Today marks 19 years since the November 28 statement

Nov 28, 2002

On November 28, 2002, whatever facade of Swaziland being a country of laws crumbled when then Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini said the government didn’t respect the rule of law. 

In his press statement, which became immortalized as the “November 28 statement,” the PM expressed that his government “does not intend to recognize the two judgments of the Court of Appeal”.

This statement codified what had always been known by civil society: the judiciary was simply an extension of the royal cabal who ruled the country. All it did was put in the starkest terms that whatever illusions we had of a functioning, independent legal system did not exist in the fiefdom that is Swaziland.

Just like the April 12 1973 decree, the November 28 statement marked an epochal moment in Swaziland: the state has still not made a distinction between the judiciary, and executive control. It explicitly said ours was not a country, but a farm governed by the whims of one man. The judicial system simply panders to the influence of one King Mswati III.

November 28 remains in precedent, and has never been revoked, because the Chief of KaMkhweli remains in exile, despite the Court of Appeals ruling in his favor. The people of KaMkhweli and KaMtfuso have still not been restored to the lives they lived before November 28. 

In essence, November 28, just like April 12, is a day steeped in history. The tenets of what it stood for remain the precedent of our rule of law. The joke of a constitution in 2005 did not reverse it, as the King was explicitly put above the law. The political machinations of our country have only served to further entrench this lawlessness, extending the immunity from persecution to Mswati’s heirs.

In the 19 years since, we have come to see that the constitution wasn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. If ever there was a question on whether Swaziland has a functioning legal system, simply take note that when the king chose to try and intimidate independent journalists via the courts, he turned to South African courts.

This November 28, we look back on 19 years when the courts acted as a rubber stamp on the King and governmental impunity. 19 years when the people of Swaziland had no legal recourse to fight against their subjugation at the hands of a tyrannical king. 19 years must be the final commemoration. An independent legal system is what the people of Swaziland deserve. An independent legal system is what they will get.