The beautiful images, a few months ago, of the 60th Birthday Celebration of the Lesotho’s Constitutional Monarch were emblematic of how far the Basotho have come as a Nation, with their King who continues to unite the happy Nation.
Indeed, Lesotho, a country known for its serene mountainous landscape, beautiful culture and historically topsy turvy politics – often resulting in bloody coups, has finally turned the corner and appears to have tamed its fragile political tapestry with the emergence of the new Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party under businessman, Sam Ntsokoane Matekane, who cruised to victory in elections last year.
The now Lesotho Prime Minister sent the usual big guns packing by securing a comfortable 38.99% of the vote allowing it to form a stable government for the first time in decades.
But,the victory of the RFP was not a zero-sum game in Lesotho politics, owing largely to its blend of single-seat constituency voting and the proportional representation multi-party-political system which allows all political parties to still have representation within the legislature thus building a political culture based on the need for consensus and collaborative government.
The fragility of Lesotho’s political history has often been wrongfully cited by the conservative ruling elite of Swaziland (eSwatini) as the primary example of why Swaziland must continue to banish political pluralism and the existence of political parties in the Swazi political scene.
Unlike his Lesotho counterpart, King Mswati III of Swaziland has over the decades firmly chosen to maintain the deceptive, dangerous and disastrous path to self-destruction instigated by his father through the 12 April 1973 decree, when he unilaterally staged a coup d\'état against the people, banning political parties and freedoms.
The 1973 decree created a non-party state in which all executive, legislative and judicial powers are vested in himself.
This status quo exists to this day, despite the creation of a new constitution in 2005, which obviously, failed to transform the political architecture engineered after the events of April 1973.
The current system, known as tinkhundla, has created window-dressing public institutions such as a castrated and powerless rubberstamp Parliament, a captured judiciary and an executive arm fully commanded by the king that give a veneer of democracy while the country is by all intents and purposes a full-scale royal dictatorship.
While Lesotho has grappled with its fractious politics over the past decades leading to the current ruling government of the RFP, Swaziland has equally had to deal with an increasingly restive citizenry that is demanding their right for political parties to legally exist and to democratically form a government of their own choosing – not the perennially appointed government that does the king’s bidding in total neglect of the needs of the people.
King Mswati has used his unfettered powers over all levers of the state to live a life of wanton lavishness protected by the brute force of the security forces whose sole mission is to protect royal interests by all means necessary – leading to ubiquitous human rights violations such as extra-judicial executions, torture of human rights defenders and democracy activists, incarceration of dissenting voices and the total closure of civic space in the country.
In tandem with these atrocities is the unprecedented collapse of the social contract and the public services delivery system resulting to pervasive drugs stockouts, medical equipment, and personnel shortages in health centres across the country.
Furthermore, an ailing and uninspiring education system with a collapsed national university, high unemployment levels, a poor public roads network in rural areas, and increasing levels of poverty and inequality – all of which collectively led to the infamous June 2021 political unrest, saw the massacre of over one hundred Swazis by the security forces under the King’s command.
Tomorrow, King Mswati plans to have his own birthday celebrations dubbed the 55/55 double celebrations marking both his 55 years of life and the country’s 55 years of self-rule from the British.
Known for throwing lavish and eye-raising parties in the midst of an impoverished nation, King Mswati is expected show off the mother of all bashes with an alleged recent purchase of 20 new Mercedes Benz Maybach luxury vehicles for himself and his wives – a practice normally in line with historic patterns of behaviour by the spendthrift monarch leading up to similar events. And the vehicles are probably just a drop in the ocean on the extent of malicious expenditure that has likely taken place already!
But King Mswati has a colossal problem. Unlike King Letsie III, he has succeeded in sowing seeds of disunity in the nation by branding those seeking democratic reforms as terrorists while embracing the conservative camp that allows him unfettered access to and control over the wealth of the country.
Resultantly, his extravagant double celebrations are unlikely to reflect a happy and united nation. Instead, the brutally suppressed but growing voices of dissent that are clamouring to be heard will cast a shadow over what should be a ceremony to unite the people, reflect on the past 55 years, and look ahead to a better Swaziland for all who live in it.
Perhaps, King Mswati should learn a thing or two from King Letsie III before it is too late – for the forces that he thinks can easily be ignored or suppressed by the barrel of a gun cannot be erased from the surface of the earth.
King Mswati’s throne and perhaps the future of the entire royal family stand in great jeopardy. Even as he eats cake tomorrow, uneasy will lie the head that wears the crown!
King Mswati(pic: PHOTO: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images).