The Tinkhundla system of governance is covered by such a deceptive primitive veneer that to undermine its effectiveness becomes easy. It is sold as an ancient “traditional” system when it is just as modern as any modern repressive system. Reporters and analyst are sold the “culture” trick because it is known that analysts only deal with things they learned in academia, and an undocumented culture of an insignificant country like Swaziland would quickly dissuade academics from probing further. It is claimed to be a mixture of modern and traditional when it is clear that the “traditional” is used as a decoy to deliberately drive away focus from a very modern repressive system that if properly probed would be seen for the modern repressive dictatorship that it is.
|Zodwa Mkhonta, one of those that were charged with treason|
for fighting for the establishment of democracy in Swaziland.
Analysts do not ask themselves why this ancient “traditional” system is using modern tools to quash dissenting voices. Guns, teargas, a modern army and a modern police force are used to protect this system of “our forefathers”. Wouldn’t it make better sense that a traditional system would have less violent traditional tools of dealing with a disapproving nation? Some even go further seeking to believe that an unorganised gathering of Swazi people in a cattle kraal at the residence of the dictator would serve as a credible means of formulating policy.
It is also part of Swazi history that the system has co-opted many a selfish individual because of the material benefits once inside, because it is a system exclusively designed for the purpose of accumulation. The irony is that it is the British that have provided the most curious way of being co-opted, when it is the British that supposedly gave Swazi people their independence.
It is then not surprising that Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs) would have been the source of a controversial report. The British have provided us with much comedy and pain over the years.
Even though Chatham House asserts that it is an independent body, it has been my whole life’s experience in Swaziland that when an institution prefixes, or suffixes its name with “Royal”, that, that institution is anything but independent. But to avoid derailing from dealing with the subject, and to focus on the issue and not the issuer, it would be more beneficial to focus on the content and not the messenger.
We cannot though say that Chatham House completely missed the rabbit hole because the economy part of the report not only exposes what is obviously evident, but it also goes further and sheds some light on things that would be regarded as previously unreported or not publicised. Personally being a follower of the recent less-rise and more-fall of the Swazi economy, I found myself to have been economically further enlightened after reading the report. But it has been a trick known in Swaziland that a selfish parent will scold the kid harshly in public, only to reward it for the wrong committed in private.
The fact that thereafter Chatham House then went and did a predominantly confused political analysis was to be expected. The Swazi system always misleads and we all have learned after being bitten twice or thrice. At times I remember on how I used to frequently repeat that, “I promise that I will do my best. To do my duty to God and to the king.” I found nothing wrong with uttering the statement when I have never been supportive of the monarch or the Monarchy or rather that the institution held no meaning to me besides as a source of fear.
What baffled my mind though is that Chatham House outlines a number of credible points why the system is undemocratic, then the report concludes by saying the system is democratic. One point the report made was that, “The cabinet is appointed by the king and the queen mother, and executive decisions are administered through a network of chiefs. Power is exercised almost exclusively by the royal court, and traditional authority has undermined attempts at reform.”
To make an almost all encompassing statement that asserts that, “….. power is exercised almost exclusively by the royal court….”, then within the same report assert that, “The Swazi political system is not undemocratic”. If power is almost exclusively exercised by the royal court then where is the democracy there?
Chatham House’s report further asserts that, “He (the king) may veto legislation and dissolve parliament at will.” It has been widely reported that this very ill is the very arrogance that had the constitution authored in the royal court, hence the inconsistencies and contradictions that have rendered the constitution a worthless piece of paper. After making such a claim that even legislation is decided in the royal court, it is very disturbing that Chatham House should still be confident and maintain that the Swazi governing system is democratic.
Then the report makes an observation that is not obvious but very important. It says that, “The right to freedom of expression in the constitution does not include the right of Access to Information.” It is common sense that the freedom of expression without freedom to Information is like being given a beautiful container without the food that is supposed to nourish the body; it is a useless cosmetic. Freedom to information is the very foundation to democracy. Why would then Mr Alex Vines and colleagues still maintain that Swaziland is democratic? If I didn’t know better I would assert that Mr Vines and colleagues were deliberately avoiding the rabbit hole.
Again the report further hides its head in the sand when it asserts that, “Under the current constitution, Section 25 recognizes the freedoms of association and assembly and implies the removal of the ban on political parties”, and fails to further adequately probe this issue which is part of what would render the constitution null and void, which would conclude that the Swazi system is totally undemocratic. This statement says that the report recognises the section 25 and section 79 contradictions, where section 25 gives the right to associate and assemble, only for that right to be nullified by section 79 which asserts that election candidacy will be embarked on individually.
I say that section 79 nullifies section 25 because it is fact that it is the practice of section 25 that security forces are sent out in large numbers to quash. When asked about political party participation, section 25’s citation is glossed over by tinkhundla proponents because it is common knowledge that the system works day and night to prevent the practice of section 25, and dwelling on the subject would spark a debate over the officially sanctioned disregard for the constitution.
I haven’t really got to the conclusion as to why Mr Vines and colleagues would seem to be deliberately hiding the absence of democracy in Swaziland after they have done a reasonably good job on reporting and analysing the economy. If I was a dealer in flattery I would insinuate that they were outsmarted by the system which was designed to confuse especially those that are not conversant with Swazi culture and manufactured Swazi culture. Maybe I could say that they are victims to the Freedom To Be Deceived that is generously offered by the regime to those trying to expose it. But what prevents me from embarking on such flattery is that the report contains all the information whose conclusion is the obvious absence of democracy in Swaziland, but the report concludes otherwise; why? I also doubt very much that the obvious contradictory nature of the report is by mistake; but that is just speculation. What is not speculation though is that Chatham House has put its name on a report that is very untrue. It is only time will reveal the reason behind this fraud that has been practiced on the Swazi people.