Saturday, September 18, 2010

Swaziland, a convenient tyranny

By Mike Marqusee, Morning Star Online, September 17, 2010

Swaziland is a small country with a big problem. The 1.1 million inhabitants of the land-locked southern African kingdom live under the thumb of one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, a venal and repressive regime whose plunder of the country is systematic and comprehensive.

Now presiding over the 37th year of the world’s longest-running state of emergency, King Mswati III controls the parliament, appoints cabinet ministers, judges and senior civil servants, and makes and breaks the law at will.

Political parties are banned, along with most demonstrations and meetings. Shouting the wrong slogan or wearing the wrong T-shirt can get you locked up as a “terrorist.” The media is subject to constant harassment and intimidation. Strikes are illegal. Trade unionists and human rights activists face surveillance, house searches, arbitrary detention and torture.

In May democracy activist Sipho Jele was arrested, interrogated and then allegedly “found” by police hanging from the rafters in a prison toilet.

Earlier this month police swooped on activists organising a week of pro-democracy events. Among the scores detained, abused, assaulted and threatened with death – “you’ll get what your friend Sipho Jele got” – were representatives of South African trade unions and Danish and Zimbabwean human rights organisations.

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