Zimbabwe, Swazi Diaspora sends an SOS to Pres. Zuma

Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma
Image: SA President Jacob Zuma

It is a crucial time for the 51 million people of South Africa, the 1 billion people of Africa and a large section of the world  – as President Jacob Zuma gears up to present his state of the nation address.

This is because South Africa is Africa’s powerhouse and a major player in world affairs.Of the millions who have placed their hopes on Zuma, there is a section that has sought protection from South Africa having left their countries because of political and economic pressure.

In this crucial time in the Southern Africa region, special focus is on Zimbabwe and Swaziland – two neighbours beset by political and economic problems which are a drawback to South Africa’s progress.

Transform SA spoke to the leadership of the Diaspora from these countries, to find out what they would like to hear from President Zuma, and this is what they had to say:

Lucky Lukhele of the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN):

Our hope is that as the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) a South Africa based organisation our President His Excellency Jacob Zuma will be more precise and drive for action regarding the resolutions taken in Mangaung about Swaziland.

They are the most progressive resolutions ever taken by the ANC on Swaziland. All what we expect is action on those resolutions. And we appreciate that they are not outside the SADC Protocol. All we need is for the President is to direct the Ministry of International Relations to take action on the resolution.

We call on South Africa to open up support for Comrade Amos Mbedzi, a South African hero who is wrongfully and illegally incarcerated in Swaziland by an oppressive regime that is denying people of their human rights whilst squandering the people’s wealth.

We note with hope that the South African government constantly intervenes for citizens convicted in other countries for drug related crimes. We urge the South African government to do the same for its citizen and hero Comrade Amos Mbhedzi. He did not embarrass anyone. He is our Che Guevara.

It is a fact undisputable that South African Business is the biggest loser when it comes to this. There are many South African companies which have interests in Swaziland.

If Swaziland is ushered into democracy, Business South Africa wins. It means that there will be fewer people fleeing the country into South Africa; Swaziland would have good schools so that Swazi children would not have to go to South African schools in order to get a good education. This appeal also goes to our neighbours Mozambique.

Philani Ndebele of the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF):

The Zimbabwe Diaspora expects President Jacob Zuma (as the facilitator of the Zimbabwe GPA) to be clearer and accountable on the progress made so far in addressing the Zimbabwe political impasse as it continues to affect the region.

The President in his State of the Nation address must highlight the urgent need to respond immediately to the impending constitutional stalemate between the principals in Zimbabwe.

He needs to persuade intentional spoilers to follow the process of the GPA and work with Zimbabwe in ensuring a constructive outcome to the Constitution making process, a level playing field for a Referendum and an election whose outcome will be accepted by all parties.

The President must highlight the urgent need to deploy the SADC Technical Team to work alongside the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) and seek ways of expanding this team to support the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ahead of the much anticipated Constitutional Referendum and Elections.

He must also unveil a plan that seeks to involve civil society in SADC decision making processes particularly with regards to Zimbabwe.

This will ensure a full implementation of the GPA guidelines an investigation on how security formations such as the Joint Operations Command are undermining and circumventing the transition process.

This also includes an immediate deployment of South African and regional civic monitoring groups to ensure the creation of an enabling environment towards free and fair elections.

Written by: Musa Ndlangamandla – Transform SA Ad Sales/Editorial Executive.

Musa is a senior journalist from Swaziland and until January 2012 he was Chief Editor of The Swazi Observer Group of Newspapers. He is a former advisor and speech writer to King Mswati III. Musa studied Law and holds a number of certificates from leading schools of Journalism. He has travelled to over 35 countries on assignment. He also writes as a freelancer for various leading publications.

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7 thoughts on “Zimbabwe, Swazi Diaspora sends an SOS to Pres. Zuma

  1. I can see that our brother and sister from Swaziland and Zimbabwe aren’t concerned about about the recent arrest of 19 Congolese in South Africa, they are not concerned about African Migrants plight in South Africa even the killings of more than 6,000,000 of Congolese and the rape of women and children there.

    How can we get President Jacob Zuma to say a bold statement about our respective countries without us having a common vision about SADC leadership and governance?

    I would like to hear the President Jacob Zuma saying a clear vision about good governance, clear leadership (e.g: Zimbabwe, Swaziland, DRC, even Mozambic. We want to hear also a progressive immigration policy within SADC which can enable skills transfer and trade.

    Jean-Pierre A. Lukamba

  2. South Africa has a crucial role to play in drawing attention to the ongoing efforts to bring Swaziland and Zimbabwe in line with the broader democratisation project across the SADC region. Democracy here should mean more than just giving people the vote in a free and fair election, and more than just assuring that the rule of law is entrenched and guided by a properly democratic constitution.

    SADC has the opportunity to become a leader in the efforts to build forms of cooperative partnership between civil society, the state and the less exploitative elements within the private sector, but it still has a long way to go.

    The Department of International Relations and Cooperation should strive to ensure that it puts people before profits and uses the social, economic and political muscle of South Africa to apply the necessary pressure.

    DIRCO has the power, along with its allies, to entrench a Southern African regional culture that puts into practice the solidarity principles and values that guided the collective efforts of leaders and citizens to liberate South Africa.

    Let us turn liberation into freedom for all!

  3. The people of South Africa need to set an example. Not just our President or our Government. Civil Society, Business, Labour and Government need to speak out with one voice in solidarity with our neighbours across the SADC region that are tirelessly pursuing liberation, democracy, good governance and transparency. We need to condemn efforts to override the democratic process by undermining the constitution making process; we need to condemn corrupt leadership and the extraction of rent from impoverished citizenry and we need to condemn the war on women’s bodies and human rights atrocities that continue to occur unhindered within the DRC.


    SSN-STATEMENT: March 2nd , 2013

    The King of Swaziland and his finance Minister have given us a glimpse of what the nation should expect in the near future in the annual Speech from the Throne and the Budget Allocation speech, respectively.

    It is only appropriate that we dissect and pose pertinent question to these long speeches. While it would make for good time reading to analyses every point made in the two speeches, it is important to note that that the primary focus should be on the political aspect, which ultimately determines everything else.

    Before delving into the details of what the despot, king Mswati, wished his mannequins in parliament to listen to, it is imperative that it is remembered that his raison de etre is, was, and always will be to be the overlord and master of the population of the tiny kingdom for the purposes of living off the riches of the land, regardless of the poverty within the country.

    It is for this reason that it must be highlighted that king Mswati remains by far the biggest financial drain to the Swazi state. Despite siphoning public funds into private investments, and running Tibiyo Taka Ngwane as his private investment company, he continues to use public funds to finance his lavish lifestyle and that of his ever increasing family.


    The latest reports from our ever reliable sources indicate that:
    1. A total of R256 million is used annually as royal emoluments. This amount, which is shared between his wives, children, his half-brother and their mothers, and other relatives of the royal family.

    2. In each of his numerous trips overseas the state forks out $50 000 for him alone, $40 000 for his accompanying wife, and $15 000 for each of his children and their friends and relatives. In total, this amount, which does not include accommodation, transportation and living expenses, can amount to $ 500 000 (R4 million), which is allowances alone.

    3. A little known fact, not reported in the Swazi media, is that he has constructed a private multi-million road between his two palaces at Lozitha and Ngabezweni. Unlike in other palaces where the surrounding homesteads at times benefit from the roads leading to the palaces, this one is totally private and inaccessible from any public roads. This road also leads to an underground bunker that he recently constructed, which is separate from either palaces. These recent reports are merely the latest updates on the royal family’s spending habits. They are a drop in the ocean when compared to the numerous multi-million investments that are siphoned from the country’s treasury and invested in private companies, at times using the king’s name or a trusted henchman.
    The nation is therefore burdened with a greedy and very selfish man who believes that he is entitled to this lifestyle by virtue of being born into a certain family that has historically been at the center of the Swazi nation. All pretenses to be governing the country on behalf of the nation are therefore nothing but empty rhetoric designed to stave of the inevitable democratization of the country.


    In the speech from the throne the dictator glossed over what he regards as a turnaround in the country’s economic fortunes, exaggerated the role of the people’s parliament in order to present his country as a democracy and as usual expressed his wish for an education system which produces more entrepreneurs and visionaries, yet presenting no plan on how this would be achieved.

    Economic and Fiscal Challenges

    After receiving a larger than usual share from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the country appears likely to avoid the tumultuous events of last year which lead to the king having to personally jet to South Africa to seek a loan from the South African government. The King could not hold back from gloating about the fact that the state had been able to turn things around this year, labeling those who focused on the root causes of these fiscal challenges “dividing voices”.

    He went further to thank the ancestors, the almighty, his business associates and so-called individual citizens for helping the country throughout this challenging period. No mention was made of the huge sacrifices made by public servants who despite being overtaxed, with the introduction of VAT and numerous import levies on basic foodstuffs, and facing high levels inflation were forced to forego salary increments because the king had decreed that his own personal needs came before those of his “subjects”.

    In what was an insult to the nation and public labour, the King used the opportunity to thank his government for continuing to provide financial support to the royal ceremonies that glorify him and his family. These are ceremonies which continue to cost the tax payer millions in Emalangeni, despite the high levels of poverty. The King further defended his decision to introduce the highly contentious Value Added Tax (VAT) to a population which already pays very high taxes. The continuation of this tax is not negotiable, as the King decided that instead people need to be educated about it. Such is easy to say for a man who pays no taxes at all and yet lives off the country’s revenue.

    Unlike in previous years, no specific mention was made of the high levels of poverty in the country, where over seventy percent of the population lives below the international breadline. In summary the king used his speech to boast to his enemies that the country under his stewardship had survived where they thought it would fail.

    This is shocking coming from a king who is traditionally looked at as a unifier and arbitrator. He could have better used the opportunity to win over dissenting voices by being honest with the state of the economy and pledging to cut down on his holidays and lavish spending. This might have given weight to his plea, or command, to the nation that it should work harder to revive the economy.
    Elections and Sibaya

    Sibaya is the window-dressing exercise which was convened at the royal kraal last year in order to allow the country to let off steam after a grueling two months of strike action from teachers in the country. This exercise is extremely informal and serves as a Public Relations stunt to convince outsiders that the common man has a say in the running of the country. The recording of people’s views in not audited and therefore subjective. Despite these obvious short-comings the king used his speech to lie to the nation that every submission made at the royal kraal would be implemented.

    As yet, the are two very important submissions which were made at the kraal by numerous people but are yet to be implemented. The first, which was supported by conservatives and pro-democracy activists alike, is the sacking of the current cabinet. The second one was that political parties should be allowed to function in the country’s political landscape. None of the two were implemented and there is no plan to implement them in the near future simply because the king disapproves of them.

    In what should be regarded as an open admission that the country’s parliament is useless, the king stated that Sibaya is the highest decision making body in the country. Sibaya in this instance not being the people’s parliament per se but the throne itself. No event proves this beyond a shadow of a doubt more than the king’s refusal to sack his cabinet despite the numerous pleas from Sibaya and a vote of no confidence from parliament.

    In a political environment where there is a clear dichotomy between rulers and subjects, what use is having the latter filling a parliament which obviously has no political power? Despite this, the king has set aside a total of R200 million to cater for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. He has further used every opportunity to urge every Swazi to come out and participate in them. This shows that he has a vested interest in the spectacle.

    His interests are served in two important ways; the first is in convincing impressionable Swazi minds that Swaziland is a democratic country because like other countries it allows the existence of national elections. This is despite the fact that he has openly admitted that the parliament that the elections are for is not a decision making body. This parliament is also for keeping up appearances to international observers that Swaziland is also a modern state with all three arms of government.

    Having the nation boycott this window-dressing exercise would therefore be a Public Relations coup by the population because it would mean that the facade has been exposed and the people want a genuine parliament with the power to make decisions.


    The budget allocation for this year is a mirror reflection of the focus on pampering the royal family and its sycophants, while doing enough for the ordinary population to avert a crisis. This explains why the king’s personal amusement projects, which promise to be a further burden on the economy, have been given priority over social spending.

    Tax Wasting vanity Projects

    Most bizarre among these is the plan to construct a new building to house parliament. This is a totally unnecessary waste of public funds, not only because the Swazi parliament is a merely advisory body but also because the current parliamentary facilities are in excellent shape and will not even require extensions or rehabilitation in the immediate future. The plans to build a new structure are therefore clearly a result of king Mswati’s legendary vanity, which to date have resulted in the creation of three other such vanity projects.

    Sikhuphe, the new airport which has been under construction for over a decade, will cost the tax payer a whooping E220 million on completing its construction alone. This figure does not include the funds that the government is yet to allocate to construct supporting services such as police, fire, meteorological services and new controlled urban areas. Above that a total of E57million will be set aside this year for the preparations of the airport’s operation. Thus, in total the quantifiable amount set aside for this project, this year alone, is E277 million.

    Another pair of similarly projects whose value to the country is highly questionable have been allocated a total of E110 million. These are the ICT Park and the Royal Science and Technology Park. According to the Minister, the two projects are meant to help build a knowledge based economy.

    This assertion is rich coming from a government that has embarked on reducing the amount of money allocated to scholarships in its new scholarship policy, which aims to eventually phase out the grant part of all scholarships. This assertion also contradicts overall government spending on tertiary education, as the newly constructed Nazarene University of Southern Africa only received a meager E 3 million to help in its construction.

    This attitude of putting the cart before the horse, spending on infrastructure while spending less on the necessary human resource capital required to make use of that infrastructure, is also exhibited in the allocation of a staggering E100 million for the construction of factory shells in a country without a concrete plan for creating local entrepreneurs.

    Corruption and Money Laundering

    The pledge to implement existing laws to curb corruption in the country is a yearly song rendered by the finance minister, and it is made particularly mundane by the fact that he has been quoted saying that the country loses over E500 million annually to the corrupt activities of certain “untouchables”.
    External Economic security observers have correctly highlighted that the reason why it is difficult to deal this rampant corruption in Swaziland is because the royal family continues to harbor these fat cats, and its status in relation to the law makes it impossible to uncover such malpractices.

    Social Expenditure

    Overall social expenditure remains a low priority to the government. Elderly grants, for example, have only been increased by a mere E20, an amount whose buying power is equivalent to one a single trip between the country’s two cities, or two loaves of bread. It is an insult to the elderly who in recent years, and the long term future, have been forced out of retirement in order to care for households as the HIV pandemic continues to ravage the country.
    The health sector itself remains only 3.2% of the total national budget. Despite assertions by the finance minister that spending on drugs has tripled, the reality is that all government hospitals experience drug shortages as patients are expected to buy their own medicines from private pharmacies. Moreover, these hospitals are understaffed and under equipped.


    Despite what the King and his Minister would have us believe, it is clear therefore that Swaziland is headed for worse economic times. The country’s windfall from SACU may have prevented a total meltdown in the immediate future; however the overreliance on SACU for revenues as a result of an economy which continues to underperform will soon prove to be a costly mistake.

    The underlying reasons why Swaziland’s economy continues to perform well below its potential is due to its increasingly kleptocratic nature. Swaziland has over the years been able to attract interest from investors who experience difficulties in opening their businesses due to policies that are not conducive to investment such as the monopoly in the mobile telecommunications industry and the king’s insistence on being a shareholder in every major business.

    Despite its classification as a middle-income earning country, Swaziland is still heavily reliant on foreign grants simply because the redistribution of wealth is extremely skewed. This in effect means that the bulk of the country’s wealth is reserved for the royal family, while the rest of the population has to live on whatever remains of that and the foreign handouts. Such a situation is not sustainable in the long term and leaves the country vulnerable to fiscal challenges.

    The best way forward is therefore the curtailing of royal emoluments in favour of increased social spending. Health and education are not the privileges that the government believes they are. They are crucial investments which may be the deciding factors between whether the country eventually attains the status of a self-sustainable state or becomes a failed one.

    The numerous vanity projects which will continue to cost tax payers in operating costs well after completion are better off sold to private investors, failing which they should be converted and annexed to existing institutions of tertiary education, with the money saved used to continue to finance the education, health and general social needs of the population. These suggestions, although not likely to be heeded by a government which owes its existence to the royal family, are the most logical and proven suggestions for a developing state. However, this focus on overall development can only be the priority of a democratic country where citizens are free to contest for political power either as individuals or as part of political parties.

    Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN]

    Lucky Lukhele-Spokesperson
    072 502 4141

  5. Am from Limpopo where Amos Mbedzi was born, SA goverment dznt care about people who hzve been politically prisined

    Break the chain Realese Amos mbedzi

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