By Patrick Guramatunhu- SADC has finally stepped in to try end the cycle of violence and political unrest in Eswatini. SA President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the current Chairperson of Chairperson of SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, send envoy to Eswatini follow the outbreak of violent street protests in that country.
“The Special Envoy paid a courtesy call on His Majesty, King Mswati III. Subsequently, amongst others, the Special Envoy met with members of Cabinet led by the Honourable Cleopas Sipho Dlamini, the Prime Minister, members of the Diplomatic Corps, civil society organizations, Members of Parliament, trade unions and members of the all society in Eswatini,” announce President Ramaphosa.
“During the engagements, all stakeholders agreed that the conduct of national dialogue should be the appropriate platform to address the current challenges facing the country. In this regard, they recognised the need for a peaceful and conducive environment for the dialogue to take place.”
It is a great pity that Eswatini has been allowed to burn before SADC leaders finally stepped in.
The borne of contention in Eswatini is King Mswati III is an absolute monarch and he has creamed off the country’s wealth to bankroll a lavish lifestyle for himself and his many wives. The majority of ordinary people now live in abject poverty. The people’s cry for democratic change so they can have a meaningful say in the governance of the country have fallen on deaf ears; the King might as well have a bale of cotton staffed in each of his ears.
SADC leaders have completely ignored the suffering people and have sided with the King under the pretext the serious human rights violations and tragic human suffering caused by the criminal waste of the nation’s human and material resources were internal Eswatini affairs. SADC was not going to interfere in a member country’s internal affairs.
The people of Eswatini are disappointed at SADC and AU’s, the continent body, indifference to their suffering and cry for help! Rightly so too! And so should every thinking person in SADC and Africa; African leaders’ indifference to the human rights violation and suffering is one of the reasons why the continent is in this economic and political mess.
African leaders a notorious for siding with the continent’s despotic leaders or, at best, kicking the can down the street at the expense of the suffering masses. These leaders do not like outsiders such as the UN to help solve the continent’s many problems; “African solutions to African problems!” they have often argued. Only to sit on the problems allowing them to fester and spread!
One hopes that SADC leaders will see to it that the national dialogue in Eswatini address the root causes of the political unrest and the economic meltdown in that country. Eswatini must end absolute monarch and move with the times and uphold the freedoms and rights of all citizens as pronounced in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the right to a meaningful say in the governance of the country.
As a Zimbabwean, I will be following what happens in Eswatini like a hawk!
After 41 years and counting of rigged elections it is clear come 2023, without even one token reform in place, Zanu PF will once again rig those elections. If SADC leaders manage to force King Mswati III to relinquish his absolute power one hopes the regional leaders will have the guts to force Zanu PF thugs to relinquish their dictatorial powers too!
SADC leaders have endorsed Zimbabwe’s the 2013 and 2018 elections as “substantially free, fair and credible” when they know that was not true.
“Notably, major shortcomings in the pre-election environment impacted on the free expression of the will of electors, state resources were misused in favour of the incumbent and coverage by state media was heavily biased in favour of the ruling party. Further, the electoral commission lacked full independence and appeared to not always act in an impartial manner,” reported the EU Zimbabwe 2018 Election Observer Mission final report.
“The final results as announced by the Electoral Commission contained numerous errors and lacked adequate traceability, transparency and verifiability. Finally, the restrictions on political freedoms, the excessive use of force by security forces and abuses of human rights in the post-election period undermined the corresponding positive aspects during the pre-election campaign.
“As such, many aspects of the 2018 elections in Zimbabwe failed to meet international standards.”
ZEC failed to produce something as basic as a verified voters’ roll, a legal and common sense requirement, for Pete’s sake. How SADC election observers managed to give their thumbs up to such a flawed and illegal election process beggars belief. It is already clear that ZEC will not have a verified voters’ roll in 2023!
The people of Zimbabwe will be looking to SADC leaders, especially those who have held free, fair and credible elections in their own country to judge the 2023 Zimbabwe elections to international standards and not the usual one foot long yard stick!
By declaring the 2023 Zimbabwe elections null and void and thus refuse to give Zanu PF regime legitimacy; SADC will be breaking the cycle of rigged elections as happened in 2008 when the region body also refused to recognised that year’s election process as a democratic, free, fair and credible.
Zimbabwe needs a new GNU; only this time competent men and women will be appointed to make sure all the democratic reforms to dismantle the Zanu PF dictatorship are implemented. The 2008 to 2013 GNU failed to get even one reform implemented but that was because the Zanu PF and MDC leaders in the GNU lacked the political will and vision. Zimbabwe deserves a second bite at the cherry; this time the democratic reforms, all of them, will be implemented fully!