SADC won't object to King Mswati's chairmanship

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Swaziland's King Mswati III delivers a speech.

CAPE TOWN - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) felt it was not its place to block Swaziland’s King Mswati III’s election as deputy chairman of the regional bloc as it would have meant intervening in the affairs of a nation that has “no problem” with their monarch, Deputy International Relations and Co-operation Minister Luwellyn Landers said on Wednesday.

“Swaziland is a member of SADC and to now raise an objection to the head of state being the deputy chair of SADC, I think does not make sense. The thing to have done, is to raise our objections, if there were any, at the time when they joined SADC as members. It is a little late now,” Landers said at a media briefing where he reported back on the SACD summit held in Botswana last week.

At the summit, Botswana’s President Ian Khama took up the seat of chairman of SADC and Mswati III that of his deputy.

“I don’t know why there are no objections. You have to raise that with the heads of state and the people of Swaziland. When this matter was raised some of us wanted to know, well, shouldn’t something be done and the response was should that not be for the people of Swaziland to raise, as a serious objection?” Landers continued in response to a question about the suitability of a monarch for the position.

“The people of Swaziland love their king. They have no problem with their king. So are you and I going to cross the border and enter Swaziland and say hey … what’s the problem here?”

The Swazi king is Africa’s last absolute monarch and has shrugged off calls to democratise his nation. A ban on political parties has been in place for more than four decades, political protests are forbidden and many dissidents are exiled in South Africa and Mozambique.

In June, the Swaziland Supreme Court ordered the release from prison of human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and magazine editor Bheki Makhubu. They had served 15 months of their respective two-year sentences for contempt of court handed down after articles critical of former Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi appeared in The Nation magazine, one of Swaziland’s few independent media outlets.