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THE 1973 DECREE PUZZLE

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image TUCOSWA’S Vincent Nqongwane

MBABANE – A move by government to have the April 12, 1973 King’s Proclamation to the Nation officially repealed was stopped by some influential traditionalists who feared Swaziland could become a republic if this law was repealed.


One of the traditionalists who spiked the gazette revoking the law is Brigadier General Fonono Dube, who was a member of Liqoqo, an advisory council to His Majesty the King.


Dube was at the forefront in defending the decree and ensuring that it remained in the statutes.
The King’s Proclamation to the Nation is also referred to as the 1973 Decree.
It bans or criminalises the operation of political parties.


The issue of the abolition of the decree is presently a subject for debate in the United States, where the international federation of workers lobbies the US government to consider renewing Swaziland’s eligibility to AGOA after she had, among other things, presumably annulled the decree.
AGOA means the African Growth Opportunity Act.


This Act offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets.
The argument by the traditionalists to keep the decree in the statutes was that it was the `heart’ of the country and its repeal was tantamount to killing the whole country, – the whole government machinery, thus depriving authorities of powers to govern the kingdom.


A gazette had already been prepared by the government to repeal the decree in August 2005 but forces in the traditional corridors stopped the process.
The Times SUNDAY is in possession of the copy of the gazette that was to repeal the law. Although the gazette repealing the decree would have been signed in August 2005, the repeal was to come into effect on January 25, 2006.
“The Kings’ Proclamation to the Nation of 12th April 1973 is repealed with effect from 25th January 2006,” reads the gazette that was to pronounce the repeal of the law.
Logistics were that the Constitution was to come into force on January 26, 2005 but it ended up coming into force on July 26, 2005.
In 2011 and 2012, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) called on the Government of Swaziland to abrogate this law. The term used by ILO to repeal the decree is “abrogate.” 


Abrogate is an English word borrowed from Latin meaning to abolish, do away with, or annul, especially by authority.
The abrogation has never been done to date.
Investigations by the Times SUNDAY unearthed that traditionalists opposed to the abrogation of the proclamation argued that the advent of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland automatically abrogated the decree and any other law inconsistent with it.


Therefore, they went on to say the abrogation of the decree through an official instrument was not necessary because the Constitution was in force.
Unions still insist that the decree should be annulled with authority, in public, just like it was publicly proclaimed in 1973.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Fonono Dube briefly said: “There was no way we could have revoked a law that establishes the country. We couldn’t have allowed the authorities of the country to annul the decree because that would have turned the country into a republic. We don’t need a president in Swaziland. We need the King.”


Prince Logcogco, the chairman of Liqoqo, said he did not remember what really transpired and would be of no assistance in this regard.
Prince Logcogco chaired the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), which worked for 10 years, trying to come up with the national constitution but failed.
The document was eventually put together by the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) appointed in 2003 and chaired by Prince David.


Let’s meet in court - AG


MBABANE – “Why do they want us to annul the 1973 decree through a gazette?
“Anybody who claims his rights have been violated by the decree should go to court on the basis of the Constitution,” said Majahenkhaba Dlamini, the Attorney General (AG).


He said unions were disseminating wrong information on the decree to the outside world. He said the decree was non-existent and it was a lie that police used it to harass them.
“Police have never used the decree to violate their rights,” he said.


He was concerned that people wanted the decree annulled through a gazette yet government had verbally declared in public that it was not in force. “Why do they want us to revoke the decree through a gazette? What if we don’t want to do that?” asked the AG.
The AG advises Cabinet, Parliament and the King’s Office. He is an ex-officio member of both Cabinet and Parliament.


Percy Simelane, Government Press Secretary, says government has no record of a gazette spiked by Fonono Dube and other traditionalists behind the scenes.
“It would, therefore, be folly for us to even to attempt to respond to Dube’s claims, particularly because he has been saying lots of things of late which other quarters refuted,” said Simelane.
The Times SUNDAY is in possession of the gazette that was spiked.


Remove this law – unions


MBABANE – Unions have reminded government to abrogate the 1973 King’s Proclamation to the Nation.
The Trade Unions Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) said the 1973 Decree was still a “hot topic”, which the country should address.
Vincent Nqongwane, the Secretary General, said the decree was still existent.


“The AU (African Union) would not have made comments on the freedom of assembly and association if the decree was not existent,” he said.
He said there should be an instrument annulling the decree because the country would lose market related incentives for keeping such a law in its statutes. He said it was not enough to revoke the law as Parliament should enact a law to regulate the formation of political parties.
Nqongwane said the law should also make provisions for the participation of political parties in the administration of government.
“We see the effects of 1973 in Swaziland everyday,” he said.


Muzi Mhlanga, Secretary General of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), said the country’s workers’ representatives took the matter to ILO.
He said ILO engaged Paul Benjamin to investigate the matter and present his findings in a report. He said workers submitted to Paul Benjamin that the 1973 decree was still in force and Benjamin agreed with them in his report.


“The 1973 decree is still on the table. We discuss it each time we meet international organisations because we know that it is still in force,” he said.
 “The decree must be abolished. The Attorney General says it doesn’t exist because the Constitution is in force. It’s not true that it does not exist, the decree is in force.”


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