(File image) Swazi King Mswati III

Mbabane – The Swazi government has criticised the ANC over its call for Swaziland to be “liberated” from its absolute monarchy, the last in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We attained independence in 1968 and South Africa is a novice when it comes to this issue. They should get close to us so that we can teach them democracy,” government spokesman Percy Simelane said on state-owned radio yesterday.

After last week’s Third International ANC Solidarity Conference, ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete said at Luthuli House: “We need to assist all progressive forces in Swaziland to ensure that Swaziland is as liberated as all of us in our lifetime. Everyone must have freedom in their lifetime.

“We need to make sure Swaziland is liberated, including the unbanning of political parties.”

Mbete called for dialogue between King Mswati III and pro-democracy groups in Swaziland – a dialogue that Mswati has resisted.

“Swaziland is a democratic state,” Simelane responded.

He said that in South Africa political parties imposed candidates on the electorate.

“We do not impose candidates on the electorate.”

The American NGO Freedom House ranks Swaziland as “not free”, because of its lack of political freedoms and civil liberties.

Swaziland also comes in for sharp, regular criticism by other human rights organisations that regard its political system as undemocratic.

A national constitution drawn up five years ago that purported to allow greater political freedom, has essentially given Mswati and his descendants supreme governing powers and protection from political opposition.

The king personally selects 10 MPs to represent royal interests in parliament and he picks a majority of senators in the senate chamber.

Mswati appoints the country’s prime minister from among members of his family and he and his mother select all cabinet ministers.

Simelane accused the ANC of ingratitude towards Swaziland. He said Swaziland had been instrumental in ending apartheid and “even financed the first congress that the ANC held”.

Mentioning the ANC’s ousting of Julius Malema as a party member, Simelane said the ANC must “get its own house in order before poking its nose where it doesn’t belong”.

He said Swaziland would not be dictated to by a neighbouring country that had failed to address its many problems and displayed “imperialistic tendencies”.

“The ANC should remember that they are not the Southern African National Congress but the African National Congress,” Simelane said.

Swazi political activists were not surprised by the government’s response to the ANC’s commitment to a democratic Swaziland.

“The government spokesman demonstrated once again the national leadership’s fear and hysteria whenever someone at home or abroad dares suggest that King Mswati is not a deity reigning over a paradise,” said Sandy Mngomzezulu, a member of the banned political party the People’s United Democratic Front. – Pretoria News