Third Eye

Silent wave in continent to discard old ways

Friday, July 2nd, 2021 00:00 |
King of eswatini.

It has been an interesting week in Africa from the southern tip of the continent to the eastern part.

From Eswatini, formerly the Kingdom of Swaziland, famed for its reed dances that attracted both tourists and human rights activists to the mountain kingdom’s capital, through South Africa, and all the way to Kenya and Ethiopia, a lot has been evolving in the political scene.

The reign of Mswati III, the Ngwenyama of Eswatini, has come under serious strain.

Born to King Sobhuza II and one of his younger wives, Queen Mother Ntfombi Tfwala, in 1968, King Mswati III assumed reins of the kingdom in 1986 when he was only 18 years, making him the then youngest ruler in the world.

Since then he has been famed for acquiring a wife every so often during the national reed dances, so much so that today the size of his harem is disputed with some putting the number at 15 women while others say the number could be higher.

In a country where over 60 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, the King has been accused of living a luxurious life at the expense of his people. In 2014, over USD 61million of the national budget was set aside for his household.

But the anger of the kingdom started to build when the state bought luxurious cars for each of the King’s wives.

The crown of the purchase for the royalty was a USD 500,000 DaimlerChrysler’s flagship automobile Maybach.

Since then, this kingdom with a predominantly young population averaging just 20 years, has been clamoring for change.

Mswati III appoints the Prime Minister, but the youthful population has been demanding an elected Prime Minister with executive powers and other reforms.

It is these protests that have culminated in the recent flare ups with now lack of clarity, as to whether the king is still in the country or had fled to South Africa as claimed by his detractors.

In South Africa the former President Jacob Zuma has had the going rough as well. Zuma left office in a cloud of claims of corruption.

Through his friendship with the Gupta family, the businessmen had been accused of capturing the state through the acquiescence of President Zuma.

Since the,  the public prosecutor has relentlessly pursued Zuma leading to his conviction this week of contempt of court.

The court gave Zuma five days to turn himself in or else be delivered to a correction center to start serving his 15-month prison term.

For long, Africa had been characterised as the rogue continent where the rule of law did not apply.

But Southern Africa is telling a different story. Early last year, the court in Malawi nullified the election of the then President Peter Mutharika.

But Malawi had a precedent for the Kenyan Supreme Court had served the same menu to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.

The elections in Nairobi had to be repeated in elections that the opposition party led by Raila Odinga boycotted.

Kenya does not seem to be done yet. A case is currently being heard in the Court of Appeal where a motley of petitioners had taken the President supporting BBI process to court asking for the nullification of the process.

The High Court obliged, forcing the President and his team to appeal to the Court of Appeal. And we are still in Africa. 

Then there is the unfolding story in the horn of the continent where Ethiopia has been battling rebels in a part of the country. It is not clear whether the rebels won the battle or the government chose to go the ceasefire way.

There is a silent momentum in the continent where the old ways are giving way to new forms of doing things.

Who would have thought that a former African president could be committed to jail, that a king could be in trouble for ignoring his people, that a government would be considering a conversation with its people. There is something new in Africa. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

More on Third Eye