Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
Who knows what the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, was doing when he authorised the press release that followed his 3-day visit to Swaziland. He must have known that it would stir up a hornet's nest of protest from the various pro-democracy forces in the country - given its upbeat description of a country that is in the midst of a deep political, economic and social crisis.
Obviously the Commonwealth head is not going to sign his name to a press release that condemns the authoritarian and repressive government of Swaziland in stringent tones but surely there was room for a little more reality?
And while King Mswati and his cronies will be toasting the Commonwealth boss, others have already begun savaging him for his parting words. In particular, the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) which is "appalled and disgusted by the media statement of the Commonwealth Secretariat..." which has revealed itself as "...an unprincipled and obsequious apologist for an autocratic regime responsible for the mass degradation, impoverishment and violent oppression of the Swazi people."
And the rest of the press release is just as good - so good, indeed, that it deserves to be reproduced at length. So here is - almost all - of the CPS statement:
"The Commonwealth Secretariat has painted a picture of the Mswati regime as a reasonable, progressive and legitimate force that reflects the will of the Swazi people and that is boldly steaming ahead on the sunny road to democratic development and equality.
The reality, as everyone knows who has anything to do with the demands of the pro-democracy movement in our country, could not be further from this and is entirely at odds with the Commonwealth’s assessment.
We are astonished that an international body that posits itself as a champion of democracy around the world could come out with this utterly disingenuous and mendacious assessment.
The Commonwealth statement pays oblique lip service to the participation of the Swazi people in shaping the situation in the country, but is otherwise wholly concerned with brown-nosing Mswati and his illegal and murderous regime.
In particular the depiction of next year’s sham elections as a progressive step emanating from the 2005 Constitution is a bald lie: political parties remain banned and prevented from participating; the People’s United Democratic Movement remains branded a ‘terrorist entity’, and no forces that in any way oppose the dictatorship are allowed to organise and campaign in the country.
The Commonwealth also totally ignores the mass plight of the Swazi people due to the concentration of all the country’s wealth in the hands of the monarchy, its extended royal’ family and parasitic minions.
It ignores the grinding poverty, ill health, death and disease and supine ignorance imposed on our people.
It ignores the state banning of the trade union confederation TUCOSWA and suppression of trade union rights.
It passes over the illegal sacking by Mswati of striking teachers. It cares nothing about the violence unleashed against them and other public sector workers who are waging a life and death struggle for their livelihoods.
Incredibly, the Commonwealth is also massively out of step with other international organisations in their positions on Swaziland, among them UN bodies, the ILO and even the IMF, all of which have one way or another denounced the rapacious practices of the Mswati regime.
What earthly use is such an organisation in today’s world? The Commonwealth is not merely an anachronism; it is an anti-democratic and anti-human rights anachronism in the world.
The CPS recalls the grovelling role the Commonwealth played in its relations with the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Nothing has changed. It remains committed to reaction and oppression under the pretence of ‘constructive engagement’.
We reiterate our call for the establishment of a provisional democratic government comprising all genuine pro-democracy forces to oversee the dismantling of the Swazi autocracy. Only this will enable us to forge a path to freedom."ShareThis