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Predictably, emaSwati’s expectations about this week’s emergency summit of the apparently dysfunctional Organ Troika of the equally deficient Southern African Development Community (SADC) would clear a definitive pathway leading to a meaningful national dialogue to resolve the kingdom’s political impasse will be disappointed that these are misplaced. The euphoria is misplaced because nothing close to their expectations beyond rekindling old camaraderie among the leaders in attendance would be achieved by the summit.

But before lancing the boil of the scheduled Thursday extraordinary summit of SADC’s organ on security and political cooperation in Pretoria, South Africa, under the chairmanship of President Cyril Ramaphosa, there is this matter of Sri Lanka with its striking and startling similarities to undercurrents in Eswatini. The events and narrative leading to the occupation of the official presidential residence by the people and the eventual ouster of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is almost identical to what ensured in Eswatini leading to last June’s political upheavals.  

An economic meltdown owing to bad stewardship of the ship of state manifested by bad governance, reckless spending and a growing mountain of external debt the island nation was finding hard to service triggered a tsunami of protests that saw a critical mass of people storming and occupying the official presidential residence, the incumbent had earlier fled. But the similarities do not end there, since at the centre of it all was President Rajapaksa’s family who were running that nation’s administration - or should it be maladministration - in charge of key and strategic portfolios in government courtesy of nepotism. It was the Rajapaksa family that brought the island nation down to its knees with a little help from COVID-19 which had earlier collapsed its tourism industry, its economic mainstay.

But the similarities ended there. In Sri Lanka there were no reported casualties from trigger happy security forces, who apparently understood that they were in the service of the people rather than the leadership. The president, who has since resigned, fled the country in the midst of the protests. It can be expected that a new government will be elected in the coming weeks or months because, with the exception of the economy, unlike in Eswatini nothing else was broken, that holds the people together.


No lessons can be gleaned from the Sri Lanka developments because Eswatini had been through it all already, but at a great cost to human lives and property. While property can be restored to its original state unfortunately the dead cannot be resuscitated; the maimed cannot be restored to their full physical and mental capacity and; those uprooted from their families cannot be easily restored to their normal lives. In the face of all this, is an apparent resistance from the leadership to open up the political space to proponents of multiparty democracy. Empirical to this is the continued political prosecution and persecution of two legislators, Member of Parliament (MP) Mthandeni Dube of Ngwempisi and MP Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza of Hosea. In addition to that is a lack of political will and commitment to an all-inclusive national political dialogue to chart a fresh beginning and a new political, socio-economic charter for the kingdom.

The only hope for Eswatini seems to be Thursday’s extraordinary summit of the Organ Troika. But there is very little that suggest that meeting will change anything. The Organ Troika failed to get anything off the ground since last year in the midst of the political unrest. Just how hopeless it was is further demonstrated by its failure to grab the initiative after it had been sold a dummy by the Eswatini leadership that a national dialogue would be convened after Incwala. Just why this ceremony was superimposed over the future of the country and the nation in the wake of the brazen murders of dozens defenceless emaSwati protesting against an unjust and oppressive regime is unfathomable. Suddenly the country and the citizens became captives to culture. Even more so why President Ramaphosa allowed himself to be played this curve ball is all the more mystifying. But sold a dummy he was because it is now over a year since the civil unrest but the Organ Troika is still on the starting blocks with the tenure of its chairman ending next month.

As I see it, Thursday’s summit is but a final hooray for President Ramaphosa and team to wrap up an uneventful year. Consequently, the summit is merely to prepare hand-over notes to his successor. It is hard to comprehend why President Ramaphosa failed to live up to expectations, especially those of proponents of multi-party democracy. Instead he chose the ignominy of the leader who elected to focus his energies on the far off Russia-Ukraine conflict, in which he was articulate on how the United Nations ought to have intervened and neglected his neighbours. Given the proximity of Eswatini to South Africa, it is hard to think that President Ramaphosa was not aware what was happening on his doorsteps, or that he found this country insignificant in the broader scheme of geopolitical relations, that he shoved it on the back burner.

Perhaps the lack of reaction and condemnation over the murders of as yet unconfirmed number of emaSwati by the security forces, which the Human Rights cursory inspection put at 46, is a tell-tale statement about how emaSwati lives do not matter to SADC. The position of the eSwatini leadership on the subject of the national dialogue is common cause. It simply is not interested even if it says something to the contrary. The tale of conditions not being conducive for dialogue as mouthed by Prime Minister Cleopas Sipho Dlamini is just that, a tale. It is like riding a crisis until it fizzles out before attempting to resolve it. When a dialogue would have lessened the tensions and probably stopped the bloodletting that is happening on either side of the political divide, government is continuing to fiddle and it is this uncertainty that is further inflaming a fragile environment. Is this the leadership emaSwati deserve?    

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