Swazi democrats are urging two of South Africa’s premier soccer teams Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates not to take part in a football tournament to honour King Mswati III.
A new tournament which is variously being called the Super King’s Cup or the King’s Super Cup is due to be played on 18 July 2015 at the Somhlolo National Stadium in Lobamba.
The two Sowetan soccer clubs have announced they will take part in the tournament named in honour of King Mswati, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), a non-violent pro-democracy group banned in Swaziland under the Suppression of Terrorism Act, has called on both clubs to withdraw from the tournament.
In an open letter to Irvin Khoza, Chairman of Orlando Pirates Football Club and Kaizer Motaung, Executive Director, Kaizer Chiefs Foodball Club, the SSN said, ‘It is clear from the name of the event that this is not just a sporting event meant to promote goodwill but rather a political event meant to legitimise a despot who has lost credibility in the eyes of the world and the country that he rules with an iron fist.’
Political parties are banned from contesting elections in Swaziland, the King choses the government and top judges. Pro-democracy campaigners are jailed, often for more than a year before coming to trial.
In its letter, SSN said, ‘It has long been widely known in South Africa and beyond that Swaziland’s government has no respect for human rights and that the country has no political freedom. Swaziland is a dictatorship. It continues to evade the international media radar mainly because the country is so miniscule, with even less prestige internationally.
‘The country has no democracy at all. All power is vested in the monarchy, which rules by decree despite the existence of a worthless constitution which was imposed on the citizens ten years ago. As an absolute monarch the King only delegates his judicial, executive and legislative powers to powerless institutions which may make one believe that the country is run like modern state when it is in fact run like the king’s personal farm.
‘While there is no law that explicitly bans the formation and functioning of political parties, they are effectively rendered useless by the fact that they cannot contest state power as that power is vested exclusively in the King who appoints the prime minister, deputy prime minister, all cabinet ministers, a third of parliament, all senior civil servants and members of the diplomatic corps. As another King’s appointee, the country’s Senate President recently pointed out, the king is the state.
‘With all this power vested in him, the King of Swaziland has not held back on abusing it to fulfill his selfish personal greed. This has resulted in him forcing all major investments in the country to guarantee him and his family’s trust fund, Tibiyo, shares in their businesses. As a result of this he owns virtually half the country’s economy. Despite his hold on so much personal wealth the King still draws royal emoluments from the state which is over a fifth of the nation’s budget.
‘It is these kleptocratic tendencies which have resulted in the country’s economy growing sluggishly while the rest of the region’s economies make major strides. It is worth pointing out for example that the country remains the only one in the region with a sole mobile phone operator, MTN Swaziland, a company that retains its monopoly primarily because the King has substantial shares in it. All attempts by other companies to break into the market have been futile. This is perhaps the reason why some mobile phone operators may wish to sponsor an event like the Super King’s Cup in order to gain favour with the country’s despot.
‘Human rights abuses in Swaziland are endemic because the people have no government of their own. At every level of society people are denied basic human rights. Political dissenters are detained arbitrarily or with spurious charges levelled against them.
‘Like the Apartheid regime, King Mswati’s regime has gone to great lengths to tarnish the image of those who call for democracy in the country and there are legal instruments that are used to achieve this end such as the infamous Suppression of Terrorism Act, which gave the country’s government legal authority to declare any entity as a terrorist organisation. Once declared terrorist organisations such formations are proscribed and any association with them results in severe sanction including harsh prison sentences.
‘It was due to this act that one political activist by the name of Sipho Jele was arrested in 1 May 2010 for merely wearing a T-shirt inscribed with the name of one proscribed entity, PUDEMO. He never lived to see his day in court as he died in custody possibly from police torture.
‘There are other oppressive laws also used to suppress dissent such as the law against sedition. The president of the same organisation (PUDEMO), Mario Masuku, and the Secretary General of its youth league, Maxwell Dlamini, were also arrested in 2014 for what the state claims were seditious statements made at a Workers’ Day rally.
‘In the same year their arrest was followed by that of two columnists, Bheki Makhubu and Thulani Maseko who were charged and later convicted for criticizing the manner in which the then country’s Chief Justice had handled the detention of a government cars inspector.
‘They remain behind bars while ironically the Chief Justice and the presiding judge in that case have been arrested by the country’s authorities for abuse of power and corruption. The manner in which this arrest was conducted was also flawed as it saw the country’s prime minister appointing himself the state prosecutor withdrawing and reinstating charges against those who had been arrested in the state’s publicity stunt.
‘Political activists are not the only ones denied basic human rights as even those who choose to shy away from political involvement end up on the wrong end of the country’s suppressive institutions. Poor Swazis are evicted annually for one reason or another without compensation from their ancestral lands. All their attempts to seek redress from the courts are futile as the King is effectively above the law and therefore immune from prosecution or civil charges.’