The Botswana National Front (BNF) condemns the appointment of Swaziland, which is an absolute monarchy, under His Majesty King Mswati III as the Southern African Development Community Chairperson. At the recent SADC 36TH Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Swaziland, King Mswati III was handed SADC Chairmanship by Botswana’s State President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama. This was despite Swaziland’s poor human rights records under the king. King Mswati III continues to violate basic freedoms and human rights of the Swati people. Currently, there is no constitutional democracy in Swaziland as elections are not free and fair. King Mswati and his Queen mother Ntombi have absolute authority over the judiciary, legislature and cabinet.
Several trade unionists, journalists and other civil society activists have been harassed, tortured, beaten, arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned and some without trials and worse some killed under mysterious circumstances and no action have been taken against the known police perpetrators. There are serious restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association and expression in Swaziland. Women and children are still abused and discriminated against and there is no hope that action will be taken soon to stop these abuses. A host of other human rights violations includes prolonged pre-trial detentions; interference with one’s privacy; prohibition on political activity and harassment and arrests of political activists; discrimination on people with albinism as well as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT). The people of Swaziland have been subjected to untold cruelty, torture, degrading and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the monarchy and his traditional advisers.
The BNF Social Democratic Programme (SDP) “sees as one of its most important tasks, the promotion and defence of civil liberties and human rights, not just the right to own property, but also the right to be free from whatever forms of discrimination, oppression and subordination. Our version of democracy means the empowerment of individuals and groups to articulate their interests without fear of victimisation”.The BNF strongly believes in the respect for human rights and sanctity of life, and therefore condemns the handover of the chairmanship to such a leader who has poor and embarrassing human rights credentials. Hence the BNF further position in the SDP that “interaction amongst SADC countries’ institutions of civil society must be encouraged in order to strengthen solidarity within the region”. The party therefore calls on local progressive trade unions, media houses and the general civil society to join it to condemn the Chairpersonship of SADC to Swaziland, and even assist the Swazi people in attaining constitutional democracy.
BNF Publicity Secretary