Swaziland - Political Parties
The government harassed and detained opposition members and openly stated it did not want political parties in the country. The constitution provides for freedom of association but does not address how political parties may operate and contest elections. While political parties existed, there was no legal mechanism for them to register or contest elections. The constitution also states candidates for public office must compete on their individual merit, thereby effectively blocking competition based on political party affiliation. For example, the EBC denied participation in the 2013 parliamentary elections to two members of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress party, who then filed an application with the High Court to compel the EBC to register them. The registrar of the High Court refused to put the matter on the docket.
Participation in the traditional sphere of governance and politics takes place predominantly through chiefdoms. Chiefs are custodians of traditional law and custom, report directly to the king, and are responsible for the day-to-day running of their chiefdoms and maintenance of law and order. Although local custom mandates that chieftaincy is hereditary, the constitution, while recognizing that chieftaincy is “usually hereditary and is regulated by Swazi law and custom,” also states the king “may appoint any person to be chief over any area.” As a result many chieftaincies were nonhereditary appointments, a fact that provoked land disputes, especially at the time of the passing and burial of chiefs.
When the present King's father, King Sobhuza II, annulled Swaziland's initial constitution and instituted rule by decree in 1973, he specifically banned political parties. The presence of a political party was assumed to imply unhappiness with the rule of the king, and there must be no opposition to the king.
Since that time, the ruling class has argued that political parties are un-Swazi and divisive; in Swazi culture, disagreements are to be settled by discussion and consensus, not votes or clashes of ideology. The 1973 Decree lapsed when the Constitution took effect in 2006. The Constitution is silent on the question of political parties, but states that anyone standing for election to any position must compete on his individual merit.
Different GKOS officials have given differing views on whether political parties are now legal, and at least one group has gone to court to demand to be registered as a political party. One case stalled, apparently due to the group's inability to pay their lawyer, while another was argued in the Supreme Court and by 2010 was waiting for a decision.
Non-governmental organizations operate freely in Swaziland, publicizing and advocating their views. However, politically active groups are weak, poorly organized, and have little impact on the government. Most Swazis respect the monarchy and Swazi tradition, and though dissatisfaction may be growing, it tends to manifest itself in fatalism. Although widespread political turmoil is unlikely, the use of the Suppression of Terrorism Act to ban the four most active opposition groups indicates that the GKOS feels it is under some degree of threat. One GKOS official confidentially termed the situation as "simmering."
The King remains sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, and as such is perhaps a relic of earlier times on the continent. This is not to say the practice of opposing the formation and/or use of opposition parties is just limited to Swaziland, but among the African countries it is one of the more extreme examples.
In Swaziland, the police are notorious for preventing public rallies and harassing opposition politi
cians and civil society figures in the run-up to polls -- a clear violation of the basic right to freedom of assembly.
The government's stance is that political parties are legal, but one must contest for political office as an individual, not as a member of a political party. Despite this ban, by 2008 there were five active political parties in Swaziland. They include: African United Democratic Party (AUDP), Inhlava Forum, Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), People's United Democratic Movement of Swaziland (PUDEMO), and Sive Siyinqaba, also known as Sibahle Sinje.
AUDP African United Democratic Party
Established in 2005, AUDP is led by President Stanley Malindzisa and Secretary General Sibusiso Dlamini. AUDP is participating in the election. Their stance is to win seats in parliament and influence policy and law from within the tinkhundla system.
Founded in 2006 by Mfomfo Nkambule, they declared themselves a political party in 2007. Nkambule serves as its president and also represents the Mtfongwaneni region in Parliament. The party emphasized the need for a more defined separation of powers between the monarchy, legislature, judiciary, and the King. They advocate for a new constitution that would require more public consultation by government institutions and would maintain the monarchy while removing complete executive authority. Inhlava pays special attention to the failing national health care system in its criticism of the government. Their main concern at the moment is the rehabilitation of the Swazi economy by securing a degree of economic liberalization. They estimate a membership of 100-150 people.
Inhlava boycotted the 2008 elections but decided to participate in voter registration as a tactic to engage citizens they feel would otherwise not be open to their message because of the party's non-participation in the electoral process.
NNLC - Ngwane National Liberatory Congress
The NNLC was established in February 1963 and is currently led by Dr. Alvit Dlamini. It began as a Pan-African revolutionary movement and jointly negotiated independence from Britain in 1968 along with the Imbokodvo party of King Sobhuza. It represented the first practical parliamentary opposition in 1972. The party was later banned in 1973 and one of its members, Bhekindlela Ngwenya, was deported under the pretense that he was not a Swazi. Others were detained under a renewable sixty day detention order, while its leader Dr. Ambrose Zwane went to Tanzania in exile. The party was reestablished in 1998. In 2003 then party leader Obed Dlamini was elected into parliament.
Ideologically, NNLC believes in a free market economy, but one that places human welfare above economic goals. They see the state as being responsible for public welfare; advocate for a constitutional monarchy with a bill of rights; and promote the traditional principles of democracy: transparency, accountability, and good governance. They are believed to have five party members sitting in parliament in the run-up to the 2008 election.
The party refused to participate in the 2008 elections unless it is contested under a multi-party system. Vocal proponents of a boycott, they have petitioned the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to stop the elections from going forward until the present ban on political party involvement is removed. v
PUDEMO - People's United Democratic Movement of Swaziland
Founded by university students in July 1983 after the death of King Sobhuza II, PUDEMO's goal was to reinstate the Queen Regent Dzeliwe, who had been removed by the Liqoqo (Supreme Council of State) that governed after the king's death. Led by President Mario Masuku, the group is perhaps the most radical political party, rejecting the current system of government outright. They aligned themselves with Coalition of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the ANC in South Africa.
The party preamble states that they are a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist political movement committed to the creation, protection, and promotion of a constitutional multi-party democracy, a transparent and accountable government, and an environment conducive to growth and development. PUDEMO vehemently opposes the current constitution and strongly supported boycotting the elections.
Sive Siyinqaba / Sibahle Sinje
Sive Siyinqaba was formed in 1996. At the time, Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) was pressuring the GKOS to democratize by organizing politically motivated mass stay-aways, disguised as labor mass stay-aways because political activities were banned. To counteract SFTU, Sive Siyinqaba, meaning "Formidable Nation or a Fortress," formed as a cultural group to protect the monarchy and preserve Swazi culture and tradition. They also go by Sibahle Sinje, literally meaning "we are beautiful as we are and therefore we do not need a change."
Initially thought to be an unofficial extension of the former ruling Imbokodvo party (the King's party until 1973, when he declared political parties illegal), Sive is a vocal critic of bad governance, corruption, and the current lack of financial accountability. It commands a large following, particularly among traditionalists, and has an estimated 36 members in parliament, six members in the cabinet, and many other senior government officials as members.
Declaring itself a political party in 2007, Sive had an active website and in late May ran ads in both national newspapers calling on potential parliamentary candidates to register with the organization and help develop a campaign strategy.
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