AfriMAP (Johannesburg)

Swaziland: 'Urgently Democratize and Lift the Ban On Political Parties' - New Report Tells Government of Swaziland

press release

Mbabane — As the last absolute monarchy in Sub Saharan Africa prepares to go to an election, which many conclude is bereft of the minimum polling and democratic standards, whereby even the right of assembly and the formation of political parties are forbidden; a new report has emerged which states that the political system in the country is chronically deficient, and without any democratic culture or values of good governance.

The study labels Swaziland as an island of autocratic rule in the SADC region and further states that the suppression of multi-party politics stretches as far back as four decades ago, when South Africa, a much bigger neighbor and ally, was firmly under the bondage of apartheid and racial oppression.

*"The current form of governance in Swaziland is a complete anathema to the conventional wisdom that prevails in almost all AU member states, and certainly in SADC; the issue of dictatorships, absolutism and total state control of the citizenry is a forgotten and unacceptable notion; which is why Swaziland government must realize that it cannot delay political reforms, since it will only undermine its credibility, delay progress, economic and social development of the very people it is supposed to uplift and protect,” *said Ozias Tungwara, director of AfriMAP.

The study says that even though results from the governing authorities (Tinkhandla Review Commission) made a recommendation in 1992 that the unbanning of political parties needed to be tested, this was never implemented. The reason for such reluctance for drastic political transformation is due to the sheer lack of political will to reform.

Other factors include a climate of fear, whereby many Swazi citizens are reluctant to voice their opinions because of political reprisals from powerful authorities at all levels of the traditional-political system.

The study further states that such repressive measures in law and action, demonstrates that the closed political space is deliberate and intended to apply maximum pressure for exclusion of popular participation through public debate on citizens' right to hold government to account on how they wish to be governed.

It calls for a more focused civil society strategy to ensure that democratic reforms happen. Additionally, it also draws the attention of influential SADC member states, in particular South Africa, to encourage the Swaziland government to listen to the citizenry and live up to its regional, continental and international commitments and obligations, and democratize as a matter of urgency, because the current situation is far from sustainable, the report states.

The international community also has a role to play in helping Swaziland reform politically, and this responsibility must be taken up through the existing mechanisms as prescribed by agreements and processes that all parties undergo on a periodic basis.

The 139 page study authored by Lomcebo Dlamini, and validated by civil society in Swaziland through an extensive consultative process, which lasted almost 11 months, focuses on nine thematic areas: Lesotho's constitutional framework; equal citizenship; policy processes; elections; political parties; the legislature; local government; traditional authorities; and development assistance.

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