectly into the role the regime intended for them. History will judge you harshly ‘honourable’ ladies and gentlemen. It is perhaps fit that in later columns we dissect the meaning of ‘honourable’ and the necessary obligations and code of conduct, the title requires of its recipients. The NNLC is going to challenge this colonial concept of divide and rule, we are used to having to fight for our right to exist; so this latest prank comes as no shock, indeed, it only serves to solidify our conviction. The regime needs to realise it will never silence the people in the face of injustice and hegemony.
Right to education
We are grateful the court has granted citizens the right to basic Education as stated by the Constitution. This is has come about because of action taken by a nongovernmental organisation, which took the government to court to have this right enforced. You will remember I pointed out not long ago that in Swaziland, justice seems to be only for those who can afford to go to court and get it. In this case, we saw yet another example of the Constitution granting people rights but the people need to take government to court to access these rights. It is important that all of us support those who take the bold steps to grab back our freedoms and rights. This judgment must be enforced fully and members of the public that paid school fees must be refunded. The failure of the minister of education and training to provide visionary leadership is equal to denial of education that every problem and need of students must result in protest and closure. These are symptoms of a failed system. That advisors failed to give proper advice on the contents of the Constitution, allowing direct contradicts, is highly regrettable. The court’s judgement to reverse this position sorely highlights this. I wrote a few weeks ago on the pitfalls of having people who seek to advance their own agenda’s and not those of national interest.
The right to cultural life
The right for the chairperson of the Inhlava Forum to practice and participate in his cultural right should be respected. It is wrong for the ruling political party to politicise tradition to benefit its political interest. Let everyone, including Mfomfo, freely practice their national heritage without the hidden interference of the elite class. Also let us all be free to participate in a heritage that belongs to all of us and not a selected few. The preamble of ‘The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights’ which Swaziland ratified in 1995 it says: "Considering that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms also implies the performance of duties on the part of everyone; convinced that it is henceforth essential to pay a particular attention to the right to development and that civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from economic, social and cultural rights in their conception as well as universality and that the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights is a guarantee for the enjoyment of civil and political rights."
The right to property
The right to property and housing of the 20 000 people to be evicted from Logoba, Eteni, Mhlaleni, Kwaluseni, and Mahlabatsini must be respected. Prince Masitsela, as a government representative in his capacity as Manzini Regional Administrator has a duty to ensure those who are to be removed must be compensated and provided with alternative property and housing as required by SADC and international law. We still have not recovered from the Macetjeni and KaMkhweli evictions, where lives were lost and families destroyed. Coming back to the Matsapha issue, it serves to glaringly highlight where the soul of this government resides. This government that goes out of its way to construct factory shells to enable foreign firms to come and take advantage of trade concessions that were meant for Swazis. Having done so, it gives no thought for the social well-being (in this case accommodation and sanitation needs) for the Swazi employees, it claims these ‘investors’ have come to provide with jobs. We, therefore, witnessed the obvious mushrooming of a large informal settlement in the immediate proximity of the industrial site. Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you have an influx of large industry, there will be an equally large influx of people seeking employment in these industries, where did this government think these people would live? Did it perhaps hope they would be like ants and burrow holes underground to live in, out of site and therefore out of mind of this government? When will the ordinary Swazi become a valuable human being in the eyes of this government?
We have a right as citizens to protect our wealth and natural resources. The illegal corrupt practices in the jet saga are condemned and the government officials who authorised that must pay, not from public funds. Let us remind those dealing with the purported E50 billion project that it must not be at the expense of the public funds where we have seen some foreigners become multi-millionnaires at our expense and that our environment is not for sale. Let this be a transparent business practice for all of us to safeguard our country. We do not accept that the statement the ‘Government fails to handle projects’ from some people.
Liberty and security and justice
The rule of law is not just national law but it must also recognise international rights. As the government seems to have lost faith in its Constitution which has not even completed five years, we hope it will consider the international rights it has not domesticated to provide liberty to its citizens e.g. multiparty elections. It is wrong for government to use terrorism as a pretext to suppress its people’s rights. Let us all be given the right to contribute to the development of this country’s economic, social and political welfare without being forced into one ideology. Let us rather take advantage of our diversity, to share ideas and grow this nation for the good of all of us.
Being tough on terror when your doors for dialogue are closed does not resolve our political predicament. The delays in the prosecution to lead and conclude the David Simelane case is a failure to the families who lost their loved ones and a damning obstacle to the cause of women’s rights. This case should have been given the priority it deserves so that all those responsible for the atrocities are brought to justice. As it is, the incumbent prime minister has returned to find the case still hobbling on, and will probably leave it still not resolved.
There is a disturbing lack of political will to see to it that the citizens involved access their right to justice! More recently, on the international front, the SADC Troika for Peace and Security, Chaired demanded that the new president of Madagascar must follow the rule of law as the dictates of that country’s Constitution.
Given this very strong position on the part of this government, it would be interesting to find out if any of the leaders of the SADC ‘club’ asked about our own governments’ rule of law, especially looking back historically to 1973 where Swaziland underwent a similar process where the Constitution was set aside at the hands of this regime.
Every Swazi has a right to reach the best possible state of physical and mental health. We shall not get this unless we hold this government accountable to providing medical care which is affordable and that most of the public funds are invested in our hospitals. This government has been demonstrating its level of disinterest in developing our local health sector by allocating E25 million to local hospitals and allocating E75 million for referrals to South African hospitals. As the public, we petitioned and protested the spending of money on festivities on the backdrop of a failed health system, among other pressing needs. Such events are a distressful waste of public funds.
Change is going to come
It is easy to be apprehensive and to feel helpless in the wake of all the things I have highlighted. Indeed, many of us resort to the unfortunate ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy. I am here today to tell you not to feel helpless, but rather to equip yourselves with the facts and begin to be a part of the process of claiming back what is rightfully ours. It should come as encouragement to you that we are not alone, indeed greed and hegemony is a phenomena not restricted to undemocratic states. It is a global phenomenon that exists everywhere where the opportunity for one to advance themselves at the expense of all others exists.
What this tells us is that when change comes, and it surely will, it will remain our Constitutional duty to be vigilant, to keep an eye on the government of the day and to make sure it is acting within the sole aim of advancing the lot of the masses; you and me.
Here is why I say change is going to come:
Every year, when circumstances require it, the top world leaders sit around the table to meet under banners like G8, G20 etc, and every year these meetings attract massive protests from people angry about the consequences of unrestrained capitalism. It is this rich get richer regime that has perpetuated the gap between the haves and the have not’s through policies like carelessly implemented globalisation and privatisation, whose sole criteria is not the welfare of ordinary people but rather the increased profit margins of multinational corporations and the rich that own them. This regime or ‘world order’ is and has been propagated by the privileged access that the rich have to be decision makers and power brokers by virtue of their financial muscle and not by merit. Their interests are self-centred and totally disregard the fate of the average person.
What is true now is that the average person has woken up to this fact. In a sense, the custodians of pure capitalism have. In his famous novel on political corruption and self-interest ‘a man of the people’, Chinua Achebe metaphorically uses the words ‘Josiah has taken away enough for the owner to notice’.
While it is true that that more often than not anarchists take advantage of these large scale protests deflecting attention away from the issue at hand, it is equally true that the protests are becoming bigger and more frequent; indeed they are becoming a global phenomenon.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the tendency of some people in power to play games. Government recently launched plan for the next four years which, if you read it carefully, does not seek to address the issues facing the masses in a way that is sustainable, but rather to hold down the fort until the storm blows, over. If the writing on the wall is anything to go by though, this storm will not blow over, at least not without blowing the roof off and exposing the rot that has weakened our home.
There are things in life that are inevitable. In the case of Swaziland, change is inevitable. To those sitting on the fence, I will say it again; it is important that you participate in the process of change so that what we change into is the result of the aspirations of all of us, free from fear and repression, let us bring to fruition a Swaziland to which we all belong equally.