It is getting clearer now that Mswati’s eldest child, Sikhanyiso, who is also Mswati’s personally selected Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is Mswati’s new trusted henchperson and is now clearly a sworn enemy of the mass democratic movement. Locals in Swaziland are already intimating that she could take over from the current prime minister in the next elections in 2023 and instil more draconian laws which the current prime minister is, in Mswati’s eyes, too weak to implement. The people of Swaziland must be alive to these developments and strengthen their democratic organisations accordingly.
The ambition to be the next dictator is easily understood through Sikhanyiso’s proclamation of a string of titles for herself, among others. Much like all narcissistic dictators, a few years ago Sikhanyiso referred to herself in the long title “Teacher-Pastor-Evangelist-Prophet-Apostle-Princess Sikhanyiso”. This, however, must be linked with the draconian laws she has introduced in parliament since she was appointed minister of ICT in 2018.
In addition to spending almost a whole year on maternity leave, while workers in the factories often have their right to maternity leave suppressed, in the short time she has spent in office she has already introduced draconian laws meant to muzzle the right to free speech. These laws are particularly directed at online and social media which have exposed the Mswati autocracy’s crimes against the people.
First, on behalf of her father, she introduced the Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill of 2020. The regime claimed this Bill would be focused on clamping down on fake news, among other acts – particularly focused on online media, including social media. On conviction, a person would be liable to a fine not exceeding E10 million (Over $600,000) or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or both. This law was defeated by the masses of the people of Swaziland and was later withdrawn.
When that Bill was defeated by the people, the regime returned with the Harmful Digital Communications Bill of 2020, which is focused on the same things that the Computer Crime and Cybercrime Bill was focused on. On conviction under the Harmful Digital Communications Bill, offenders face a maximum fine of E5 million (Over $300,000), or a jail sentence of up to seven years or a minimum fine of E500,000 (Over $32,000) – which the majority of the people in Swaziland simply cannot afford. This Bill will give the regime the right to charge anyone based on any flimsy conclusion that they caused harm against the royal family by criticising it. We know too well that, as it has happened in the past, the suppression will be directed against the pro-democracy movement and critical media. All these dictatorial measures were punctuated by a statement by Mswati’s prime minister on 11 November 2020 that the government will set up its surveillance to catch people that the regime deems to be in the process of breaking Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
It is a well-documented fact that, despite the monarchy’s absolute control of the media in Swaziland, online platforms have emerged to challenge the state-controlled media and have exposed many crimes committed by the regime. The regime is now desperate to shut down these independent voices in order to cement the lies it has, over the decades, spread through the tightly controlled media.
The Mswati autocracy has over the years attempted to introduce draconian laws meant to muzzle the people, often passed on a certificate of urgency, and each time the people rose up to defeat them. Sikhanyiso thus wishes to spread her father’s dictatorial rule with the hope that if Mswati dies, she will have amassed enough power to be the next dictator of our country. With the deployment of his sons in the army, the people will be faced with a more vicious autocracy.
It appears that Mswati’s most trusted prime minister, the late Barnabas Dlamini, who, it has emerged, was a sex pest who demanded sexual favours in return for money and international trips from female journalists working at state owned media, now has a suitable successor. While in office, Barnabas threatened to use the bastinado, in Swaziland known as “sipakatane”, against pro-democracy activists. The bastinado is a form of punishment or torture that involves caning the soles of someone's feet. He carried out many brutalities against the prodemocracy movement, with the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 leading to the murder of activist Sipho Jele in 2010 by the royal police, among other crimes against the people. The Terrorism Act had nothing to do with terrorism in the true sense, but was aimed at suppressing human rights protests, being one of his core contributions in the strengthening of the Mswati autocracy. He also bolstered himself up as a permanent enemy of human rights lawyers and journalists, as well as judges he viewed to be leaning towards the pro-democracy movement.
The CPS calls upon the masses of our country to take heed of these signs and get ready to defend themselves against these future enemies of the people, latent in our country today. This future struggle will demand more strength from the working class, including the commitment to defeat the regime by any means necessary.