Wednesday, July 17, 2013


In contemporary society, the First World is viewed as countries that have the most advanced economies, the greatest influence, the highest standards of living, and the greatest technology. Actually when thoroughly scrutinized even the level of democracy becomes a factor when trying to ascertain if a country falls under first world status. Another pointer that is used to ascertain a country’s world-status is the Human development Index.  But it also boils down on the country alignments after world-war two; with communism being a quality that would dump a country into second-world status even if all the other prerequisites were met.
Cotton cultivation could be a goldmine in
Swaziland if the land tenure system was not
the stumbling block.

For a person  - whose country’s Human Development Index ranks number 148 out of 178 countries – to aspire to first-world status, is either  very optimistic, overly ambitious, delusional, or purely crazy; especially if that country is an established fact that it is third world and has been third or even fourth-world throughout known history. But we live in times of unattainable dreams where shiny suits delude many pastors into thinking they can perform miracles.

Many find it a joke that king Mswati 111 of Swaziland has set himself the goal of leading Swaziland into first-world status, but I find no comedy in such cruelty.

My father used to say that a full stomach causes arrogance. It would also be good to add that those that have never been hungry can be ignorantly arrogant. Such I find to be the scourge that has plagued the Swazi throne because it is a shame to buy a poor person an expensive suit if the person must wear the suit on an empty stomach. And such has become the logic of the king of Swaziland with the difference being that he has always worn the suit 'in trust for the Nation'.

But taking a closer look at the height of inequality in Swaziland then it becomes easy to figure out why Mswati 111 would even think that Swaziland would reach first-world status with Tinkhundla regime at the helm. The royal family and the elite enjoy a standard of life that would be easily considered as first-world, if the aristocracy and their friends were to exist in a vacuum that is. They drive cars that are driven in first world countries, they can afford to buy food consumed in developed countries, they fly chartered jets, they sleep in villas, mansions and palaces, when they give themselves that which they have not earned, their allowances carry surpluses; actually, they live first-world standards set in a third-world reality. So when the rich brat blames the poor kid’s laziness  for the latter's hunger, it becomes very hard to blame the brat because in his world he has no point of reference to appreciate the reality of need.   

But such is human patience that it runs out when the brat persists to adulthood. Considering the ‘peace’ that Swaziland has enjoyed over the years, one would assume that Swaziland would be a first world country by now; but it is not. Why then is the king of Swaziland raving about aiming for first-world status when he has had so many years on the throne which included the achievement of plunging the Swazi economy into a crisis? No grown man or woman in Swaziland would claim not to know the reason for Swaziland’s stagnation in a third-world horror, because we all know.  The difference is that others have chosen the ‘peace of mind’ of nodding their heads in agreement to the relentless propaganda manufactured by the royal family and the hired help, while those that have pointed to the truth have been brutally victimized by the regime.

 A rural development strategy can be traced  to as early as 1954 when the Central Rural Development Board (CRDB) was created to oversee all developments on Swazi National Land (SNL). The problem that has put Swaziland on a development-standstill is the system of Land Tenure.  In 1965 a British Overseas Development Ministry economic mission concluded that the ‘…rigid system of Land tenure…’ was making it impossible for the Swazi to own or lease land, hence agriculture was treated as a ‘… part-time occupation providing a bare subsistence…’ Then thereafter the problem was watered down to a shortage of land ignoring the fact that customary tenure was responsible for low output and productivity.

In 1970, G. Maina, a Kenyan consultant also came to the same conclusion that, ‘The agricultural problem of Swaziland, such as low productivity of Swazi Nation areas and overstocking are symptoms of a land tenure system which – in today’s Swaziland – has outlived its viability’, and added that, ‘…only a modification of the land tenure system can solve the problems’.

In true Tinkhundla style, Maina’s recommendations were ignored when the state implemented the Rural Development Areas Programme (RDAP) in 1970. This programme was supported by the bilateral funding provided by the British Overseas Development Ministry.

An ILO Report published in 1977 also identified Land tenure as the stumbling block stating that, ‘Where there are “progressive” chiefs, the operation of the RDAs has been smooth. However, the problem of facilitating the operation of such a programme and even obtaining approval for its establishment could be almost overwhelming when there is an obstructive chief or chiefs. This is of course germane to the type of land tenure obtaining on Swazi National Land.’ But that too was ignored because the land tenure system is the very foundation of Tinkhundla regime and changing it would bring the Tinkhundla regime to its knees.

There is a reason why the tenure system must remain as it is. If it could change, the Tinkhundla regime would lose its leverage on the loyalty of the people. The people are loyal because they know that any sign of disobedience would threaten the very shelter they lay their head under.  It is the ownership of the land that renders a people free because with the ownership comes the production and it is the production that ensures survival independence. Once a person can provide for his basic needs independent of the other, that person is free, and once a person is free s/he can provide for the basic needs of another. That is the philosophy of the quality called community. Such independence is like death itself to Tinkhundla, because if the people cease to depend on the spoon-feeding there won’t be any need for the draconian ruling system. The higher risk rests in the fear that the people might even cease to see the need for the institution of the monarchy and comprador  and state-controlled accumulation would be stopped in its tracks.

For king Mswati 111 to preach first-world status without changing the land tenure system is the same as assuring someone that s/he will be rich while keeping all the riches under lock and key. The only way that Swaziland can even dream of attaining first-world status is through the ownership and utilization of the land by all. All must be involved in creating the wealth. It is the land that is the wealth, and not the money. Money is just a piece of paper that is supposed to serve as a legal tender for the real wealth which is the land and other tangible things such as natural minerals.

The land tenure system of kukhonta prevents Swazi people from owning land because the land can be taken away at the whim of an emotional chief. Inheriting land is even worse because, one cannot inherit something that can be taken away.  Inheriting land in Swaziland is not different from being handed over borrowed land which can be reclaimed by the borrower at any time. So to say, ‘Lona ngumhlaba wakitsi’, (This land belongs to us) that Swazis have learned to tell themselves is a lie because in reality they know that the land is being forcibly held by the royal Dlamini clan and can be taken away at any time.

To know that first-world status is in the ownership of land and the minerals, is to know wealth. Otherwise anyone dressed in a shiny suit can come and tell you that Sikhuphe airport is a sign of a first-world country and you would agree. Actually projects like the wasteful construction of Sikhuphe airport are the foundation for creating third world countries because when you have savings, you don’t spend it on one big purchase, but you invest it until you have enough to build the airport, if there is even a need for the airport, and if the savings are enough, there won’t be any hiccups and delays with the project because it would have been well planned.

First-world status also has to do with a truly democratic system that respects human rights. We know that the European Union does not consider Swaziland democratic, and the commonwealth also on its last elections observer mission, found the process to be undemocratic. United States of America also complained about human rights violations in Swaziland. The ANC, that has all these years given Swaziland some room to come-right, they too are calling for the absent democracy in Swaziland. But some assert that the ANC is meddling when in reality it carries the burden of constantly changing diapers on Swaziland’s perpetual economic infancy. The ILO is much unhappy with the state’s shenanigans of victimizing the labour federation TUCOSWA. The British government has voiced its concerns over the lack of democracy in Swaziland. The Scandinavian countries are embracing all that seems be an alternative to Tinkhundla.

So all in all Swaziland sits at a precarious position internationally, and is an embarrassment to its citizens nationally, and king Mswati 111 is dreaming of first-world status. Doesn’t the king think that Swazis are embarrassed enough? Unless of course such is part of the campaign to drive attention away from the upcoming elections that have become a substantial amount of embarrassment that Swazi citizens have to endure every five years; especially when the government spin-doctor Percy Simelane rates Tinkhundla democracy ngemalengiso (with distinction) in Africa when the opposite is the truth. I live with the permanent fear that one of these days the king might just announce that Swaziland must prepare to embark on a mission to Mars. Many are the dreams he has come back with from foreign trips. If we can be as ambitious as to gun for first-world status with 70% poverty, the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, and an economy in crisis, why not just zoom past all the planets and land on Pluto, on a broomstick or something.

No comments:

Post a Comment