When evaluating the performance of any governing structure it is crucial to establish a baseline, a point from which its actions are considered at least acceptable.
For any national government structure that point is the extent to which it upholds its own constitution and adheres to the values of that society. In our country the constitution is violated daily by the very institutions entrusted with giving it meaning. We are now witnessing bloody land disputes particularly the recent one at LaMgabhi, eBhunya where former Minister Ntuntuko Dlamini allegedly shot and kill two residents merely because the unresolved issue of land is now creating tension in the country.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development through the various municipalities seems to be taking advantage of the Swazis by demolishing their structures and in the absence of a independent justice system, the citizens are on their own.
Demolishing a structure that has been built by hard earned money by poor Swazis is not only inhumane and degrading to the victim but it is tantamount to terrorism. The demolitions currently occurring in the country’s peri-urban centers, ticintsi, are an abomination, unprincipled, unchristian and unconstitutional and in the final analysis expose a government that lacks foresight.
These areas are caught up in the middle of the country’s biggest contradictions. Those contradictions are two-fold. The first is the duality of authority that they fall under. In what is strange and baffling ticintsi are currently governed both by chiefs and the local municipality, as an isolated issue this is bound to cause problems.
However what further compounds the problem is the second and worst contradiction which is the warped and distorted understanding of the idea of development held by those who pursue a vision of the country being a First World Country within a year and few months’ time. This vision is what is responsible for the rapid urbanization of the country’s peri-urban areas because they apparently make the country’s cities look “unsightly”.
Urbanization is a good thing if done properly and the people who do it take it upon themselves to raise the necessary resources required to undertake it. This is unfortunately not what is happening in the country’s urban areas. What is happening is that people are being forced to use their own resources to manifest somebody’s vision.
As an example, it is common knowledge that prior to building on municipal land the owner of the building has to have the plans of the structure approved by the council’s technical staff who have to make aesthetic and safety considerations.
This is a very acceptable, and at times necessary, procedure which makes the most sense in completely urban areas that are totally governed by the municipality and have a well laid out infrastructural framework for such structures. Imposing such a requirement, by force, to new structures being built in the midst of old structures that, for the most part do not conform to the new municipal requirements, is unfair and at times defeats the purpose.
What further compounds this is the lack of foresight by the country’s national government, in particular the ministry concerned with urban development. Trends indicate that the amount of land under municipal authority is ever increasing as Swazi National Land is gradually being annexed by municipalities. Despite this very obvious trend no mechanism has been created to ensure that all areas earmarked for annexation are properly planned in order to conform to urban standards.
What good is a conforming structure if it is constructed in a poorly planned environment with an improvised road network and, at time, no public waste management system?
It is within this context that it is best that the municipalities should best focus their efforts on their future annexations and accept that new structures built on the current annexations be allowed to be, for the time being, until such a time that the government will be able to compensate families, plan the entire area and provide the necessary infrastructural development that are standard in urban areas.
It is not difficult to imagine that at some point in the future the town of Ezulwini will merge with Mbabane to form a metropolis. All areas in between, be they title-deed farm land or Swazi Nation Land, will obviously be annexed. Yet despite this the Ezulwini town board and Mbabane Municipality have not shown any signs of meeting to plan for the inevitable.
Roads, sewerage and other public infrastructure should already exist for that entire area and traditional authorities should be well aware of them to ensure that all new settlements are made within this framework. Without this attitude, this vision and pro-active foresight, we will continue to witness these savage demolitions.
Cattle on Swazi Nation Land(PIC: James Hall/ IRIN)