The incipient violence in the Kingdom of Eswatini and it’s root cause

A number of African states have experienced prolonged armed conflicts since their respective independences often pitting the state as one of the principal protagonists against armed groups frequently associated with political opposition.

Although many of these contemporary wars are related to structural weaknesses and the crisis of post-colonial state leading to state failure or outright collapse, they are also linked to colonial legacy.

The enormity of the problems in Swaziland is now common cause, but what makes the situation worthy of a much closer look with all the necessary nuances is the fact the  country supposedly got independence much earlier than a lot of countries whose transition was a function of protracted military action and civil strife.

Compounding the crisis in our case is the international media's lack of interest almost portraying the problems in Swaziland as not so bleak, yet almost inexplicably, the country has been unstable for decades on end. Of course- and however overstated a fact, our problems' blood life has been the 1973 decree which in spite of some technical and even legal arguments, is still effectively in place. There are problems in Swaziland for several decades even after many countries in the African continent went through transitions from colonialism to independence, is not a deniable. 

Both the decree and the state of emergency renders the Tinkhundla royal minority government an authoritarian and therefore undemocratic. King Mswati is an absolute monarch and a tyrant. In this context, Swaziland is notoriously known for no respect for the rule of law, gross violation of human rights, clampdown on human rights defenders and political activists, dehumanizing ordinary Swazis as nothing more than second class citizens if not King Mswati´s subjects and valets. Moreover, these problems have been pointed out and fought gallantly by ordinary Swazis who have over the years, expressed their discontentment with the regime imposed upon them, through the complicity of the international community.

To-date, Swaziland is still haunted by historical injustices and oppressive structures that were bequeathed to the post-colonial leadership. This is an aspect which informs the self-serving institutions of the Tinkhundla system of government with its inherent flawed legislative system. Against all odds, the people of Swaziland have never relented in the pursuit of justice and decent livelihood. While the international community's geo-security and resource interests seem to benefit from the status quo in Swaziland, its seeming   has not been pro- the establishment of functioning political system in Swaziland, instead, their involvement, continue to undermine the will of the people of their wide call for a democratic Swaziland through the militarization of conflict for accumulative purposes.

Political instability in Swaziland may owe much of its cause to internal factors, however the interpenetration of internal and external factors especially geo-political and economic interests of the international community constantly plays a significant role in ignoring the dissenting voices of many Swazis that are constantly in confrontation with the regime in demand for their own determination of constitutional multi-party democracy.

In combination to such factors as unequal development, poverty, disease, violence and the manipulative tendencies of the Tinkhundla elite, political and economic stability in Swaziland is constantly under threat which has given birth to the 58% of youth unemployment. This threat is however, not emanating from within our country but from external interests whose thirst for Swaziland’s resources continue to shape the dynamics in areas related to governance.

Resources in Swaziland if well managed are capable of providing for its entire population, hence the potentials for a more stable environment, however, it is well documented that King Mswati 111 is controlling 80% of the nation’s wealth, while about 63% of the population living below the poverty line.

In Swaziland, militarized conflicts should be viewed as political challenges to the monopolized rule of King Mswati 111 which finds its expression in the 1973 degree manufactured by his father King Sobhuza 11.

The implementation of Tinkhundla system of government was initiated shortly after the banning of political parties in 1973 which led to the creation of Tinkhundla as a political system in 1978, designed for the entrenchment of royal hegemony and was designed along the lines of the Bantustan system in apartheid South Africa as a result of the active collaboration between the royal family and their patrons, the apartheid regime.

This also saw the emergence of the electoral college, which was the foundation of the present day tinkhundla electoral system. Tinkhundla system is known for its repressive system deliberately creating inequality, exclusion, and uneven development, which marginalizes the broader communities, especially rural.

With a lot of African countries already holding democratic elections, when Swazis in 2021call for democratic reforms the regime responded in typical brutality and intimidation especially within the walls of parliament where 'dissidents' like Bacede Mabuza, Mthandeni Dube and Mduduzi Simelane were targets of the state and its security apparatus.

The trio's only sin was daring to be what parliamentarian's should do, say and be. Their collective victimization coincided with the unrest and resultant  state sponsored massacre between June and July 2021. The emergence of People's Army groups like the Swaziland Solidarity Forces was therefore only logical and most welcome. Violence begets violence. 

As the war rages on, what we ought to be careful and decisive on is the fact our struggle intends to tilt the pendulum to the benefit of the long suffering masses. The greatest calamity, which requires our utmost vigilance is the temptation to fight for the proximity and access state resources for it only furthers the suffering of the already disenfranchised.

Political instability plays a role in why some countries like Somalia and others remain poor. This could be ethnic tension, tribalism, or all-out war. Needless to say, countries with long-term conflicts such as the ones in Somalia or Afghanistan have little chance of developing unless otherwise. Therefore there is great need for those at the echelon of power in Swaziland to take some lessons from the conflicts of the above-mentioned countries.

Somalia involved with war since of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991. A lot of people in Somalia suffered due of conflict which causes long-term impact of disturbed peace, security, and stability also development. This conflict causes a lot of problem and continued loss of life which end up of intermittent fighting, famine, displacement of persons and the resultant flow of refugees.

If the conflict in Swaziland is not addressed politically, the SADC region will be at the receiving end as it will affect neighboring countries such as Mozambique, South Africa, and Lesotho. Overall Swaziland politically is unstable.

Are we in or heading for a civil war? Are we in a guerilla war ?

Opinion piece from our guest writer  Mciniseli Nkanyezi Vilakati, SWAYOCO SG who's is a final year B.Ed. student at Southern Africa Nazarene University.