Wednesday, March 19, 2014


CULT OF PERSONALITY!! Deputy Prime minister finds
nothing wrong with approaching Mswati III on his fours.
There are some, especially beneficiaries of the Tinkhundla system, that the word dictator still hold some bitter taste when labelled at Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch. Some prefer to acknowledge that his rule would do with more adherence to Human Rights, and the odd tweaking of the law here and there, but feel it is a sensationalist exaggeration to unreservedly say that Mswati III is a dictator. They would rather prefer to view Tinkhundla system as, “not undemocratic”, rather than to view its head as an autocrat.

Due to a mixture of Monarchist nostalgia, and the odd misplaced “expert opinion”, it becomes quite hard for some Swazi people to come out the closet and say, “we have a dictator in our midst”. Much blame is heaped upon an advisory council considered uneducated and unsophisticated. If there are still traits of a dictatorship thereafter, that  residue is quickly packaged either culturally or diplomatically and neatly placed at the door of the government.

The victims of Tinkhundla system on the other hand use the word dictator unreservedly clearly showing a feeling of lacking a stronger word. But there are also cases where even democracy proponents find the word dictator quite “disrespectful”, because there is also that naiveté of defining respect outside of the ideal, where all manner of individuals are undeservedly given "respect" regardless of their conduct in society,.

Dictatorships are often characterised by some of the following traits: suspension of elections and of civil liberties; proclamation of a state of emergency; rule by decree; repression of political opponents without abiding by rule of law procedures; these include single-party state, and cult of personality.

The curtailing of civil liberties is almost a daily occurrence in Swaziland. It can be repressed from a group of slogan chanting political activists, right up to a group of women protesting the beating of another woman by a man. Any kind of dissent that has to do with people coming together to package their grievance is discouraged with the use of force and violence.

Moving onto the issue of the suspension of elections and observing that the dictatorship in Swaziland has tried to act clever in trying to avoid to be labelled with this characteristic by conducting election that are meaningless. A good number of international bodies have condemned the elections as a pointless exercise as the prerequisite of allowing unhindered participation is non-existent as political parties are banned in Swaziland.  The pointlessness of the election hasn't gone unnoticed by the people as in the previous elections, less than 50% of eligible voters actually voted, and even those that voted snubbed Mswati III favourites to the point that he had to appoint some of them in order to get them back into the dictatorial system. It is pretty clear that the suspension of elections  characteristic of a dictator fits Mswati III like hand to glove.

When Sobhuza II as the head of Imbokodvo National Movement banned political parties in 1973, he then declared a state of emergency which is still in operation up to present day, making it the longest running state of emergency in the world.

In 2005, Mswati III through pressure from political activists and the international community, introduced a constitution authored in his palace which paradoxically took away his rights to rule by decree and set him above the constitution. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that removing the ruling by decree was just to appease the international community, with the constitution itself being a bevy of contradictions. Since 2005, it has been disobeyed a number of times by high king-appointed government officials and Mswati III himself. The reality on the ground is that Mswati III still rules by decree because it is either he rules through the constitution or by decree. Clearly he has proved that he is not ruling by the dictates of the constitution.

The characteristic of repressing political opponents has been Mswati III’s main focus since he ascended the throne in 1986. Starting from the treason trial of political activists and unionists in the early 90s to the incident as resent as the case of the Human Right Lawyer Thulani Maseko who is presently remanded in custody to next week Tuesday for writing an article, which the Swazi justice system has labelled as, “contempt of court”. 

The justice system of Swaziland is run by Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi, a gentleman roped in by Mswati III, who calls himself makhulu baas (a title meaning Big Boss which was very popular in apartheid South Africa), who at present is in trouble with the law in his home country Lesotho. Alongside Thulani Maseko in custody is Bheki Makhubu, editor of The Nation Magazine, who not so long ago was slapped with an impoverishing R200 000.00 fine for contempt of court by “scandalizing the court”, through an article in the same Nation Magazine that has landed Maseko in his Majesty’s Correctional System.

When Imbokodvo National Movement, which was a party headed by Swaziland’s previous dictator named Sobhuza II, could not tolerate a mere three elected members of parliament from the opposition, it, under the leadership of Sobhuza II banned political parties and installed Sobhuza II as absolute ruler. So from then, either Imbokodvo has operated incognito as the only party, or the royal Dlamini clan has operated as the only political body “contesting” for state power. So it can be said either Swaziland has been ruled by one political party since 1973, or it has been ruled by one political family. But regardless if the label is family or party, the fact of the matter is that state power is not contested in Swaziland. So this characteristic too sticks like glue to Mswati III.

Many a journalist has entered Swaziland and left with quite the heart-warming story of a people who, “love the king”. Were the journalists to probe further they would actually find quite an interesting story of a cult of personality so interwoven in myth and witchcraft that it would make for quite the compelling story. But it is also reasonable to observe that a foreign journalist never has it easy in Swaziland with the regular sight of the bare breasted maiden, it becomes quite hard to focus the mind on the story. Cult of personality is the fabric upon which the Swazi Monarch designs his dictatorship. The disability of Mswati III is the lack of the ability to spit analogy after analogy which is the Swazi royals' recipe for manufacturing the cult of personality. His lack in articulation does not necessarily mean he hasn't enjoyed the protection of the cult of personality because his father Sobhuza II left quite a rich mist of deception on the people's minds to start him off.

Mswati III is what could be termed as a textbook Dictator. He ticks all the characteristics of a Dictator. So it can be said without fear of contradiction that Mswati III is a Dictator.........through and through.

No comments:

Post a Comment