Swaziland. In January, the country’s largest trade union conducted a two-day general strike demanding democratic reform. At the same time as Parliament was debating a new constitution, the union demanded that King Mswati’s absolute power be limited. A large array of police and military guarded the capital, where demonstrative workers came in buses.
According to countryaah, Mbabane is the capital and one of the major cities within the country of Swaziland. While two-thirds of the population lived on less than a dollar a day, 40% of adults were estimated to be HIV-infected and an equal proportion were without work, the king’s intrinsic luxury life continued. The criticism of his purchase of his own car for half a million US dollars had not been able to settle until the king in February bought his ten wives was his new BMW. In May, the king’s eleventh wedding was held.
- Also see abbreviationfinder.org for how the acronym WZ stands for the country of Swaziland and other meanings of this two-letter abbreviation.
When, after eight years of preparation, the draft constitution was adopted by Parliament, the king refused to sign it because he was dissatisfied with certain elements. Eventually the conflict was resolved and the law was signed in July. Although freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and freedom of religion were enshrined in the new constitution, political parties were still banned. In practice, the guarantees of civil rights were not expected to bring about any major change in the closed social system.
In August, the king ordered, without stated reasons, that the country’s girls and young women should throw away the cotton fabrics which he had the year before invited them to wear as signs of chastity. The scheme was initially intended to curb the widespread spread of HIV. Prior to World AIDS Day, December 1, the King declared that they planned the events, including The Prime Minister’s speech, would be canceled on the grounds that they clashed with a traditional harvest party. AIDS activists were very critical because Swaziland is the world’s worst HIV-affected country.
The new century opened for the Swaziland under the banner of a substantial continuity of the authoritarian tradition that connoted it as the only absolute monarchy in a regional context now open to democratic transformation under the pressure of the political evolution of Mozambique and the South African Republic. In fact, the democratic openings of the new law on trade union relations (2000) appeared to be of very modest importance, which, admitting a limited right to strike, responded very partially to international pressure and to the requests of the International Labor Organization. Also the report, published in August 2001, of the commission for constitutional revision established in 1996, while admitting that the recognition of the fundamental rights of the citizen was not in contrast with the traditions of the Swaziland, he recommended a further extension of the powers of the monarchy. The persistence of an authoritarian conception of power was confirmed by the introduction, in June 2002, of new rules on internal security which limited the possibilities of manifesting dissent, by the iron control exercised over the judicial system even towards minimum levels of independence, or by the refusal to respect the decisions of Parliament when it expressed itself contrary to the will of the sovereign. In this context, the legislative elections, held in October 2003 with low participation in the vote, were boycotted by the opposition, which in April 1999, despite the ban on the formal constitution of political parties, they joined the Swaziland Democratic Alliance. In February 2006 a new constitutional charter came into force (the previous one had been suspended in 1973), which provided for the recognition of freedom of assembly and speech and equality between the sexes, but retained a structure strongly permeated by references to tradition and decidedly authoritarian. The ruler stood above the law, did not pay taxes, could not be sued and could not be criticized.