HUMAN rights group NamRights and the Teachers Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna)have denounced the five-day visit to Namibia by Swazi King Mswati III as a costly folly that this country's nascent democracy can barely entertain.
"If our friends and neighbours do not act in the protection of the rights of their citizens, be they workers, politicians and other activists, we must be seen to engage them to change their errant ways," said Tucna secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha yesterday.
The absolute monarch jetted in on Tuesday, accompanied by one of his 12 wives, Queen LaMatsebula, Prince Phocumtsetfo and Princess Lomhlangano Dlamini, as well as the kingdom's Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Mtiti Fakudze, and other senior officials.
He was scheduled to attend a number of official events, but it was reported that he would also join former President Sam Nujoma on a hunting expedition.
"If you eat with the devil, better eat with a long spoon," advised Tucna's Kavihuha to the Namibian leaders meeting with Mswati III on this visit.
Kavihuha said the de-registration of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (Tucnoswa) was flimsy, and demanded the reinstatement of the union.
Namrights executive director Phil ya Nangoloh characterised the human rights situation in Swaziland as a systematic disregard for the rule of law, a severe and chronic absence of an independent judiciary, widespread and arbitrary deprivation of personal liberties, secret detentions, political persecutions, banning of political parties, and excessive use of force against people exercising civil and political rights, as well as a systematic denial of women's rights.
The union said there are periodic extra-judicial and mob killings, police brutality, arbitrary arrests and protracted pre-trial detentions, restrictions on freedom of association, prohibitions on political activity, and harassment of workers.
All this, said Kavihuha, takes place despite the adoption of a new constitution in 2005 which purports to provide democratic rights, and also despite the fact that Swaziland belongs to regional, continental and global bodies that uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Yesterday, the Swaziland Law Society sought an order from the Swazi High Court to stop the country's parliament from launching a probe into the affairs of its members and a study of self-regulation in the legal profession.
The Southern African Litigation Centre (Salc) said such probe is intended to delegitimise the law society, a body seen to be outspoken in its demands for a free and fair legal system.
King Mswati III was rated by Forbes magazine as one of the world's 15th richest monarchs, with his personal fortune estimated at US$100 million.
Yet, it is reported that his 1,2 million subjects live in poverty.
The Swazi kingdom recently approached its South African neighbour for a N$2,5 billion loan to be paid off over a five-year period. It was reported that Mswati III wanted N$400 million in commission for his troubles in securing the loan.
In April, in which he turned 44, the king received a luxury jet as a gift from anonymous benefactors.
In May, one of the king's wives, Angela Dlamini, deserted the royal house over accusations of physical and emotional abuse.