BARACK OBAMA CRITICAL OF SWAZILAND
MBABANE – CNN, the world’s largest cable news network, says President Barack Obama’s speech at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg hit very hard on countries like Swaziland.
The service was held on December 10, 2013.
CNN, headquartered in Atlanta, USA, said even though Obama did not mention names, it was apparent he was referring to countries that violated human rights and did not uphold the rule of law.
Analysing the president’s speech, Frida Ghitis, the World Affairs columnist for the Miami Herald and World Politics Review, cited Cuba first and later Swaziland’s political system.
“Consider who was sitting in the stadium listening to this tribute to the rule of law and democracy, to handing power to an elected successor.
“It wasn’t just Castro, who along with his older brother Fidel has ruled Cuba for more than half a century without permitting a democratic election, while engaging, according to human rights organisations, in “repression of independent journalists, opposition leaders and human rights activists,” she said.
“Along with (Rul) Castro in the VIP stand, ostensibly a honouring Mandela’s legacy, sat countless dictators and their right-hand men.”
She then had a dig at Swaziland: “It included the likes of Swaziland’s Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini, representing the small kingdom described by Freedom House as ‘a failed state’.”
Ghitis said Dlamini sat in the VIP lounge representing a small kingdom with shocking realities of oppression, abject poverty, hunger and disease.
The Times SUNDAY will not repeat everything she said about the country’s leaders.
She referred to Freedom House’s report that Swazi people had been denied their legitimate rights to have a say over how they should be governed and how the country’s resources should be used – thus defying the very antithesis of Mandela’s struggle.
She continued to say: “You can blame Obama for other things but don’t deny this was a piercing speech, a full-throated defence of democracy and freedom.”
She said Obama did not leave his audience to unpack the condemnation of the hypocrites that he brought thinly wrapped in praise for Mandela but he unpacked it all himself and placed it in the center of the arena.
“There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people,” Ghitis quoted the USA president’s speech.
She said it was a pity that many focused on Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro, the Cuban president and forgot to dissect his speech.
She told CNN that many were missing the much more poignant events that unfolded during Mandela’s memorial service in South Africa.
Ghitis is also a former CNN producer and correspondent.
“Sure, the handshake was noteworthy, maybe even meaningful. However, any satisfaction Castro might have found in the gesture, any comfort authoritarian regimes might have drawn from the moment of politeness toward a dictator, dissolved in the far more powerful message of the entire event and of Obama’s own resonant speech,” he told the CNN listeners and its website readers.
“But Obama came not only to praise a man but came to shine a light on the values that made him worthy of admiration and the causes that made his struggle reverberate the world over.
She said it was a moment for stony discomfort among those who travelled to South Africa representing undemocratic and repressive regimes.
“Like America’s founding fathers,” Obama noted, “(Mandela) would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations, a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.”
She went on to say Mandela managed one more victory in death: subjecting a who’s who of the world’s oppressors to the indignity of sitting through a memorial service that overflowed with praise for the principles of democracy, freedom and equality.
Another thing that made the VIPs cower in shame was Obama’s emphasis on Mandela’s super-humanity demonstrated by his ability to forgive his former enemies.
Obama quoted Mandela’s words during his 1964 trial, when he said, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.”
Ghitis said citing those particular words was like unleashing daggers against the likes of Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe since 1987, who sat in the audience along with scores of celebrities and foreign dignitaries.
Like Mandela, she said, Mugabe led his country to victory over white rule.
However, unlike his neighbour, she added, Mugabe grasped power without letting go and engaged in a vindictive campaign against white Zimbabweans, which wrought misery for blacks and whites.
“You could list the men, the countries, the regimes, that should have felt directly attacked by Obama’s words in a crowd that included envoys from China, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Jordan and many other states whose leaders are not popularly elected and the many others guilty of repression and human rights violations,” she said.
SD is democratic – Percy
MBABANE –“We refuse to entertain ignorance; the CNN is one of the media houses that made the world believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it turned out to be a blue lie,” said Percy Simelane, the Government Press Secretary.
Simelane said the democracy that prevailed in Swaziland allowed for the populace at all levels of life to choose their representation in Parliament as the “dictates of true democracy.”
“Persons from communities where candidates are imposed on the electorate should be the last to criticise us,” he said.
The government press secretary said Swaziland did not have torture cells around the world and ‘there was no Guantanamo Bay prisoners’. He said there was no Swazi in any refugee camp around the world, no coup d’etat and no civil war since history.
“We have said time and again that we have a constitution that was adopted by the people at the
cattle byre. The constitution contains the views of the people on how they must be governed. It was not imposed on them,” he said.
Simelane said the country’s leaders ruled the country on the basis of public views which were time to time submitted to them by the entire nation at the cattle byre.
“We have a Parliament that is elected by the people. The constitution provides that a certain percentage of ministers must come from the people,” he said.
He said the courts were independent and the media houses followed their policies when reporting.
“As a country we don’t understand why we are perceived as an undemocratic state when the will of the people determines the way we do things,” he said.
He said the person who analysed Obama’s speech missed the point.
“Swazis live in peace. We resolve disputes amicably because we are a peace-loving nation. Tourists enjoy themselves here because it’s safe everywhere you go,” he said.
He said Swaziland could be the only country that allowed her people to meet and discuss issues of governance.
“In some countries the people are represented but everyone is allowed to have a say in Swaziland, not through a representative,” he said.
What democracy? - TUCOSWA
MANZINI - Vincent Ncongwane, Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), said Swaziland should not pretend to be democratic.
He said the right to freedom of speech, assembly and association was being violated with impunity.
He said the best thing government could do was to open up political space, remove oppressive laws and unban political parties. Ncongwane said political parties should have a right to form a government.
“We cannot claim to be democratic when other groups are not allowed to vote and form a government but one can only vote on an individual basis. There are many people in Swaziland who want to vote as a group advocating for a certain thing and that is why we are calling for government to unban political parties,” he said.