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I was surprised, as may have been other progressively minded compatriots, by government’s somewhat reckless and acerbic response to the accusation, by the African National Congress (ANC) - the governing (not ruling) party of the Republic of South Africa – that the Kingdom of eSwatini was abusing human rights, including suppressing dissent and political activity.

Consequently, the ANC’s position emerging from its five-day fifth policy conference about two weeks ago, being that owing to its poor human rights record the kingdom ought to be brought before the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Additionally the ANC, which is governing Africa’s arguably largest and most sophisticated economy that in turn makes South Africa not just a regional but a continental superpower, bound itself to the struggle for political emancipation in the kingdom.
As I see it, given its economic and political clout, South Africa’s foreign policy informs the posture of not just its regional partners within SADC but Africa and beyond, which makes it a global player.

Hence irrespective of the challenges facing the ANC, it was still incumbent for the governing party to reflect on its foreign policy, which effectively translates to government policy, on specific countries. Since assuming power in 1994, never has the ANC pronounced itself so firmly and unequivocally on the struggle for political emancipation in the kingdom. Its commission of international relations charged that the Swazi Government was using the Suppression of Terrorism Act to outlaw political parties. It further recommended that the ANC should strengthen its solidarity campaign as well as formalise party-to-party relations with the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO). It also recommended that the ANC should support the call for the unbanning of political parties and the release of political prisoners and for the kingdom to be placed before SADC.

It is these positions adopted at the ANC policy conference that reportedly had Government Spokesperson Percy Simelane spewing bile, saying they would not ‘stoop low and entertain a dying party for that matter’. Meanwhile banned political parties have welcomed the ANC’s position while supporters and sympathisers of the Tinkhundla political hegemony took umbrage and termed this as interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign country.
Interestingly enough, besides the puerile grandstanding, the reaction of government’s spin-doctor and supporters, as well as beneficiaries of the political status quo did not dispute the substance apparently informing the ANC’s position. This apparent omission may be silent acknowledgement on their part of the grim reality that the outcome of the interrogation of the Swazi polity by the ANC’s International Relations Commission was factual and, therefore, could not be disputed.

As I see it, while the ANC may have adopted the position towards the kingdom as recommended by its commission on international relations, it is unlikely to immediately translate into government policy.
For one, President Jacob Zuma is unlikely to hurry and do anything as he might be politically indebted to this country, since it is widely believed that he owes his ascendancy to the presidency of the party and, thereafter, of the Republic of South Africa, to the kingdom’s leadership. The ANC’s elective conference in December when Zuma would step down as ANC president is also unlikely to change anything, unless someone other than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s former wife, was to succeed him. Dlamini-Zuma is largely seen as a Zuma proxy who would also shield his former husband from prosecution on a plethora of charges ranging from corruption to racketeering.

However, should current Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa become the new ANC leader, there is a great possibility of the ANC recalling Zuma before completing his term in 2019 when elections will be due. Were this to happen, the likelihood is that relations could chill almost immediately and the kingdom put under intense pressure to democratise by embracing a plural body politic, thus paving the way to multiparty democracy.
Thus in the grand scheme of things, the appropriateness or otherwise of what Simelane spews to further endear himself to his employers matters very little. For with all the problems facing South Africa’s governing party, the ANC, the neighbouring country and all others, with the exception of Zimbabwe, in the sub-region boast of open and almost stable democracies and strong national institutions.

The same cannot be said of the kingdom whose leaders incessantly boast of peace yet lead the rest in military expenditure per capita, notwithstanding the fact that the economy has relatively been the worst performing in the past few years.
The leadership and beneficiaries of the obtaining political system may argue but that will not change what it really is, an undemocratic monster that is responsible for impoverishing the nation while used to pursue lofty and impractical objectives that do not resonate with the majority of the people trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and plagued by disease.

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