Impending Critical Junctures for Civil Society | Freedom House

Impending Critical Junctures for Civil Society

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The following is a list of probable future critical junctures for which Swazi civil society should prepare to exert influence.

2013 elections and the formation of a new government

Political party participation is not permitted, and the elections will be held under conditions which will ensure an undemocratic outcome. Civil society should facilitate a flow of factual information about the registration of voters, nomination of candidates, voting and appointment of a government by the king.  The information should be addressed to the regional and international media, the SADC Secretariat, the African Union and the ACHPR, the IMF, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Southern African governments and governments with diplomatic accreditation in Swaziland, including those based in Maputo and Pretoria. The electoral process in 2013 will not be made any more democratic as a consequence of these actions. However, elections do attract international attention and provide an opportunity once every five years for civil society to reach audiences that normally take no notice of abuses in Swaziland. Rather than an opportunity to change the king’s behavior, civil society should view the elections as a chance to gain allies and win support for their cause.

Following these elections, King Mswati will be required to form a new government. Although it seems likely that Prime Minister Dlamini will return to office, five sitting ministers were not nominated during primary elections in August 2013, and four more have overstayed the maximum ten years in office. It is therefore likely that the makeup of the new cabinet will be quite different from the current one, presenting an additional opportunity for civil society to engage with new ministers who may be more open to discussing their demands.


A Commonwealth observer mission will be present in Swaziland for the 2013 elections as was the case in 2008. Civil society should maintain close liaison with the observer mission. Given that the king has ignored the recommendations from the 2008 mission, civil society should explore with the observer mission openings for the Commonwealth to increase pressure on the Swazi government. The possibility of expulsion from the Commonwealth should be addressed. Swaziland’s expulsion from the Commonwealth would be a serious blow to the image of the royal family, who enjoy receiving invitations to major British royal events.

International Labor Organization

At the ILO annual conference in June 2013, it was decided that the ILO will send yet another high level investigative mission to Swaziland. The principal purposes of the mission will be to look into TUCOSWA's deregistration and to put pressure on the Swazi government to abide by ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association. This will be an important opportunity for trade unions and other civil society organizations to involve foreign embassies, the media in South Africa and international human rights groups in following the progress and outcome of the ILO mission and incorporating the conclusions of the ILO in their Swaziland data bases.

Security sector build up

The Swazi government’s security sector budget for 2012 – 2013 includes provision for an increase from ZAR 1.3 m (USD 162.5 thousand) to ZAR 63.2 m (USD 7 million) for durable equipment and materials – probably lots of arms and military machines – and an increase from ZAR 52.7 m (USD 6.6 million) to ZAR 96.3 m (USD 10.7 million) for correctional services. Civil society should investigate and publicize the intentions of the Swazi authorities for using these large increases. Civil society should also attempt to trace the origins of new military equipment coming into Swaziland and should consider launching an advocacy campaign highlighting that the  arms are likely to be used for repression of fundamental freedoms. A central argument of this campaign should be that there is no armed resistance in Swaziland and so there can only be one purpose behind the government’s bolstering its security sector: to intimidate and attack Swazi citizens who have legitimate grievances.

Youth unemployment

Around 530,000 Swazis are under 15 years old. Unemployment for the 16 to 24 age group is over 50 per cent. Very large numbers of youth have lost parents to disease epidemics and many of the older youth must care for younger siblings. As the under 15’s enter the job market, there will be few jobs available. These circumstances are already an emergency for Swaziland, and civil society must seek assistance for youth and engage youth to channel their energies in support of peaceful and constructive change. By encouraging small-scale and relevant activities at the local level, civil society can involve young people in activities that hold meaning for them. In Africa, disillusioned youth are particularly at risk of becoming the foot soldiers for armed rebellions. It is vital that civil society organizations work to prevent that eventuality by engaging the youth in peaceful and constructive civic activism.

2014 – 2016 reduction in SACU transfers

It is widely anticipated that South African Customs Union transfers to Swaziland will decrease again in the period 2014 – 2016 and that this will cause another financial crisis for which the Swazi government will not be prepared. A full discussion of the role of civil society in such circumstances is included in the Recommendations section at the end of this paper. This includes recommendations for preparing for and dealing with a possible SADC intervention.

African Commission intervention

In 2012, 3 Swazi lawyers travelled to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Banjul, The Gambia where they presented compelling information on the troubling human rights abuses which have occurred and continue to occur in Swaziland. As a result of the Swazi lawyers’ intervention, the Commission issued a strong condemnation in the form of an official ACHPR resolution on Swaziland. The full text of the resolution is Annex 4. Should the Swazi government fail to respond appropriately to this resolution, Swazi human rights activists have made preparations to file a formal case against the government which could potentially result in a judgment against Swaziland and even an official Promotional Visit by the ACHPR to Swaziland. Such a visit would be an important opportunity for Swazi civil society to push for the government to make concessions on fundamental freedoms and human rights issues.