1 August 2013

Swaziland: Kingdom's Constitution Is 'A Fraud'

The Swaziland Government's official spokesperson Percy Simelane scored an own goal when trying to defend the legitimacy of the kingdom's constitution.

Simelane was reacting angrily to South African parliamentarians who said the Swazi House of Assembly and Senate had no power and also that the national constitution 'meant nothing'.

Simelane told Swaziland's state-controlled radio that the constitution came into being with input from the International Bar Association (IBA) among others. He claimed this meant that the constitution had support from international organisations.

What he failed to mention was that the IBA called the draft constitution 'a fraud'.

The International Bar Association, a group of experienced lawyers, was called in by King Mswati III in 2003 to comment on the first draft of the constitution. It called the process 'flawed' and reported that one critic went so far as to call it a 'fraud'.

The IBA pointed out that the judiciary and non-government organisations (NGOs) were not allowed to take part in the consultation before the constitution was written. Also, individuals were interviewed in front of their chiefs so were not free to say what they really thought about the powers of the king and what he and his followers like to call Swaziland's 'unique democracy', the Tinkhundla system.

IBA said the consultation did not allow for groups to make submissions and incomplete records were kept of the submissions that were made so, IBA said, there was no formal record of how Swazi citizens presented their views and of what in fact they said.

On top of this the IBA reported that the Swaziland media were not allowed to report on the submissions.

'Furthermore, information was elicited in a highly charged atmosphere. Individuals were reportedly asked, in the presence of chiefs, whether they wanted to retain the King and whether they preferred political parties,' IBA said.

Under these circumstances it is obvious why the people said they wanted to keep the existing system.

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