Tinkhundla system of government cannot be democratic
If the only definition of democracy is “The government of the people for the people and by the people themselves,” then the current system of government in the country cannot and does not fit the definition of democracy, but seriously nothing else but a dictatorship.as the elite dictate how the taxes of the majority is spent without accountability and with minimal service delivery.
This is confirmed by the reports of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank(WB) which states that Swaziland is Middle income country and the poverty we see is caused by the skewed distribution of wealth where a few enjoy the biggest share of the wealth we produce and the majority share the crumbs.
Whilst the tinkhundla regime has adopted the constitution with a Bill of Rights and does not overtly ban political parties it is a dictatorship in practice and in statute.
The non-compliance with the Bill of rights enshrined in the constitution is a resounding evidence and testimony that there is deliberate and systemic defiance of the constitution and neglect of the basic needs of the ordinary citizens.
Economically the rich are getting richer the poor poorer through over taxation and no returns on service delivery. Those who call for their rights and ask for dialogue through peaceful submission of petitions, their petitions are received but they are never responded to. The only arm of government that receives and responds to petitions is parliament.
Every basic need that seeks to make the lives of the people better are completely and deliberately undermined, and the examples are as follows;
· The perennial non-resolve for the university and college students’ scholarship issue,
· The perennial non-resolve of the tertiary students allowance issue. This issue was resolved by parliament but the then Minister on behalf of government defied the parliament decision which was to restore the unilateral deduction by government from E27,000/ annum/learner to E9,900/ annum/learner without consultation with the students[s1] .
· Government has since decided to pay them monthly which actually means a further reduction because bank charges will further reduce the already highly reduced allowances, this is unjust and not fair to say the least, particularly if as a country we continue to say education and skills development is priority.
· Concerns over the lack of sufficient drugs in public health centres, something which government has systematically engaged a denial mode at the peril and expense of the populace’s right to life and right to public health services.
· The resolution by parliament to re-categorize the Public Pension Fund as 100% as government owned because that is 100% workers money.
· The cannabis legalization should benefit the lowers in society but what we read on daily newspapers if it is anything to go by, the political will is not at the right place.
The definition of government which says “government is a social contract between the governed and the governing, “and that in this relationship, the governed arte the paymasters to the governing, the current system of government also fails dismally to fit this definition.
There are a number of different systems of government but democracy remains the globally most preferred because;
· Other systems do not observe or respect the basic principles of fundamental rights and the universality thereof;
· Dictatorships do not respect the doctrine of separation of powers
· Autocratic systems of government do not encourage checks and balances
· Fundamental human rights are not guaranteed.
· Decisions are top-down all the time
· Popular participation is not considered except when they are to pay tax, pay for increased prices on basic food and commodities such as bread, fuel, electricity
· The organs of state are not neutral
· Citizens have no rights but the responsibility of paying tax without calling for accountability and transparency
· Rule of law is not observed
How is the Constitution of Swaziland doing?
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland whilst still at the embryonic stage. It contains certain democratic principles, such as the following;
Chapter 3 with the Bill of Rights contains:
- Protection of Right to life
- Protection from slavery and forced labour
- Protection form deprivation of property
- Equality before the law
- Protection of Freedom of Expression
- Protection of Freedom of Assembly and Association
- Protection of Freedom of Movement
- Rights and Freedoms of Women
- Rights of Workers
- Rights of persons with Disabilities
- Citizens’ Rights
- Right to Representation.
- Social Objectives
- Economic objectives
- Commission on Human Rights and Public Administration
Where is the problem currently?
This is a question that is asked by anybody that reads our Constitution. The problem is that democracy is not measured by the good documents after ratification and domestication of international conventions into Constitution or Statute but it should be a life-style enjoyed in law, spirit and in practice by all citizens of the country irrespective of status, gender creed or political affiliation
The constitution is a rights giving document and a birth certificate of a nation, the rights enshrined in the constitution can only be accessed when there is a law and statute that regulate the rights and make them accessible to the citizens. Without those enabling laws the constitution whilst it is a supreme law, its provisions remain inaccessible to the citizens it was designed to benefit.
, it is important to mention the basic pillars of democracy before I venture into the different definitions thereof, they are as follows;
1. Free Economic Activity
2. Respect for Human Rights (Bill of Rights)
3. Separation of Powers
4. Respect for the Rule of Law
6. Press Freedom
7. Tolerance to dissenting views
8. Fight against corruption
9. Regular free and fair elections
11.Protection of Minority Rights
12.Peoples’ Right to Know
14.Right to self determination
15.Good Governance, Accountability and Transparency
16.Neutrality of State institutions
17.Equality before the law
I am happy to mention that almost all the above attributes and pillars of democracy are contained in the constitution of the country’
Right to self determination
It is time for the entire electorate to apply their right to self-determination, as enshrined in Section 63 on the rights of Citizens in our Constitution This means it is now an opportune time ton call government to account call for democracy and call for the respect for the rule of law as section 63 of the constitution reads thus;
“The exercise and enjoyment of rights and freedoms is inseparable FROM THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS, AND ACCORDINGLY, and IT SHALL BE THE DUTY OF EVERY CITIZEN TO;
(d)Respect the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of others, and generally refrain doing acts detrimental to the welfare of other persons.
(e) Promote democracy and the rule of law elect men and women who will have capacity to make a government that will lead this country to dizzy heights selflessly without respite.
(g) Protect and preserve public property, and to combat misuse and waste of public funds and property.’
Remember silence in the face of injustice makes the silent party equally guilty with the perpetrator of Injustice.
Jan J Sithole