Twenty one civil society organisations in Swaziland have called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to bring an end to the kingdom’s fake democracy by ensuring the Swazis’ civil and political rights are respected.
The call comes on the 40th anniversary of the Royal decree made by King Sobhuza II in 1973 that ended Swaziland’s democracy and replaced it with an autocratic monarchy.
Today (12 April 2013), inside and outside Swaziland activities are taking place to draw attention to the lack of civil and human rights in the kingdom, now ruled by King Mswati III, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The civil society organisations, made up of faith-based, legal, women’s and youth groups and trade unions are urging SADC to ensure that political parties are allowed to operate freely and participate in the national elections due to be held this year, at a date still to be announced by King Mswati.
‘Out of SADC’s 280 million citizens, only the 1 million in Swaziland are denied the right to use political parties as vehicles for forming a government of their choice,’ the groups said in a joint letter to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in his role as Chairperson of the Troika Organ on Politics, Defense and Security.
The letter called for the crisis in Swaziland to be placed on the agenda of the next SADC Heads of State Summit in Malawi.
The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) reported that Swaziland’s 2005 Constitution does incorporate respect for fundamental human rights, including the freedom of association and assembly. However, these rights continue to be violated.
It reported that in the case of political parties, no legislation has been passed to enable them to register, operate freely and participate in elections. In addition, section 79 of the constitution vitiates the freedoms guaranteed earlier in the document by limiting election and appointment to political office to individuals.
The letter from the civil society organisations said the exclusion of political parties from the election was in violation of a number of regional and international instruments on human rights and democracy which Swaziland has signed up to.
“The letter stated, ‘The violation of these rights has also been exacerbated by the prevailing political climate in which the activities of pro-democracy civic groups and political parties are suppressed through interference and sometimes violent disruption.’
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