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Mbandzeni, Sobhuza era and now, which is people focused?


King Sobhuza II of Swaziland in this undated picture

Over time, whenever I think of our economic trajectory over the years going back into King Mbandzeni’s time who ruled the country from 1875-1889, and selectively going to King Sobhuza II era (1921-1982) and today’s era, logic would have had it that we are more able now to do and perform better than the past eras I have chosen to look at, as such, developmentally we should be much better, tactfully we should be much better, economically we should be much better, innovative wise we should be better, creativity wise we should be better, but are we better? Is the question.

This brought me to attempt to line up different policies, styles, strategy and tactics of government of the different times. I must confess that over time I would laugh forgivably though, when told about how Mbandzeni gave away land in exchange of personal goodies such as necklaces, bangles and sometimes good breeds of hunting dogs. But over time I asked myself hard questions such as, what Kind of advisors did he have? Were they just Praise singers and not advising him about relevant good governance of the time and his responsibility as the leader to his people? Did they only told him what he wanted to hear? Were they honest enough to guide him against selfish decisions at the expense of giving away Swazi Nation land for all the generations to come? Did the advisors know the value difference of the ornaments such as the necklaces, bangles and dogs’ versus the land being given away? Were the advisors benefitting from the silence? Were they too afraid to tell what he would not like to hear? Was Mbandzeni dismissive or arrogant to good advice? I do not have answers to these questions, but the truth is, good amount of land belonging to the Swazi nation which Mbandzeni was holding in trust for, was given away for selfish reasons without the consent of the peoples of Swaziland.

One would not be sure why the historians and writers who chose to write about Mbandzeni at the time, did not inform us about his economic policies or philosophy, hence there is not much we can pick through researched material available, but at least one can deduce that, with all the selfishness, the country did not have deficit, did not have any debt, did not have loans, as the transactions of the land purchase, was made through the battering system, did not have significant unemployment, minerals were intact and not selfishly exploited, yet the knowledge gap economically and otherwise between then and now is huge, weighing all that I still believe Swaziland was wealthier then than it is now.

I then come to the Era of King Sobhuza II, the Head of the Monarchy institution who I would describe as having been politically selfish and economically selfless, I say this because through his own 1973 Proclamation to the nation(King’s Decree) he selfishly from no offence from anybody declared a state of emergency and privatized the country politically as he centralized all the powers the independence constitution had placed to the three different arms of government to himself alone, and remained accountable to nobody. He also banned political parties, banned the Bill of rights, introduced the army and introduced the sixty days (60) detention without trial against anybody who would violate the decree, in short he reigned and ruled and committed a coup de tat against the 1968 independence constitution of the Kingdom. A case of 2004 submitted by the Lawyers for Human rights, challenging the 1973 decree as illegitimate, the court agreed that King Sobhuza II committed a coup de tat by usurping and revoking the 1968 independence constitution with complete disregard of the constitutional dictates, as constitutionally there was a requirement of a referendum before a national constitution could be revoked, and it can only be replaced by another peoples’ agreed interim document before another constitution is brought about through an all-inclusive dialogue process until its formal adoption after civic education, and according to African Charter, any state of emergency should be an interim, short term and a close gap measure, in our case the state of emergency decree lasted for (32yrs.) over three decades as it only was replaced by the current constitution in 2005.

However King Sobhuza II was economically and socially selfless, as we are told and we learn that Big investors who required land for their businesses, would be guided to also ensure that they develop infrastructure for the workers and their families around the workplaces as such big industries that came during his era, such as the Havelock mine, were a full house, meaning there was constructed a full village, with houses for workers, clinics and hospitals, schools for their children, recreational facilities for workers children and the workers themselves, Mhlume Sugar company also remained a full house, Simunye, Ubombo, Usuthu Pulp that became SAPPI and Now Montigny, this policy cut across government parastatals such as the Swaziland Railways, the Swaziland Electricity Board, Namboard, The Swaziland National Provident Fund, institutional houses for the Armed forces, teachers, public servants ad health employees.

He also established lifa fund (from citizens levy of a cow per Household that later became the current TIBIYO held in trust for the Swazi Nation for the purpose of repurchasing back land for the people and later created an economic policy where Tibiyo became an active partner and a serious shareholder to big businesses in the country. A trust held by the King for the Nation.

He had good and positive visions for people having, encouraging them to plan ahead and save during good times for later years when they are old. That led to the establishment of the Provident fund, Tisuka Takangwane for other purposes and target groups, he travelled sparingly, he spent sparingly and was always concerned about the welfare of his people, he had good investment policies those that would at least make everyone manifest continuous development of people and new big investments, during his era there was job creation of quality jobs, Swaziland could produce television sets, unemployment was insignificant ad almost nothing to talk home about, every Swazi remained a potential King’s advisor, no one was on contract and payroll to advise their majesties, but their majesties would tap advice from any person on a specific issue, there were no heavy overseas delegations, there were fewer tertiary institution strikes, education system was much stronger and an envy to many nations in the region and beyond. We had the following mines in operation:

Bulembu Asbestos Mine, Dvokolwako Diamond mine, Mpaka coal Mine, Usuthu Pulp, Salora TV Manufacturing, Matsapha Paper Mills, and many others.

Today in our epoch, we do not have major investments coming our way our policies are no longer investor friendly, as such no major creation of jobs but ever growing unemployment, education quality ever deteriorating, disharmony and disgruntlement between public sector workers and government on the increase, there is disharmony between the legislature and the Executive in as far as accountability and respecting of parliament as it plays its constitutional oversight role the example being the refusal of the President of Senate to appear before the PAC, when the new government took over, they promised to cut expenditure including reduction of overseas delegations, but that is getting worse than ever before , loans are ever increasing as such government is borrowing into the future and robbing the future generations of this country, leaving them a debt instead of an inheritance to be proud of. Spending patterns on non-people, and non-development focused projects and goodies are on the increase. The question is where are the advisors? What are they doing? What are they advising? Are they necessary anymore? Where is the cabinet? Where is the effect and impact of the strategic road map except increases of taxation on the services? To the Pastors, priests, prophets and reverends within the advisory structures of their majesties, where are the Daniels of this epoch? (Daniel was the prophet who interpreted the writing that was dreamt by King Nebuchadnezzar whose interpretation of the writings said Nebuchadnezzar’s days were numbered due to unpleasant governance in Babylon), Where are the Nathans of this epoch (Nathan was the priest who told King David that he was wrong to take Uriah’s wife and killed Uriah, yet he (King David) had plenty wives), as biblically every leader(King) had among their advisors Priests or a prophets, I can say without much hesitation that the days of our economy are numbered our problems are bigger than the people exclusive strategic road map, these challenges need a political all-inclusive result oriented dialogue and the time is like yesterday.

Jan J Sithole


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