People's Parliament meets in Swaziland
3000 Swazis call for multi-party democracy
Among the many things that Swaziland lacks is a truly representative parliament. With political parties banned and King Mswati's power absolute, the members of Swaziland's legislature do not speak for their fellow Swazis - let alone represent their needs. So each year, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organizations (SCCCO) organises a People's Parliament to provide a much-needed platform for genuine debate and dialogue.
This year's event was held on Saturday June 9th and managed to bring over 3,000 people together from across Swaziland to strategise on and discuss matters of national importance.
Just gathering so many participants together represents a huge success in Swaziland given the constant pressure and intimidation that civil society activists face from the authorities - from the King to his government to his chiefs.
Drawn from communities throughout the country where SCCCO civic educators are working to break through the barriers of state censorship and control to raise awareness about the benefits of democracy and a more open society, the participants discussed a plethora of issues close to the hearts and minds of Swazis.
Topics ranged from the economy to land to education. But at the heart of the debate was the clear - and constant - demand for political reforms and the restoration of multi-party democracy in the country.
The People's Parliament also agreed that political changes are urgently needed to address the socio-economic challenges prevailing in the country.
Needless to say the Mswati will not listen and neither will his government nor his rubber-stamp King's Parliament. But others will - including the international community. And that also represents a success - since the People's Parliament was also established to counter the state funded and controlled Smart Partnership Dialogue, which the government promotes as part of its campaign to hoodwink the international community into believing that genuine dialogue is allowed - and is indeed underway - in Swaziland.
There is no genuine dialogue in Swaziland. And there won't be until more pressure is exerted on Mswati - particularly by South Africa. But it is still clear what Swazis want - true democracy and a more open society.