Jim Gama, the ‘traditional’ prime minister of Swaziland, and an enemy of freedom and progress in the kingdom, has died after a long illness.
He died in a hospital in South Africa, after he was taken there at the request of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Health services in his kingdom are so poor that the king ensured that his pal was taken out of his Swaziland, at the Swazi taxpayer’s expense, to get preferential treatment.
Gama, was ‘traditional’ prime minister and in Swazi culture that placed him higher than the actual prime minister. When Gama pronounced on a subject, it carried more weight than Barnabas Dlamini, the present, illegally-appointed ‘official’ prime minster. When Gama spoke, he was assumed to speak with the voice of the king.
A list of Gama’s attacks on freedom and progress in Swaziland would fill a book, but here are some of his more recent outrages.
In June 2008, Gama announced that journalists who disrespect King Mswati should die. He said a report published in the Times of Swaziland, the kingdom’s only independent daily newspaper, about the financial cost to the kingdom of holding a three-day ‘people’s parliament’ had been ‘very disrespectful to royalty and the king’.
According to the Times Sunday, Gama said, ‘whoever wrote the report should be punished using “umphini” which in Swazi terms means a serious punishment or even death’.
In November 2008, Gama banned all public conversation about the king. This followed some mildly critical comments in Swazi newspapers about the speech King Mswati made introducing Barnabas Dlamini as the king’s new appointment as Prime Minister. The king had told Dlamini to get the terrorists and all who support them.
Gama issued an edict to say that the king’s subjects must not refer to the king’s speech ever again.
According to the Swazi News (22 November 2008), Gama argued that the king ‘was in an emotional state when the remarks were made’.
In 2009, Gama led the attacks of dissident Mfomfo Nkhambule who had written a series of informed articles in the Times that highlighted injustice and the way the elite groups exploited ordinary people.
Gama accused Nkhambule of disrespecting the king. Gama said. ‘The king is the father of the nation hence he deserves to be accorded respect by every citizen at all times.’ Nkhambule and his family were harassed by the Swazi authorities and he was eventually forced to give up his writings.
In August 2008, Gama banned women from marching for any reason whatsoever, because it was ‘uncultural’. He said, ‘Culturally, a woman does not participate in a march. It is traditionally not allowed. Even if they are aggrieved, they should not march.’
The women wanted to march to the real prime minister’s office to seek information about a shopping trip that eight of King Mswati’s wives had made to Europe. The Times reported, ‘Their observation is that HIV people in the country were struggling to get their medication yet funds are used on projects they do not even understand. They say elderly people sometimes go without grants yet public funds are used to hire a private plane for such a trip.’