King Mswati’s newspaper is once again misleading people about the reasons why the undemocratic kingdom has lost preferential trading rights with the United States.
Swaziland lost its right to export goods tariff free to the US under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) on 1 January 2015. The trade privilege was withdrawn because the kingdom, ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch, has not met five benchmarks on workers’ and political rights.
The Observer on Sunday, a newspaper in effect owned by King Mswati, reported former army Brigadier Commander and Border Restoration Committee member Fonono Dube saying ‘that in actual fact, AGOA is not yet gone’.
The newspaper reported, ‘He has claimed that the reason why Swaziland was being removed from AGOA was because the country was now not following the constitution that was used when we registered to AGOA in 2005.
‘“That is the reason the US resolved to remove us from AGOA because we are now not following the constitution of the country. Swaziland is a Monarchy so the head of state is the king not the prime minister,” he emphasised.
‘Were the country to correct this and re-submit our request to the US to be re-admitted into AGOA, “we will be re-admitted into AGOA”’.
‘However, the former army commander believes that our loss of AGOA has nothing to do with the five benchmarks.’
The newspaper which is part of the Swazi Observer group and was described by the Media Institute of Southern Africa in a 2013 report on press freedom in the kingdom as ‘a pure propaganda machine for the royal family’ reported Dube’s comments even though it knew he was not telling the truth.
The newspaper along with others in the Swazi Observer stable and the independent newspaper group Times of Swaziland have reported many times in the past six months the real reasoning behind the removal of AGOA.
The US withdrew Swaziland’s AGOA privileges after the kingdom ignored an ultimatum to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA); full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.
In June 2014 the US Trade Representative Michael Froman said, ‘The withdrawal of AGOA benefits is not a decision that is taken lightly.
‘We have made our concerns very clear to Swaziland over the last several years and we engaged extensively on concrete steps that Swaziland could take to address the concerns.’
The report on Dube seems to be part of a campaign by the Observer to misrepresent the scale of the AGOA disaster. Earlier in January 2015 The Observer Sunday, Chief Editor Mbongeni Mbingo, quoted Prime Minister Dlamini saying, ‘there is no need for Swazis to behave like a major catastrophe has happened following the loss of Swaziland’s eligibility status under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Besides, AGOA did not benefit Swazis or the country’s economy much.’
This also was not true as independent reports from economists predicted that without AGOA privileges the textile industry in Swaziland, which is mostly owned by Taiwanese companies, would collapse with the loss of at least 9,000 jobs. Already more than 2,400 people have lost jobs in the textile industry as a direct result of the withdrawal of AGOA.
In its report on Dube the Observer on Sunday also said, ‘Dube says in the bible there are no presidents nor democracy but kings. “It then means Swazis are on the right track because we have a King and we should appreciate that as Swazis.”
‘“In Swaziland, Dube added, “there is freedom not democracy.”’
PM MISLEADS ON AGOA PROGRESS