An umbrella platform of civil groups is calling on Swaziland’s king to re-introduce multiparty democracy in the Southern African kingdom of about 1.2 million people.
The call by the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SASPN) comes barely two weeks before a heads of state summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) where King Mswati III will assume chairmanship of the regional organization.
The SASPN is an umbrella group of NGOs, social movements, trade unions, and other civil groups coming from the 15 SADC states.
Mswati, Africa’s last absolute monarch, has ruled the tiny kingdom for 30 years without the existence of political parties, and he has come under enormous pressure from both local and international pro-democracy groups to lift the 43-year-old ban.
Joy Mabhenge, head of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said they stand in solidarity with the people of Swaziland and are determined to see a free and fair multiparty democratic process introduced.
“We view it as inappropriate for the king to lead such an organization [SADC] which is supposed to hold high democratic values, yet in his own country freedom of association is stifled and political parties are not registered,” said Mabhenge.
Lucky Dlamini of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) said since the late King Sobhuza II repealed the Westminster Constitution in 1973, he assumed supreme power, where the executive, legislative, and judicial powers were vested in him.
“Since the 1973 King’s Decree, political freedoms were taken away from the people of Swaziland and the king ruled the country by decree and without the people holding him accountable. The current situation is a breeding ground for corruption and injustices,” said Dlamini.
“When voters elect a party, they elect policy. For this reason, the current system to elect individuals to go to Parliament is an illegitimate exercise. The SADC must put pressure on King Mswati to implement the Mauritius Declaration, which calls on all countries in the region to hold credible democratic elections,” he added.