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The Eswatini masses have rarely had the opportunity to understand or enjoy the dignity of being treated as human. Our government, past and present, has always denied us of our entitlement to individual rights. Because Eswatini does not protect emaSwati, some individuals have evolved group affiliations to protect themselves. Today most people of this country ascribe humanity only to those of ‘their’ own affiliations. Everyone else is sub-human and, therefore, deserving of the worst affiliations from nature, society and law. We have come to accept the unjust detentions, assaults and displacements.


But without the recognition of human rights, there can be no social equality. Without social equality there can be no social justice and without social justice, corruption and patronage will continue to flourish. A society cannot fully exploit the potential of its citizens until all its members are allowed their full expression as humans. A challenge is that we conflate human rights with ‘western culture’. Human rights protect the weak. We will achieve natural dignity by placing a non-negotiable value on the life of every citizen. Unfortunately in Eswatini even the right to life has to be earned. Those who seem to enjoy human rights are those who have purchased them through political or economic currency.


Naturally this has stimulated the general of ironic perception that human rights are a tool used by the powerful to escape justice. Concurrently, human rights advocates are often accused of defending only the rich and powerful. This is unfair. All over Eswatini thousands of workers are dedicated to the rights of the underprivileged, but it is rare for these cases and stories to get into the media. It is simply unfortunate that in a country where people ought to fight for the protection of rights, those who should be more enlightened have aided in propelling resentment against human rights advocates. Yet the goal of advocacy is not to strip the powerful of their rights; it is to ensure that rights are equally recognised for everyone. This distribution is important. Many focus on attacking the powerful but advocacy is about empowering the weak.

We will dismantle privilege by enforcing the rights of the underprivileged. If we focus simply on denying justifiable rights to the privileged, we will only end up creating a new set of equally powerful people. It is unfortunate that we, the people, are passive while charity and international organisations try to cajole government into respecting the lives of emaSwati.
We seem to have fully traded our rights to life, liberty and the dignity of our persons for solidarity with our partisan affiliations. Today we not only accept oppression as a natural state, but we also kick against those who declare otherwise. I have watched, horrified, as some emaSwati aligned with government to attack organisations that try to hold government to basic standards of behaviour. Maybe I am idealistic, maybe this dysfunction is a fundamental nature of our Eswatini state; I don’t know.

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