Thursday, August 17, 2017

SWAZI KING WRONG ON CONSTITUTION



King Mswati III, Swaziland’s absolute monarch, mislead when he told a television reporter that the constitution in his kingdom was the will of the people.

In fact at the time the 2005 constitution was being drafted, the International Bar Association, a group invited by King Mswati to make comments, called it ‘flawed’ and ‘a fraud’.

King Mswati said in an interview with the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) uploaded to the Internet on Monday (14 August 2017), ‘When we created the constitution, this constitution which went around the people of this country, every Swazi participated... was invited to come make a submission in terms of how you want to see your constitution of this country, even when the constitution was drafted before it was actually adopted.  It also was to give back to the nation, to read, and everyone was able to be given a chance to make submissions and to comment... this was a process that took some years, so we finally have a product of after nine years of consultation.’

He also said Swaziland was a democratic nation ‘in the sense that it is people driven. It is not a one person state. It is the people saying this is how we want to be governed.’

The King and his supporters have maintained for years that the Swazi Constitution is legitimate and the will of the people. However, 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 resulting report called Striving for Democratic Governance was stark in its criticism of both the process of ‘consultation’ on the constitution and the wording of the document itself.

One of the IBA’s main conclusions was that the ‘position and powers’ of some ‘stakeholders’ in Swaziland ‘including the Monarchy’ are in effect ‘actually placed above the Constitution and its principles’.

The IBA studied what was going on during the drafting process, which was controlled by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).

The CRC did not allow the judiciary or NGOs to contribute to the drafting process and ensured that individual Swazi people were interviewed in the presence of their chiefs. As a result the ‘overwhelming’ majority wanted the King to keep all his powers and wanted the position of traditional advisers to the King to be strengthened. They also wanted Swazi customs to have supremacy over any international rights obligations.

The IBA report states, ‘The terms of reference of the Commission did not allow expressly for group submissions, and as apparently they were not entertained, NGOs per se were effectively prevented from commenting. The IBA panel considers that, unfortunately, this in itself deprived the CRC of much valuable input.’

The IBA report goes on, ‘The CRC also faced a number of practical problems. There were disputes between local chiefs, collecting views during the rainy season in Swaziland was difficult, and several Commission members resigned.

‘The extent to which individual Swazis were consulted has also been questioned. The CRC did not keep records of the submissions it received and media coverage of submissions was apparently banned.

‘There is therefore no formal record of how Swazi citizens presented their views and of what in fact they said to the CRC.

‘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.

‘The CRC report states that “there is a small minority which recommends that the powers of the monarchy must be limited” and continued that “an overwhelming majority of the nation recommends that political parties must be banned”.

‘The report concludes that “an overwhelming majority recommends that the system of Government based on the Tinkhundla must continue” and, as well as the ban on political parties being maintained, that the executive powers of the King should be maintained, the position of traditional advisers to the King strengthened, and Swazi customs have supremacy over any contrary international rights obligations.’

In November 2007 the Swaziland High Court ruled that documents pertaining to the drafting process could not be made available for public scrutiny, thereby allowing the ruling elite to maintain the fiction of full consultation.

Under the constitution the monarchy remains above the law and political parties are banned.
Many organisations have called for Swaziland’s constitution to be rewritten to make the kingdom more democratic.

In July 2008 the European Union declined an invitation to monitor the Swaziland national election later that year because, it said, it was clear the kingdom was not a democracy. Later, it suggested a wholesale review of the constitution was in order.

In November 2008 the Commonwealth Expert Team, which had monitored the election called for a review because the elections were not credible since political parties were banned in Swaziland. It said that the review ‘should be carried out through a process of full consultation with Swazi political organisations and civil society (possibly with the support of constitutional experts).’

After the most recent national election in 2013, the African Union (AU) mission that observed it called for fundamental changes in the kingdom to ensure people have freedom of speech and of assembly. The AU said the Swaziland Constitution guaranteed ‘fundamental rights and freedoms including the rights to freedom of association’, but in practice ‘rights with regard to political assembly and association are not fully enjoyed’. The AU said this was because political parties were not allowed to contest elections.

The AU urged Swaziland to review the Constitution, especially in the areas of ‘freedoms of conscience, expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement as well as international principles for free and fair elections and participation in electoral process’.

In 2015, following a visit to Swaziland, a Commonwealth mission renewed its call for the constitution to be reviewed so the kingdom could move toward democracy.

In its report on the 2013 elections, the Commonwealth observers recommended that measures be put in place to ensure separation of powers between the government, parliament and the courts so that Swaziland was in line with its international commitments.

They also called on the Swaziland Constitution to be ‘revisited’.

The report stated, ‘This should ideally be carried out through a fully inclusive, consultative process with all Swazi political organisations and civil society (needed, with the help of constitutional experts), to harmonise those provisions which are in conflict. The aim is to ensure that Swaziland’s commitment to political pluralism is unequivocal.’

It also recommended that a law be passed to allow for political parties to take part in elections, ‘so as to give full effect to the letter and spirit of Section 25 of the Constitution, and in accordance with Swaziland’s commitment to its regional and international commitments’.

See also

POLL OBSERVERS: REWRITE CONSTITUTION

SWAZILAND PM CONSTITUTION LIES

SWAZIS DID NOT CHOOSE POLITICAL SYSTEM

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

SWAZI KING’S UNIVERSITY FLOP



King Mswati III failed in his promise to have a new SADC-wide university up and running in Swaziland before his time as chair of the organisation ends this week (August 2017).

King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, announced in August 2016 after assuming the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that a ‘university of transformation’ taking students from all over the region would open by the time he stood down from the office.

Both the Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, and the Swazi Observer, which is in effect owned by the King, reported on 31 August 2016 that King Mswati told the SADC heads of state summit held at Lozitha, ‘This initiative will give new hope and opportunity to our youth and our women. The intention is to have the first intake of students prior to the 37th SADC summit in 2017.’

That summit is about to start and the university remains a pipe-dream.

On Monday (14 August 2017) the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation reported the King saying about the university, ‘We are still looking at strategies and all that in terms of mobilising resources.’

The King and the media in Swaziland that enthusiastically and uncritically reported his initial statement, gave no indication of where the money would come from for the project, who would teach at the university, what academic programmes it would run, and how programmes would be administered.

The University of Swaziland (UNISWA), the kingdom’s largest and oldest university, has been unable to start teaching first year students this academic year because the government has delayed in awarding scholarships. Over many years students have been protesting against cuts in scholarships and lack of resources.

Shortly after his announcement of the new university the King said it would be hosted by Limkokwing University, a private institution which has come under fire for its poor standards.
 
According to its website, Limkokwing in Swaziland only offers ‘associate degrees’ which are at a level below Bachelor degrees and in many universities are known as diplomas.

In June 2012, Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, Swaziland, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer.

Limkokwing in Swaziland had no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.

The failure to deliver the university is one of a long line of broken promises made by the King. In November 2009, King Mswati announced a plan partly financed from in the oil state of Qatar to build an E35bn (US$4.8bn at the then exchange rate) ‘world class facility’ that would store at least a three-month supply of fuel for Swaziland. It did not happen. 

In November 2012 the king returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Taiwan, claiming that he had secured Taiwanese investment to build a pharmaceutical plant, a food processing plant, a bottled water plant, a cosmetics plant and a granite and marble venture – which, according to a report in the Times of Swaziland newspaper, were expected to create more than 3,000 jobs. It has not happened. 

In April 2009 King Mswati III announced the building of a multi-billion emalangeni Swazi City, financed by international money and comprising a 25,000 sq m shopping, entertainment and ‘wellness’ centre ‘to rival the world’. There would be a Science and Technology Park, a hi-technology industrial Site and an expansion of the Matsapha Industrial Site. It would be completed by 2012, creating 15,000 new jobs. It did not happen. 

In October 2009 the government the King handpicked promised an E1.5bn ‘facelift’ for the Swazi capital city Mbabane. That money would buy a civic centre and a shopping mall, described at the time as a ‘fully fledged state of the art 21st Century Civic Centre befitting a country’s capital city’. Work was expected to start in June 2010 and take three years to build. It did not happen.

In October 2010, the Swazi Government announced its ‘fiscal adjustment roadmap’ to save the kingdom’s economy. This would include attracting investment to create, ‘between 25,000 and 30,000 new jobs’ in the private sector. These jobs have not materialised. 

In 1998 King Mswati was said to have teamed up with pop singer Michael Jackson to bring a ‘Netherland-style’ theme park to Swaziland.


See also

KING’S NEW UNWORKABLE UNIVERSITY

ABSOLUTE KING TAKES CHAIR OF SADC

‘DICTATOR KING NOT FIT TO CHAIR SADC’

KING TO PARTY WHILE SWAZIS GO HUNGRY