The reality that King Mswati III of the Mountain Kingdom of Swaziland will, courtesy of the rotational nature of the SADC, be handed chairpersonship, has elicited condemnation from the interviewed Botswana civil society in the political and labour sphere.
The vice president of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang is not impressed by the development. “Although Swaziland is a sovereign state, the fact that King Mswati III is ascending the SADC chair this August is a matter of great concern to us because the country has thus far refused to embrace the values of democracy.
This is an indication that the regional body is not committed to democratic values.” In his view, the development is a setback for the region because Mswati III is not competent to meaningfully intervene when there is a crisis especially where democracy is the issue. Dr Gobotswang would have liked a situation whereby geographical location does not automatically qualify a country to be a member of the regional organisation. “The European Union (EU) has a checklist which a country must satisfy in order to be allowed membership,” explained Dr Gobotswang.
“Mswati does not qualify to hold that position at all. Not only is he a dictator but he is also a corrupt leader who sees nothing wrong with abusing public resources for his benefit while people starve,” said the president of the Botswana People’s Party(BPP), Motlatsi Molapisi. The BNF secretary for Foreign Affairs, Nelson Ramaotwana, like Gobotswang, notes that all countries, including Swaziland, are free to run their affairs according to their own home-grown processes.
“Mswati is, however, not the right person for the job because he cannot mediate between government and its people where matters of democracy are concerned. In his country, civic right groups including political parties and trade unions are, for all intents and purposes, banned,” said Ramaotwana who says the problem with SADC is that some of its members are compromised.
For his part, the Deputy Secretary General of the Botswana Federation of Public and Private Sector Unions(BOFEPUSU), Ketlhalefile Motshegwa, is disappointed that, while the whole world has criticised Zimbabwe for her democratic credentials, the world, including the western powers, seem to be tolerant of Mswati’s impunity.
“He rules by decree. There is no bargaining council and those who raise their voices about his abuse of power are incarcerated. Above everything else, a leader must be a role model with regards to what the organisation he leads stands for,” BOFEPUSU will not fold its arms though, he promises.
“We are liaising with like-minded organisations in the SADC as well as embassies to reject his chairmanship. We will also lobby Swatis here and back home to join us in the rejection of King Mswati III. We seek to isolate him,” he said.