17 July 2018

Swaziland: Kingdom Will Never Be the Same Again

Swaziland might never be the same again. King Mswati III demonstrated his absolute power by renaming his kingdom Eswatini. He did this during the so-called 50-50 Celebrations to mark his own 50th birthday and the half-century of Swaziland's independence from Great Britain. The King also made headlines when he wore a watch worth $1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds at his birthday party. His lavish spending is notorious; days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, this one costing about $30 million after upgrades.

These were some of the stories published by Swazi Media Commentary over the second quarter of 2018 and published in Swaziland: Striving for Freedom Volume 30 April to June 2018, available to download for free from Scribd. While the King and the Royal Family continued to spend millions on themselves the kingdom's economy was in freefall with the government admitting it was broke. Suppliers remained unpaid and public services ground to a halt. Hospitals were without medicines and schoolchildren went hungry as food supplies dried up.

Registration for the national elections to take place in September descended into chaos with reports of inefficiency and corruption. The election board's claim that 90 percent of the eligible population signed up to vote was met with scepticism. Political parties are banned from taking part in the election which is widely regarded outside of Swaziland as bogus. King Mswati chooses the Prime Minister and Government ministers and no members of the Senate are elected by the people.

Swaziland saw its first ever LGBTI Pride parade in June. Unwittingly it demonstrated how conservative and backward Swaziland is. Newspapers took the opportunity to demonise LGBTI people but despite this the event proved a success.

Laws in Swaziland have been used by the State as weapons against human rights defenders, a major investigation of the kingdom by the International Commission of Jurists revealed. Separately, the United Kingdom reported it was to undertake an investigation into human rights abuses in Swaziland and in its annual report on the kingdom the United States highlighted, 'The most significant human rights issues included: arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; denial of citizens' ability to choose their government in free and fair elections; institutional lack of accountability in cases involving rape and violence against women; criminalization of same-sex sexual conduct, although rarely enforced; trafficking in persons; restrictions on worker rights; and child labor.'

Swazi Media Commentary is published online, updated most weekdays. It is operated entirely by volunteers and receives no financial backing from any organisation. It is devoted to providing information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland.

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