Swaziland is a small country that often gets overlooked. It neighbours Mozambique, is partially engulfed by South Africa, and is a country rife with systemic and largely-tolerated corruption. As a result of this over 70 per cent of the population currently lives under the UN poverty line. Add to that the fact that it has the highest HIV & AIDS incidence rates in the world (although thankfully these rates are now depleting, largely thanks to the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)) and we have a country that has significant problems to deal with.
Swaziland remains one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, whereby the wealth of the state is concentrated within the hands of its rulers. Be that as it may, The Times of Swaziland, the only news source in the country that attempts analyse contemporary affairs with any degree of transparency, recently revealed that MPs in Swaziland still receive close to twice as much monetary compensation as do the leaders of SADAC countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique and Botswana. Some things just don’t add up.
Swaziland’s leaders have recently announced that they aim to be a first world country by 2030, however there is a lack of basic planning and even understanding as to what this means. Large amounts of money are currently being thrown into a project to build a casino-resort in an area already housing two such institutions- is this a weak attempt in attracting tourism, or simply an excuse for the government to spend taxpayers money on unwarranted luxuries? Furthermore, a new airport has been built to deal with the non-existent air traffic that the country apparently experiences daily. In true Swaziland fashion, this new structure is not easily accessible from the three major cities in the country, and the derelict roads make it less so. However, it is in close proximity to the royal residence, which supposedly makes the project worthwhile. The contracts for such large construction budgets are naturally given to government cronies, resulting in systemic nepotism (see here). How this state will ever reach the status of a developed country is a question that all natives seem to be asking. Unfortunately, such issues cannot be discussed openly, for fear of persecution by the government. Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer who was imprisoned for questioning the legitimacy of the judiciary, portrays this case perfectly. Maseko even wrote an urgent letter to President Barack Obama, imploring him to intervene during a Summit of African Leaders at the White House, on the behalf of all individuals who were subjected to human rights abuses within various African nations (see here). Obama has yet to publically comment.
Sadly the situation in Swaziland seems to be one of hopelessness. Without a change in the way that the government is governed, or at least a shift in norms, Swaziland will not be able to cultivate a successful future for itself. Furthermore, the lack of interest regarding corrupt practices in Swaziland by the international community showcases how practitioners of corruption have not been held accountable for their actions. Swaziland’s situation is desperate, but it is one that hardly anyone seems to take any notice of.
Articles that may be of interest to readers:
• Anti-corruption talk in Swaziland http://www.times.co.sz/Features/74005.html
• Speech by the King of Swaziland at the Summit of African Leaders: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/swaziland_nationalstatement.pdf
• The World Organization Against Torture’s meek attempt at defending Thulani Maseko: http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/swaziland/2014/07/d22774/
An interest article, civil society in Swaziland will have to link up with other Africa civil society to pressure their government