BY ZWELETHU DLAMINI
The Eswatini multi-stakeholder forum comprising over 20 organizations and unions in a meeting held on Sunday at Tums Water World passed a vote of no confidence on King Mswati III and tinkhundla system of governance following his sibaya’ speech.
They said the sibaya was nothing but a ploy to mislead the SADC Troika into believing that the king was open to dialogue, whereas he delivered a monologue in which the citizens were not given an opportunity to speak at all.
They added that he failed to address any of the issues raised by the citizens in the events leading up to the civil unrest but was sarcastic about them. They also stated that the king failed to lead by example as he disregarded the very same constitution, he was accusing the protestors of having violated.
“In light of the above, the meeting stated that: any confidence that was remaining in the king and the system of governance has been completely eroded. The king as the Commander-of-Chief of the army is called upon to recall the army back to the barracks with immediate effect. He is urged to inform the nation what the next steps and timelines to holding accountable those who have committed crimes against humanity,” reads a statement issued by the multi-stakeholder forum.
To this end they thanked all emaSwati who boycotted sibaya and stayed away as a way to show their support for the call for democratic changes. They also thanked those who participated in the protest march in Manzini on Friday.
“This is the clearest indication that the tinkhundla system has lost all manner and form of legitimacy. We also thank those Swazis that braved the brutality of the security forces and attended in their numbers the disrupted march in Manzini. We know that had the march been allowed to proceed, the true intentions of the Swazi people on the political direction of the country and self-determination would have been displayed for all and sundry. We call upon the national commissioner to respect the constitutional rights of citizens to peaceful assembly and protest action,” reads the statement.
They said the king’ speech proved their earlier assertion where they said sibaya has no significant value to the ordinary Swazi.
“This was seen in the failure by the king to address any of the issues raised by the citizens in the events leading up to the civil unrest, and totally ignoring the expectations of the nation that he would bring unity in a situation where Swazis are angry and hurting. The speech itself was characterised by a worrisome indifference to the legitimate concerns and demands of citizens on the current state of affairs of the nation.
They said through the sarcasm and insults directed at the citizens, the king blatantly displayed his dictatorship tendencies when he spoke of the country and the citizens as belonging to him as though they are his personal property.
“The king showed no compassion or sympathy for the lives lost and not passing condolences to those affected, but rather focused on the loss of property and attributing any injuries or fatalities on the protesters themselves, suggesting that the protesters killed each other. The so-called lesson on constitutionalism by the king, showed his lack of appreciation and/or total disregard of the same constitution when he appointed a prime minister in complete contradiction of the provisions in this regard, in particular section 67(1),” further reads the statement.
Additionally, they said the king denied having instructed the army to intervene and commit the heinous crimes, which saw over 70 citizens losing their lives, and many suffering serious injuries leaving the nation baffled as to who the Army Commander in Chief is?
They also alleged that the amount of E500 million which the king announced as the reconstruction programme fund aimed at assisting businesses that were affected by events of the week of June 28 is meant to divide the nation as it will be borne by the taxpayer.
“This fund is further seen as window-dressing efforts, with no real commitment to assist the business community akin to the E45 million Covid-19 fund which has still not been accessed by any Swazi business person. It is our view that this sum will be utilised by the king himself as the biggest businessman in the country,” they said.
Furthermore, they accused the king of having showed a complete disregard of following due process by not following the proper budgetary allocation process in announcing the E500 million fund, amid a health crisis seeing as the country is without essential drugs in hospitals
They also announced that speech will be transcribed for the benefit of the SADC Troika to get a better understating of the true nature of the king’s attitude towards his own people (as he says) and towards the calls for dialogue.
The Multi-Stakeholder Forum reiterated their position that the way forward for the country centres on the following five demands:
• An all-inclusive mediated political dialogue/negotiation
• Total unbanning of political parties
• A transitional executive authority
• A new democratic constitution
• A multi-party democratic dispensation
Meanwhile, recently appointed King’s office mouth-piece, Percy Simelane said the multi stakeholder forum misinterpreted the King’s speech and thus did not deserve to be entertained.
“We believe the interpretations projected by the multi-stakeholder forum are not consistent with the intentions, content and scope of the king’s speech which points to another level of understanding along interest lines not deserving of entertainment by us lest we find ourselves gracing malice unnecessarily,” he said.
Simelane said the forum is entitled to its opinion but not to the truth.
“Our experience base is that most speeches, if not all over the world, are subject to different interpretations mainly because levels of understanding vary along interest lines. In the process the intended message is laced particularly when the intention is to demonize through deliberate departure from the truth,” he added.
- Zwelethu Dlamini is an IJHub fellow attached to Inhlase Centre for Investigative Journalism