eSwatini must transition to a democratic order now
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A recent study by the World Bank made the following observations about eSwatini, a) “poverty has persisted despite the country’s lower-middle-income status. 58.9% of the people of eSwatini lived below the national poverty line in 2017, b) poverty levels have historically been high and there has been little progress in reducing them and c) Challenges to poverty reduction include weak economic growth due to the impact of COVID-19, adverse weather patterns, high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, high unemployment, and high inequality”. Of course, the World Bank which alongside the International Monetary Fund are lenders to the absolute monarchy of eSwatini, will not provide any solutions to the people of eSwatini.
Despite high levels of poverty, inequality, joblessness, and institutionalised corruption, the people of eSwatini, unlike many people in the African continent, and certainly the entire Southern Africa region, are not allowed to periodically elect a democratic government and hold it accountable.
eSwatini continues to be presided over by a parasitic monarchy, which is also government and at the same time controlling the most dominant business interests. This absolute monarchy is one of the biggest institutionalised corruption and self-enrichment schemes in the world presided by a King who collects taxes from ordinary poor people and businesses to spend on extreme luxuries, which include private jets, Rolls Royce cars for himself and immediate family members.
This absolute, parasitic, corrupt and despotic monarchy criminalizes everyone inside and outside eSwatini who criticizes and speaks against its institutionalised corruption and unaccountability.
Recently the world has witnessed the youth and people of eSwatini battle to overthrow the despotic, dictatorial, and arrogant traditional leader King Mswati III, amid a pandemic and poverty. The legitimate protest for a democratic and free eSwatini is one we must understand within the context of continuities of existing struggles. But, more critically, there are fundamental questions critical to the future of eSwatini.
eSwatini gained its independence from Britain in 1968. It had an elected parliament that added to the system of traditional leadership in existence. Then in April 1973, King Sobhuza II issued a proclamation repealing the 1968 Constitution, and declared himself an absolute monarch, and bestowed upon himself the legislative, executive and judicial powers over the State of eSwatini.
When Makhosetive Dlamini, the current King Mswati, took over as the King, he took over this system of government. Thus, the entire country was in the hands of an unelected monarch, who possessed absolute power over the affairs of the State and government.
Since 1983, the People’s Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) has been the only voice against the absolute monarchy in eSwatini. PUDEMO's allies in South Africa including the ruling ANC, which presides over a country upon which eSwatini and by extension the absolute monarch is absolutely dependent on for subsistence and survival.
More than 70% of imports to eSwatini come from South Africa and more than 65% of its exports go to South Africa. Virtually every economic activity that takes place in eSwatini is dependent on South Africa and it is out of this matrix of economic power where the absolute monarchy sucks illegitimate, unlawful and corrupt benefits for self-enrichment to the exclusion of his people.
However, the ANC is silent on the daily struggles faced by the people of eSwatini. The ANC has never condemned the violence unleashed on the people of eSwatini by the King of eSwatini. The ANC is happy with the status quo in eSwatini of an absolute monarchy.
These are friends of PUDEMO, who hold absolute power to pressurise for a democratic order in eSwatini, yet have not done anything meaningful to push the struggle for a democratic order.
The ANC’s lacklustre and at times indifferent approach to the struggles of people of eSwatini is perhaps aided by the fact that an absolute majority of pro-democracy Activists from eSwatini are fervent supporters, campaigners and employees of the ANC and its government at provincial and national levels.
If the ANC are true allies of PUDEMO, what stops the ANC from applying pressure for democratic reforms in eSwatini? Why hasn’t the ANC ever imposed sanctions and isolated Mswati to pressure the regime towards democratic reforms? Why are Freedom Fighters so comfortable within an organisation that has all the practical capacity to liberate eSwatini but yet not doing so? Whose interests is the absolute monarchy serving and why hasn’t the ruling party in South Africa taken drastic and decisive measures to push for the democratisation of eSwatini?
When the EFF was founded in July 2013, many thought it would not go anywhere. This year, we will be celebrating eight years of existence on the 26th of July 2021. Our Pan-Africanist message for continental unity and economic freedom in our lifetime has reverberated across the continent, including in eSwatini.
Today, it is the EFF eSwatini that has taken the revolutionary step and rose to demand democratic reforms in eSwatini. It has taken the arrival of a radical, youthful and uncompromising group of activists to shake Mswati’s regime and create conditions for democracy in eSwatini.
Mswati’s regime has responded with absolute terror and demonstrated that it has no regard for the people of eSwatini. In his view, the people of eSwatini exist to serve the King and the government. Instead of the King and the government serving the people.
On the 5th of July 2021, some members of the absolute and nonsensical monarchy of the eSwatini government accused the EFF of supplying guns and armaments to the people who have taken the correct and long overdue step of rising against Mswati and his autocratic and nonsensical regime.
We want to categorically put it clear that the EFF has not yet provided any financial or military support to Freedom Fighters in eSwatini. This, however, does not mean that we will not do so in the future to forcefully remove the nonsensical, immoral, parasitic, unjustifiable and cruel regime of Mswati, who imposes his greed and will on the people of eSwatini.
However, we will not rush into providing any form of assistance unless the people of eSwatini define a clear programme and agenda for true freedom. We will not impose any political agenda on the people of eSwatini. The people must liberate themselves, and we will always be here to provide any form of support needed.
Young people in eSwatini have started the Economic Freedom Fighters, joining those in Namibia, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Ghana. The EFF in eSwatini has its relative autonomy and is an organization in its own right, with its Constitution, leadership and membership. The EFF in South Africa fully supports the rise of economic freedom emancipation movements in the entire African continent. We believe the content, form, pace and direction of the struggles of our people must be redefined towards the attainment of economic freedom in our lifetime.
We call on the leadership of PUDEMO to not treat the EFF in eSwatini as an opponent or any enemy force. On the contrary, the EFF in eSwatini must be like an impetus in the struggle to gain true freedom and independence. The people of eSwatini must continue with their revolutionary campaign until their demands for an inclusive political dialogue, total banning of political parties, a transitional authority, a new democratic Constitution, a multi-party democratic dispensation and honest dialogue about the senselessness of the border between South Africa and eSwatini. These should be underpinned by a recognition that political power without economic power is meaningless.
If the absolute monarchy uses its control of the army and police to brutalize its people, the international community and all progressive forces must unashamedly give the people of eSwatini the necessary physical and financial capacity to defend themselves.
The EFF are inspired by the brave actions of the people of eSwatini and stand ready to support them by all means necessary. True freedom must be gained through democratic means but such is closed, it must be through any other revolutionary means possible. No retreat, no surrender.