Nobody needs to worry that the European Union (EU) is being fooled into thinking that King Mswati III is about to allow political parties to operate in Swaziland, the kingdom he rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The idea that the EU is being misled surfaced after news that David Matse, the Swazi Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, met with members of the African United Democratic Party (AUDP) surfaced in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper.
The Times reported, ‘Political observers we cannot name said the government meeting with AUDP was a smokescreen as it was solely convened to lead the EU into believing that there was a genuine dialogue over the registration of political parties.’
AUDP has been pressing the Swazi Government to unban political parties in time for the next election in 2013. Parties have been banned since 1973 following a proclamation by King Sobhuza II, after Swazi people dared to elect a political party that King Sobhuza didn’t like.
The EU became involved because Matse and some of his colleagues met with an EU delegation the day after his meeting with the AUDP.
If it really was Matse’s intention to fool the EU, he is wasting his time. The meeting he had with the EU was a regular ‘Article 8’ meeting that is held every six months. The EU delegation members are old hands at dealing with the Swazi Government. They have been around long enough to know that you can’t trust a word the government says.
The government can make as many promises as it wants, but it’s what it actually does that matters. And as we all know Barnabas Dlamini, the illegally-appointed Prime Minister of Swaziland, who is presently embroiled in a corruption scandal about government land, is not a man to be trusted.
As an example, just think of all the international conventions Swaziland has signed on subjects such as human rights, civil rights and gender rights. All signed, but not implemented. And as for the Swaziland Constitution – we all know that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.
Meanwhile, what about the AUDP? It wants political parties to operate in Swaziland, but it supports the present Tinkhundla system of government. Like the Imbokodvo National Movement, that has been in the headlines for the past three weeks after news emerged there were attempts to reform it, AUDP seems to pose no threat to the established order.
Or maybe it does. One source told me of being approached by a leader of the AUDP who wanted to know where he could purchase weapons. Leaders of the AUDP have also been approaching foreign embassies seeking to raise funds. The Times reported that Canada had been approached for E5 million (about US$ 450,000).
I hear that the AUDP has had its approaches to embassies rebuffed. This is hardly surprising because no foreign government could be seen to be openly financing an opposition party in Swaziland. It was naive of the AUDP to make the approach. Even more naively, I am told, upon being told that it could not be openly supported, the AUDP, asked to be funded ‘indirectly’.
The AUDP has also angered the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), the best known of the opposition groups in Swaziland (and one that wants to see the present political system in Swaziland changed radically). The media constantly refer to AUDP as a ‘breakaway’ from PUDEMO.
In a statement yesterday (23 January 2011), PUDEMO said, ‘PUDEMO has neither links nor history with the AUDP. We share nothing in common ideologically and otherwise. The formation of the AUDP has got nothing to do with PUDEMO – period! We cannot recall in our history where the founders of the AUDP decided to walk out of PUDEMO and announce they were breaking away to form their own organization.’
That seems clear enough.