In a high-powered and blistering performance at the high court in eSwatini, the incarcerated former Hosea Member of Parliament, Bacede Mabuza, sheared through the the justice system, the unworkable constitutional framework, the abuse of the Swazi nation and the royal shenanigans central to the governance crisis like a well-trained acrobat.

This was during his mitigation of sentence before High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini after Mabuza, together with his fellow MP Mthandeni Dube, both arrested and subsequently found guilty of Terorism and murder.

Mabuza borrowed from the wisdom of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, his parents, and his grandparents to tell his story to the judge and the nation. He became the prosecutor of the real offenders in the mass murder of civilians and the failure of service delivery, the endemic corruption, the breakdown in good governance, and the absence of rule of law in the country.

He placed the judge, Mumsy Dlamini, the judiciary, the king, the Parliament, the cabinet, the 2005 Swaziland Constitution, and the pretenders denying or disregarding the stark political reality facing the country on the dock.

What was expected to be pleadings in mitigation turned out to be the watermark of the case; the prosecution and trial of the real offenders in the Swazi socio-economic and political crisis responsible for the massacre and destruction of property on 29 June 2021 and central to the worsening governance environment in the country.

In a detailed and well-thought-out presentation on the background of the case, he weaved through his personal experiences of growing up in his village in Hosea, the struggles of his parents to bring up 21 children and how this instilled the actual values of the Swazi nation; hard work, respect, service, honesty, integrity, fear of God, responsibility, accountability, humility and humanity. Some of these values were implied and conveyed in his life's deeply felt and humanised experiences.

He informed the judge how this preparation and initiation gave him and his siblings the eyes, ears, conscience and iron discipline to distinguish right from wrong. It also gave him the strong will to stand before the judge to defend or stand with the truth to the bitter end.

He explained how his holistic home training and education empowered him with the life skills to build himself from the bottom up. How he became a successful businessman with business networks covering all four of the country’s regions. By the time he was elected as a member of Parliament, he was well-prepared to contribute honestly and faithfully to the efforts to address the nation's development challenges.

He did this with diligence and respect for the people’s mandate. However, his experience in Parliament over the ten years of his service as a public representative gave him unique experiences and exposure to the underlying causes of the country's national instability.

For this reason, he was best positioned to tell the court right from wrong. He submitted that Parliament needed the spine, courage and power to withstand the king and the government's instructions and marching orders.

He described and illustrated the contours of absolute power in the country that defies the rule of law and the Constitution. He demonstrated how Parliamentary motions that went against the King's wishes were blocked or not implemented even if passed by a majority of votes. How vocal members of Parliament were targeted, sabotaged, even de-campaigned and marginalised by the authorities.

How the country’s resources were wasted on nonproductive projects with little or no discernible value to the country's development needs. He submitted that the Constitution stipulates the rights and responsibilities of the King, Parliament, cabinet, judiciary and the citizenry. However, it is impossible to implement the rule of law because all the institutions of the state have no checks and balances but take instructions from the authorities and do not respect the rule of law or the Constitution.

He enlightened the court on how the country is endowed with the necessary resources to take care of the needs of citizens, particularly the rural communities and the urban poor.

Still, these resources are being wasted, much to the devastating negative impacts on people with low incomes. As an upright public representative who took an oath before God and man, he did his duty honestly and faithfully in Parliament and outside Parliament to ensure that citizens' grievances were put into the centre of national policy conversation and agenda.

He told the judge that if he committed any crime, it would be his faithfulness to the laws and the authorities and determination to honour the electorate's mandate in and outside Parliament. He pleaded with the judge to understand that he had not committed any crime against the state or the country's people but was being targeted and victimised for daring to tell the truth and exercise the freedom of speech protected by the Constitution.

In a sophisticated and pointed submission, he challenged the judge to summon the moral courage and supreme judicial responsibility to judge matters without fear or favour and face the reality of his incarceration and that of his fellow MP, Honourable Mthandeni Dube, as a monumental failure of the country's political and justice systems.

I stand before this honourable court with a clear conscience that I committed no crime, nor did I wrong the people of Eswatini in any way. My only crime is to serve my constituency, the people of Eswatini, and all sections of society dutifully and faithfully across their political persuasions”. In conclusion, he stated, “It is my reasonable expectation that independent courts would seek to strengthen, rather than muzzle, the voices of Members of Parliament”.

In this case, honourable Bacede Mabuza did not just challenge the integrity of the justice system and the legitimacy of the parliamentary order but also defined the true meaning of his strategy of political participation. Whether we agree with the strategy or not is irrelevant.

What matters is the moral clarity and presence of mind to consciously define and fight the battle on his terms and in a manner that opens new frontiers of struggle. This case and the stand of the two members of Parliament must not be underestimated. It will reverberate through the ages of the struggle haunting the courts and the authorities until a political solution is found. Finally, the case also brings into sharp focus the issue of the king's powers to sidestep and override the Constitution by invoking the power of royal command.

The continued exercise of these powers confirms the subsistence of the 1973 decree. This has profound implications for the country’s political and economic governance as it subordinates the Constitution and all organs of the state to the king's will. It must be recalled that in 2011/2012, the International Labour Organisation pressed the government to repeal the decree, and unfortunately, the traditional authorities resisted the move.

This creates an opaque political and constitutional environment where the judiciary, the government and Parliament are pliable to the dictates and will of one, as was demonstrated by the pleadings of the two members of Parliament. Present and future generations would read with pride the bravery and sacrifices of the two former members of Parliament for standing with the truth and the downtrodden of this country.

NB: Mandla Hlathswayo is Chairperson of Letfu Sonkhe Institute for Strategic Thinking and Development