On the monarchy question and the end goal of our struggle
Often times many well-meaning comrades ask whether the removal of King Mswati III constitutes the ultimate goal of the revolution? They ask; Is a Constitutional Monarchy a sellout position? Can you have democracy with a monarchy? Does a Republic mean democracy?
In answering these questions we must avoid the temptations of being overly simplistic or unnecessary complications. Perhaps the starting point is to explain that a Constitutional Monarch refers to a monarch institution whose powers are limited and defined by a supreme constitution as opposed to one that subordinates, defines and limits the powers of a constitution.
The demand for a constitutional monarchy is therefore not against nor does it undermine the Swazi customs and traditions as alleged by the monarchy and its puppets. Most democratic organisations in Swaziland profess their love for Swazi culture within which the monarchy is located as custodians of that culture. However, we fundamentally disagree with the unlimited powers and greed of our current King and the formulation of the constitution that gives the Monarchy unfettered powers over all aspects of our lives.
When we talk about the monarchy we must understand it beyond the individual (in this case King Mswati III) but rather as an institution with tentacles at all levels of our society. This institution permeates all levels of our nation. At the community level, it manifests itself through chiefs, Bandlancane, Bagijimi right up to the many traditional structures in various parts of the state.
Collectively this complex web of structures and individuals make what we understand as Monarchy in Swaziland. Given the foregoing, it is not important who occupies the present office (problematic as the incumbent may be) but rather the structures created around it and the ideology of traditionalism that legitimizes monarchical rule and power.
We must therefore clarify that the king is a public representative of what is wrong in the country not the sum total of our problems. In the final analysis, he is merely the face of a far deep-seated problem because he represents an institution that combines different interests’ way beyond the binaries of royal family versus progressives.
To us, the political agenda of our struggle therefore is how best to take political power from the king as well as how to break the backbone of the bourgeoisie class presently in bed with the regime.
The King and his government represent an irritating stumbling block against our true enemies. It is the ruling class that we want to replace using the instrument of the state. This is what we call revolution—the replacement of one class with another.
Presently the ruling class is made of big businesses that are leeching the country’s resources and workers’ labour for their own parasitic interests and they work in tandem with royal family which uses the instrument of the state to enable the looting and oppression of our people.
The king, through the unfettered powers constitutionalized into law, provides an enabling environment for the most brutal and naked exploitation of the working class by this bourgeoisie class.
It is for that reason that the king is the immediate enemy of the revolution because he is the protector of the class of oppressors and exploiters. Some of these people we consider our enemies are not just local extension of international capital but also those native corrupt business owners who use the state through tenders and other corrupt means to steal our taxes for their own selfish interests. These are what we call the comprador bourgeoisie class.
Ours, therefore, is to guard against reducing our struggle merely to political power without economic power. To do otherwise is to fall into the trap of many well-meaning but fatally mistaken nationalist movements all over the continent who were handed political power without corresponding economic power. The result is that today they are unable to transform the lives of their people. Meanwhile, the old regimes live comfortable knowing their interests are safe.
If we remove the unfettered powers from the king does his position or presence matter in the bigger scheme of things? To put it differently, if we reduce the present king to the status of King Maja, for example, would it matter if we literally ‘drive him to the sea’? With time, will the institution not wither away like morning dew as its relevance in the political and economical life of the country shrinks and ultimately disappears?
We must bear in mind at all material times that our agenda is to improve the living conditions of our people and it matters not whether the king is there or not. Many critics have held that any position that embraces the monarchy in any future dispensation is reactionary while apologists of the monarchy want the revolution to preserve space for the parasitic monarchy as a precondition for any future negotiation. These dichotomies are not helpful.
The truth is that there are many successful constitutional monarchies like Spain, Norway or even Britain where the powers of the monarchy are limited. These monarchs have become ceremonial figures. In the context of Africa, monarchies exist with limited powers within a Republic. The question is not whether we need to embrace the monarchy but rather how it shall posture itself towards change. The onus is not on us to offer a position on the monarchy but rather what role the king plays to create for himself a seat in a future democratic Swaziland.
Equally problematic are those who make it seem like a Republic is a sine qua non for democracy. The world is littered with many dictatorial Republics whether in the extreme of North Korea or to more moderate ones all over Africa and the world.
A Republic therefore does not translate to democracy. Once all power is accountable to the people then some institutions will die with the passage of time as their relevance to the people’s lives get thinner and thinner. Just as King Maja Is a king with little to no political and economic power therefore his relevance to us is inconsequential.
Equally important to understand is that our struggle is and must never be limited to just electing a Prime Minister. That is an important starting point but not the be it and all of what we fight for and against. Our struggle is against royal supremacy and control and then the equal distribution of the economy.
The royal family established Tinkhundla as a political system to entrench their economic power over all our lives. It is therefore possible to remove the Tinkhundla political system and still not roll back this supremacy and control. It would therefore be a betrayal to remove Tinkhundla and not tamper with the royal family's firm control of the economy, especially regarding their stranglehold over important institutions like Tisuka, Tibiyo and land.
It is also possible to remove the present king and still have royal power firmly intact through its appendages at various levels of our society. That is why we must clarify at all times that exercising political power is an important first step towards the defeat of royal supremacy and not the end in and of itself. In short, it is the means towards an end and not the end itself.
Ultimately we will say we have finally won once Swazis have firm control and equal share of the proceeds of their sweat and toil, especially in the economy. Only then will the right to vote and the attendant freedoms brought by democracy have true and real meaning.
Otherwise to us the defeat of Tinkhundla provides only a qualitative leap and in fact the first door towards the real end goal: economic freedom for all.