Swazis speak out against Africa's last absolute monarchy
Swazis speak out against Africa's last absolute monarchyCitizens say they are protesting against a corrupt monarch.
In Swaziland, thousands of participants demonstrated their disapproval of King Mswati III and what they say is rampant corruption in the country’s bureaucracy. The demonstrations, held in a number of Swazi cities and rural areas, were part of the second country-wide Global Week of Action on Sept 5-9.
Tens of thousands of activists across the country turned out for the march where images of the king were burned. Police responded swiftly and, in some cases, violently. Swazi expat communities reportedly held parallel protests in Europe.
The protesters represent a cross-section of Swazi society and include civil servants dissatisfied about deep wage cuts, lawyers accusing high-ranking judges of corruption, students and teachers protesting lack of funding for schools, trade unions, and advocates with the Swaziland Democracy Campaign.
Swaziland is the last absolute monarchy in Africa, although technically the king shares power with his mother. And while pro-democracy activists are agitating for democratic change, political parties remain officially banned in the country.
Swaziland is among the poorest nations in Africa. Unemployment in Swaziland has reached an estimated 40 per cent, and some 70 per cent of Swazis live on less than $1 a day. The cash-strapped country is considering a $355 million loan from South Africa later this year.
Despite this, the king has been accused of siphoning away public funds. His net worth is estimated at $100 million while his trusteeship may be as large as $10 billion.
Meanwhile, HIV infection rates in the small country have skyrocketed and currently 25 per cent of those aged 15 to 49 are HIV positive or living with AIDS. The country’s life expectancy is 32.5 years — the lowest in the world.
In this episode of The Stream, we speak to Mark Leon Goldberg, editor of the UN Dispatch blog; Mary Pais Da Silva, coordinator for the Swaziland Democracy Campaign; and Michael Skolnik, director of the documentary, “Without the King.”
These are some of the social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream.