Rebone Tau: May the new dawn in the SADC region extend to the unliberated Kingdom of eSwatini
The SADC regional political landscape is shifting at a fast pace. In recent times we have had new presidents, beginning with Tanzania and moving to Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, with the latest being the DRC. What does this mean for the SADC region? With those seen as dictators no longer in power, will the new leadership help in strengthening accountability? Will they focus on the commitments they have made to the people and serve them with honour and dignity?
The DRC elections outcome came as a shock to the rest of the world. Most thought the poll would be rigged due to the delay in announcing the outcome. We all know that in the past, South Africa was accused by the Congolese community of helping President Joseph Kabila win the previous election. One hopes that this outcome will bring stability to the DRC.
South Africa has played a key role in the DRC from the time of President Nelson Mandela, followed by the Sun City Talks under President Thabo Mbeki. We have South African troops in the DRC under the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO, whose mandate began in 1999.
The people of the DRC should focus on building their country and strengthening their intuitions. They have so many resources, yet their infrastructure is poor. The mineral resources in the DRC leave the country, while development is at a standstill.
In the SADC region there remains one country that needs to be liberated — the Kingdom of eSwatini, ruled by an absolute monarchy. Political parties in eSwatini are not allowed to participate during elections. The question remains: Will the new leadership within SADC rise to the occasion and engage with key role players in eSwatini to ensure free and fair elections in the country?
The Kingdom of eSwatini held elections in 2018. But according to Section 79 of its 2005 constitution, which emphasises individual merit as the basis of standing for elections or appointment to public office, no political parties were allowed to participate.
We need a SADC that will put burning issues on the agenda and engage without fear or favour. SADC has in the past been accused of being toothless and positioning itself as an old boys’ club. We need leadership that will put the people first at all times, not leadership that will protect one another while the people suffer.
Lessons can be learned from the Kingdom of Lesotho, although it is not perfect in terms of the political situation. SADC needs to take note of Lesotho — although not a republic, political parties are allowed to participate in elections and King Letsie III plays a role as the King of the Basotho people.
Progressive forces in eSwatini need to look at the different models of monarchies and determine what will work for them as Swazis.
The issue of eSwatini will not be won outright, as on the ground, although the people are suffering, it would be a mistake to think that ordinary people do not love King Mswati. They need to find a role for the king in eSwatini if the change is to come.
At the next SADC summit in Tanzania, eSwatini should be on the agenda if our leaders are indeed serious about taking the region forward. We cannot enjoy political freedom in our countries while eSwatini is under an absolute monarchy. It can’t be that in 2019 when we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution, eSwatini finds itself where it is politically. DM
Rebone Tau is a former ANCYL NTT International Relations Chairperson and a member of the review committee on what government has done to change the quality of life for women. She writes in her personal capacity.