The people of Swaziland have been gripped by two numbing pictures these past few days; one is of a poverty stricken woman kneeling in front of absolute monarch, Mswati, in full public view begging him for scholarship, while the other is of women forced to kneel on spikey grass while delivering their campaign messages to residents in the ongoing sham tinkhundla elections.
These pictures depict the deep levels of pain that the people of Swaziland have had to endure under the tinkhundla system in order to survive, while at the same time provide proof of the oppression that the people continue to face under the iron grip of sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. Additionally, they are some of the clearest pieces of evidence of the oppression of women in Swaziland and the farce that the tinkhundla system is with regard to women’s rights.
Kneeling young woman begs Mswati for scholarship
Mswati’s propaganda newspaper, the Swazi Observer, recently published a picture of a young orphaned lady on her knees in front of Mswati, literally begging him for scholarship to pursue her tertiary studies. According to the paper, Mswati then ordered his Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade to ensure that she gets the scholarship. She had for a very long moment been singing praises to Mswati while on her knees, offering unconditional obedience and allegiance to him. She was understandably desperate due to her poverty. Close to 70 percent of the people of Swaziland survive on less than US$2 a day.
This is how Mswati would love to see the whole population of Swaziland approaching him. While the right to education should be respected, Mswati has forced the people to be so desperate as to beg for what rightfully belongs to them. The people of Swaziland have continuously called for free education up to at least the first Degree. Instead the Mswati regime continues to drastically cut scholarships and has thereby reduced the right to education to a mere commodity available only to the highest bidder.
Scholarship grants should never be a token to be used by anyone against the people at any stage. Swaziland recently marked 50 years of self-rule, yet the quality of life for the greater majority has been deteriorating since 1968. It got even worse when the late Sobhuza II abrogated the constitution on 12 April 1973, banned political powers, and bestowed all executive, legislative and judicial powers upon him, declaring that from then on he would rule buy decree, thereby creating the absolute monarch that still rules Swaziland today. It is clear therefore that this “independence” belongs to no one but Mswati and his family. The majority are still in slavery and have to beg for a slice of bread in order to have energy to return and beg again the next day.
The Mswati autocracy has impoverished a whole nation while spending almost exclusively on maintaining his lavish lifestyle. In April 2018 he stole from the public purse over E1 billion (about US$67 million) to celebrate his 50th birthday. On his birthday he wore a wrist watch costing around E24 million (US$1.6 million), a 6kg diamond-beaded suit and bought for himself a second private jet worth over E500 million (about US$34 million) as a birthday gift. These were in addition to more millions in public funds spent on buying gifts for his many children, wives and friends. These monies could have easily covered the educational and health needs of the people. But Mswati wants them to beg!
Meanwhile, public clinics and hospitals in Swaziland have run out of vital drugs and equipment because Mswati’s government claims it is broke. Nurses have been engaged in protest actions demanding that the people’s right to quality health care be respected.
Kneeling women beg for votes in tinkhundla elections
The Communist Party of Swaziland has stated many times that the tinkhundla elections do not empower anyone; that these elections’ sole objective is to create a puppet parliament for the swift implementation of dictator Mswati’s unilateral decisions. The pictures of kneeling women candidates during campaigning sessions in many of the constituencies prove this point.
Women in many constituencies in Swaziland have been forced to kneel while presenting their campaign messages, unlike their male counterparts who have the freedom to stand if they wish or take any comfortable posture. For over 10 minutes of presentation of their messages, the women had to kneel on the spikey grass. By doing this, the Mswati regime wants to remind women of their “place” and thereby systematically cut them off public life.
This should be an eye-opener for those who still ignorantly hold on to the belief that this year’s tinkhundla elections will be anything different, let alone progressive, from previous ones. The end result of the tinkhundla elections will be the further suppression and oppression of women. Women in Swaziland are regarded as third class citizens. The Mswati autocracy is the chief violator of women’s rights. Mswati’s chiefs in the communities and members of the Elections Commission have been quoted numerous times saying that women should remain at home and care for children and not destabilise families by contesting elections or undertaking political work.
The Communist Party of Swaziland calls for the people of Swaziland to stand up and fight for their dignity, to wage a relentless struggle against the tinkhundla dictatorship. We will continue to contribute to such fights and fight side by side with the oppressed majority. History will not be kind to us if we beg for our freedom. We have no choice but to wage a relentless people’s war against the Mswati autocracy and establish a democratic people’s republic!
Issued by the Communist Party of Swaziland