Swaziland
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HAS SADC GIVEN UP ON US?

President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa and his Namibian counterpart Hage Geingob had a much-publicised meeting in the past week. Geingob was on a State visit to South Africa.

As we all recall, Namibia featured prominently when the Phala Phala scandal involving the SA president emerged. Phala Phala is the name of Ramaphosa’s farm in Bela Bela, Limpompo from which United States Dollars amounting to around E8 million were stolen in 2020. There has been a flurry of comments and a handful of investigations to determine if the president broke the law in any way. So far, he has come out unscathed.

However, Ramaphosa has found it hard to shake off this scandal, as questions about it keep following him. After his meeting with the Namibian president on Thursday, he was asked if the Phala Phala issue had featured in their discussions. “No, not at all,” replied Ramaphosa. While many emaSwati are fascinated by this story, what they really wanted to know was if their security issue had been discussed as well. It turned out that it was not particularly top of their agenda.

Yes, Eswatini featured together with Lesotho, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but there was neither a resolution nor a way forward on issues affecting this country. Geingob is the current chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, a position previously held by Ramaphosa. Both men have visited Eswatini in this capacity, on fact-finding missions to determine the gravity of the socio-political instability and possibly broker peace. At the time, most emaSwati pinned their hopes on a national, all-inclusive dialogue as the path to a possible solution. The two statesmen also felt the same way and promised to assist this troubled nation with facilitating this process.

In what may have disappointed many emaSwati, Ramaphosa and Geingob only wished the people of Eswatini well in their preparations for the elections. The kingdom was mentioned in the same sentence as Madagascar and Zimbabwe, which will also be holding elections this year. There was no mention at all of the word `dialogue.’ So, has SADC, which is the Southern African Development Community, and which we are members of, given up on us? We should hope not. However, most local commentators seem to have given up on having a SADC-led solution. This section believes that SADC is dragging its feet on our issue. That is how we, who are directly affected by it, feel. After all, it is the person wearing the shoe who feels the pain if it pinches. Government had promised that a national dialogue would be held before the end of the year 2021. Later, the killing of people, including members of the security forces by people who said they wanted change, was given as the reason for the delay in holding national talks.

preparations

It has been difficult to get comment from government regarding the stage of preparations for this important exercise. Undeniably, there has been a noticeable period of calm since the last attacks towards the end of 2022, but now, the narrative is that the national dialogue will not come before elections. Government does not need to spell it out for every liSwati what this means. It simply means that there will be no dialogue this year, if one takes into account the timeline of coming events. The elections process which starts with nominations in July, usually ends in October, when His Majesty the King appoints new ministers from the newly-elected and appointed Members of Parliament (MPs). This happens after the primary elections in August and secondary elections in September. October is only a few weeks before the King goes into customary seclusion. If the dialogue will not be held any time this year, when will it be held? So far, nobody knows. We also do not know what will be happening in the meantime. All we keep praying for is that the prevailing calm continues. We hope it is not the proverbial calm before the storm.

From where I am sitting, we might find ourselves waiting for too long if we place all our hopes on SADC. We need to come together as a nation, find each other and stop fighting. We need to come to a point where we will be able to cast away our fears, let go of grudges and consciously work towards reaching a win-win solution. By nation, I am referring to all emaSwati, from the leadership of the country down to the youngest person who understands what is happening in our country. Ego, arrogance and unforgiving hearts have no place in a society that is on the brink of a civil war. We cannot become another Sudan, where a civil war has intensified in just a couple of weeks, leaving over 400 people dead and thousands injured. This is due to a power struggle between two military groups that want to take over control of that country.  On April 15, 2023, clashes broke out across Sudan, mainly in the capital city Khartoum and the Dafur region.

The deadly fight is between that country’s two rival military factions, the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). It is said that the SAF is loyal to General Abdel Fatah al-Burhan, while the RSF, itself is a State entity, takes orders from General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. This conflict has foisted political and economic challenges for this country of over 46 million people. What should never escape us as emaSwati is the fact that the power struggle began before Omar al-Bashir who was regarded as a dictator, was ousted in 2019. The people of Sudan are learning the hard way that even ousting an unpopular ruler does not automatically equate to peace. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to avoid and prevent situations that may plunge any country into political upheaval.