Swaziland. Amnesty International and the international legal community in January criticized the anti-terrorism legislation that Swaziland introduced the year before. According to countryaah, the critics claimed that it threatened human rights and violated both international law and the country’s own constitution. According to Amnesty, it led to violations of freedom of expression, association and meeting. The law allowed the government to declare an organization, statement or document as a terrorist threat and opened to a sentence of 25 years in prison. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for abbreviation WZ which stands for the nation of Swaziland.
In June, leading human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko was arrested, who has long challenged the regime through important legal cases. He was charged with rebellion. Among those charged with terrorism and insurgency during the year was Mario Masuku, leader of the opposition movement PUDEMO (People’s United Democratic Movement). Police made raids in homes and offices of PUDEMO members and of the Socio-Economic Justice Foundation. In September, Masuku was released from the prosecution after ten months in custody. He had been accused of being behind the bombing in the capital Mbabane, which he refused. PUDEMO and three other organizations had been banned and marked as a terrorist organization. The Prohibited Movement The liberation army of the Umban people took on the blame for the bombing.
In neighboring South Africa, the trade union movement and the Communist Party demanded that the new President Jacob Zuma act against the oppression of human rights in Swaziland. But Zuma’s personal friendship with King Mswati seemed to prevent this. However, according to South African data, there were pressures through silent diplomacy. In December, Mario Masuku declared that his movement was prepared for constructive dialogue with the government, after King Mswati had expressed that his government was willing to negotiate with the opposition. Two-thirds of the population of Swaziland was estimated to live on less than two dollars a day, while the king continued his luxury life. In April it was reported that he had purchased several luxurious and bulletproof Mercedes cars for the equivalent of just over SEK 5 million each. The cars were built to withstand chemical weapons as well.
According to figures during the year, Swaziland had the highest proportion of HIV infected in the world. About 42 percent of women had HIV, and the life expectancy of the population was only 37 years. According to the Minister of Health, the increase in HIV infection among young women showed that the information provided has no intended effect. In Swaziland, men are circumcised, which can reduce the risk of HIV infection but, on the other hand, increase men’s risk behavior.
Swazi groups, of the great Nguni family, migrated to the territory of the present Swaziland during the 17th century, coming from the south-eastern African coast; organized in a kingdom founded by the Dlamini dynasty at the beginning of the 18th century, they had to resist the expansionist aims of neighboring groups and, coinciding with the European colonization of southern Africa, suffered massive expropriations of land by the Boer peasants. Passed under the British protectorate in 1903, the Swazi maintained the traditional system of government, which granted absolute powers to the sovereign (the lion) and to his mother (the elephantess), assisted by a council and the general assembly of the tribe.
Sobhuza II (b.1899 – d.1982), ascended to the throne in 1921, in the early years of his reign tried to regain control of the country’s arable land and huge mineral resources from the Swazis, managing to prevent the Swaziland from being incorporated in the South African Union. Despite the introduction by the colonial authorities of representative and pluralistic institutions, the power of the ruling dynasty survived, even after the granting of internal self-government and a Constitution (1967).
After the independence within the Commonwealth, achieved in 1968, the political life of the small ethnic state of the Swaziland was dominated exclusively by the royal family and by the contrasts between the different groups present within it, and marked by an evolution in an authoritarian sense with the affirmation of a model of state organization based on the recognition of authority and tribal structure. Only during the 1980s did growing discontent begin to find expression in organized forms, first union and then directly political, with the launch of demonstrations and protests and the establishment of opposition groupings, which demanded profound constitutional reforms, and which over the decade later they also intensified on the international level.
Faced with the mobilization of the opposition, Mswati III, who ascended the throne in 1986 after a long struggle for power within the royal clan, alternated phases of repression with attitudes of openness, including the willingness to negotiate around revision projects in democratic sense of the Constitution (suspended since 1973). The 1998 general elections were boycotted by the main opposition movement and contested in the results by the majority of independent candidates; the following year, despite the ban on the formal constitution of political parties, the oppositions aggregated into the Democratic Alliance of Swaziland. On the international level, the absolute economic dependence on the Republic of South Africa remained unchanged even after the end of the apartheid regime (1994).
The new century opened under the banner of a substantial continuity of the authoritarian tradition that connoted it as the only absolute monarchy in the regional context; the legislative elections of 2003 were also boycotted by the opposition. Finally, in 2006 a new Constitutional Charter came into force, which provides for the recognition of freedom of assembly and speech and equality between the sexes, but retains a system permeated with references to tradition and authoritarian: the sovereign remains above the law., does not pay taxes, cannot be sued or criticized.