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On September 6, 1968, at noon, the independent Kingdom of Eswatini was born. Fifty years on, citizens of the kingdom celebrate Independence Day despite one’s ideological or political persuasion.

Political differences aside, it is a day to reflect on a colourful past, celebrate the kingdom’s birth and envision a common future. The country’s independence was unique. It marked the end of British colonial rule in Africa. From a political and developmental perspective, it dispelled the prevailing notion that ‘modern and traditional political forces were incompatible’. The mercurial rise of political figures in the drive for freedom had also ushered in a call for freedom and a call for unity.

The attainment of independence in 1968 stirred an air of hope and ‘great expectations’. Contrary to sentiments in some circles – that government has been a failure - we seek to reveal that because government had been socially conscious, it achieved considerable success. Government’s response to the great expectations has been emphatic to say the least.

When one surveys the literature on developmental issues as well as the role of the State in development, one draws the basic conclusion that the State has a key role to play in bringing about development. This view has not been lost on various individuals who have thrived to ensure that development takes place in the kingdom. Key figures in government and society are driven by certain factors to act in a pro-poor manner.

  This is in contrast to accusations of leaders being entirely driven by corruption. The ‘social consciousness’ thesis asserts that factors driving elites include recognition of mutual dependencies, assumption of responsibility for helping the poor and existence of feasible conditions. It is our contention that upon the attainment of independence, government adopted policies which can be described as ‘pro-poor.’ In short, extended access to education and health, provision of social security and other similar acts are surely not reflective of a negligent government.

The founding fathers of African states were nationalist. They were driven by a genuine desire to better the lives of the populace. These sought to reverse the injustices of the colonial system which denied the majority a chance towards a better life.

A bulk of these individuals endured hardship and deprivation in order to ‘free their people’ from subjugation. Not only did they want political freedom but they also desired social and economic freedom for their people. It is in this brief historical footnote that Eswatini should be seen as a developmentalist State.

A major challenge for African nationalists such as King Sobhuza II, was how to deliver ‘real development’ to a people so previously disadvantaged. The response to such historical imbalances created by colonialism necessitated a response by government which required it to be development-oriented.
History and posterity shall record that the King was a man greatly interested in the social uplifting of the populace. It was through sagacity and foresight that government deliberately engaged as a matter of policy and importance on building schools.

Education was placed as a priority for the kingdom as it had the potential to kick-start the development of the country. Emphasis was placed on primary, secondary and tertiary education. Since independence, government has facilitated and even built schools countrywide.

Like any country, the kingdom has its fair share of problems – corruption of bureaucrats, slumping growth, clamours for representative government and widening wealth gap among others. However, these should not deflect or cloud the achievements realised since the attainment of independence.


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