19 July 2017

Southern Africa: ANC Wants SADC Swazi Rights Probe

South Africa's African National Congress has called for Swaziland to be investigated by SADC for abuse of human rights.

King Mswati III rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections and political dissent is crushed by the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA), even though the Swazi High Court has declared it unconstitutional.

Reporting on the outcomes of the international relations commission at the ANC national policy conference, chairperson Miriam Segabutla said the people of Swaziland were suffering "gross human rights violation".

The African News Agency reported Segabutla saying, "The commission reflected on the nature of the Swazi monarchy, where the King wields executive, judicial and legislative power."

The commission recommended that the ANC explore mechanisms of strengthening its solidarity campaign on Swaziland and formalise the party-to-party relations with the People's United Democratic Movement (Pudemo), Swaziland's best-known political party.

Segabutla added the commission also supported the call by the people of Swaziland for the unbanning of political parties and the release of all political prisoners, and that the issue of Swaziland be placed before the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) for intervention.

In 2014 the United States withdrew trading privileges from Swaziland under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) because the kingdom had not fulfilled all the requirements of the programme, including respect for human rights.

The US wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the STA; full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.

Amnesty International in April 2015 renewed its criticism of Swaziland for the 'continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics' by the King and his authorities.

The human rights organisation called for both the STA and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSAA) to be scrapped or drastically rewritten.

It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, 'to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.'

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