Swaziland under King Sobhuza II supported the white-ruled Apartheid government in South Africa because he was afraid that change there would encourage people to press for political reform in his own kingdom, a secret CIA document from 1978 reveals.
King Sobhuza ruled Swaziland as an absolute monarch after he and had faced many calls for change. The information in the document contradicts the present-day belief that King Sobhuza and his backers were stanch supporters of the struggle for freedom in South Africa during the Apartheid era.
The United States Central Intelligence Agency in a report called Africa Review and marked ‘Secret’, dated 1 December 1978 said South Africa had ‘equipped the Swazi Army with light infantry weapons’.
The report said the ‘traditionalist’ Swaziland government, ‘believes it is threatened in the same way white South Africans are, namely by a host of outside forces seeking the destruction of a social and political order that has served to protect the interests of the ruling elite.
‘Since independence [10 years earlier in 1968] the Swazi Government has sought to suppress any signs of change that could lead to pressure for reforming the country’s political and social institutions. Consequently, close relations with South Africa are probably viewed as protection against Communist and radical change.’
The secret CIA report that has since been declassified added Swaziland had strong economic ties with South Africa and was ‘motivated to maintain good relations with Pretoria’.
It added, ‘As a result, Swaziland has made little effort to disassociate itself from Pretoria and has indeed strengthened economic ties with South Africa. The government apparently also maintains a covert and close relationship with the South African police that appears to extend beyond cooperation in criminal matters to intelligence matters of mutual concern.
‘In addition, South Africa has equipped the Swazi Army with light infantry weapons.’
The CIA report said that one way Swaziland had shown its support for the racist white-run Apartheid regime in South Africa was to cut its links with FIFA, the international footballing body, in protest at South Africa’s expulsion from the organisation.
The CIA report said, ‘A Swazi official stated that “we cannot afford to boycott South Africa or participate in any sanctions.” He added, “I don’t see why we should deny a black man in South Africa the freedom of association with other black sportsmen.”.
The report said that it was unlikely that the situation would change after King Sobhuza died as, ‘his successor would be confronted with the same geopolitical realities’.
The CIA report said that Swaziland was ‘beginning to become involved, albeit very reluctantly, in the liberation effort against its white neighbour. There is some evidence that Swaziland is being used increasingly by South African nationalist movements for the infiltration of arms and insurgents into South Africa.
‘Swaziland is also being used more frequently as an escape route for black South African dissidents and refugees. Such activists are carefully monitored, however, and the Swazis are not allowed to become involved.
‘In early 1978 several Pan Africanist Congress leaders were detained and later expelled for their involvement in cross-border operations.’
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