Swaziland: Political party legislation

Updated September 2008

Political parties were banned in Swaziland through Proclamation No 7 of 12 April 1973 issued by King Sobhuza II (Levin 2002, 1009; Mzizi 2005, 2); this proclamation has not since been repealed. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland (2005) makes no mention of political parties, but does include a clause guaranteeing freedom of association, namely Article 25. According to a news report by Nqobile Ndlovu (2006), the Swaziland High Court ordered the government to register the little known African United Democratic Party as a legal political party on the basis of this clause (and others) in the Constitution. According to the same report, the ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has agreed to comply with the court order.

According to a news report on 14 August 2007, in response to media reports to the contrary, King Mswati III asserted that political parties remained banned (IOL 2007). In April 2008 the Chair of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Chief Gija Dlamini, reiterated that political parties were unlawful and would not be permitted to take part in the 2008 House of Assembly election; despite the prior High Court ruling he asserted that the freedom of association clause in the constitution did not extend to political parties (Simelane 2008). In July 2008, in arguments put to the High Court, the Attorney General Majahenkhaba Dlamini said that parties were indeed legal, but not permitted by law to participate in elections, saying, "when it comes to public functions they have to come as individuals" (cited in Mamba 2008).

Given the curious legal situation that has arisen, there is no legislation in Swaziland governing aspects of political party life such as registration, regulation, funding and financial control.

Developments after the 2008 election

Extracted from: Deane Stuart 2009 "Chapter 12: Swaziland" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 497-498.

Late in the night of counting day four men attempted to blow up a bridge leading to a royal residence over the highway at Lozitha. The premature explosion killed two and one escaped. The fourth man was injured and captured. The incident caused tension between the government and political activists, because the latter refused to condemn the bombing outright. Subsequently King Mswati said that political activists, whom he called terrorists, would be eliminated (Times of Swaziland 2008; Swazi Observer 2008; Article 19 2008). The Suppression of Terrorism Act, 2008, which was signed into law by King Mswati on 7 August, was used on 14 November to declare a number of groups 'terrorist organisations'. The banned organisations were Pudemo, Pudemo's youth wing Swayoco, the Umbane People's Liberation Army and the South African-based Swaziland Solidarity Network. The leader of Pudemo was arrested and charged with terrorism, as were 15 others, including the president of Swayoco. According to Amnesty International, some of those arrested have been tortured and maltreated while in detention. On 27 November 2008 journalists were warned by the attorney-general that the government would not tolerate support for terrorists by them (Amnesty International 2009, 5, 9-10; MISA 2008).

Amnesty International criticised the Suppression of Terrorism Act for the vagueness of its terms and provisions, which enables arbitrary application of the law, the curtailing of a wide range of human rights, the exposure of those detained in terms of the law to the risk of abuse and torture and its disregard for the fundamental principles of procedural justice (Amnesty International 2009, 8). The Swazi government replied that the law fulfilled its obligations to combat terrorism under international law, that it was based on UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1373 (2001) and was drafted using model legislation developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat (Government of the Kingdom Of Swaziland 2009). After the inauguration of President Obama on 20 January 2009, the United States's ambassador called for the repeal of the Suppression of Terrorism Act and said that President Obama had issued a policy directive that the US would no longer provide support to undemocratic governments (thus threatening Swaziland's textile industry's exports in terms of America's African Growth and Opportunity Act. Times of Swaziland 2009).


AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 2009 "Swaziland: Suppression of Terrorism Act undermines human rights in Swaziland", [www] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR55/001/2009/en [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 31 Mar 2010).

ARTICLE 19 2008 "Swaziland: Counter-Terrorism Not A Pretext for Repression" [www] http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/swaziland-counter-terrorism-not-a-pretext-for-repression.pdf [opens new window] (accessed 31 Mar 2010).

CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF SWAZILAND 2005, [www] http://aceproject.org/ regions-en/eisa/SZ/CONSTITUTION%20OF%20THE%20KINGDOM%20OF% 20SWAZILAND%202005.pdf [opens new window] (accessed 9 Mar 2010).

GOVERNMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF SWAZILAND. 2009 The Government Of The Kingdom Of Swaziland's Response To The Report By Amnesty International Headlined: Suppression Of Terrorism Act Undermines Human Rights In Swaziland, [www] [www] http://www.gov.sz/home.asp?pid=5539 [opens new window] (accessed 31 Mar 2010).

IOL 2007 "Swazi king maintains ban on political parties", 14 August, [www] http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=84&art_id=nw20070814144900719C520543 [opens new window] (accessed 9 Mar 2010).

LEVIN, R 2002 "Swaziland: Recent History" IN MURISON, K (ed) 2001 Africa South of the Sahara 2002, Europa Publications, 1009-1015.

MAMBA, S 2008 "No parties during elections says AG" , Swazi Observer, 25 July, , [www] http://www.observer.org.sz/main.php?id=45619&Section=main&articledate=Thursday,%20January%201,%201970 (offline 9 Mar 2010).

MISA 2008 "Critical journalists could be viewed as 'supporting terrorists' and arrested, warns attorney general", [www] http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98624 [opens new window] (accessed 31 Mar 2010).

MZIZI, JB 2005, Political Movements and the Challenges for Democracy in Swaziland, EISA Research Report No 18.

NDLOVU, N 2006, "Swaziland: Government finally registers kingdom's first political party", African News Dimension, 10 May 2006, [www] http://southernafrica.andnetwork.com/index;jsessionid=D49CE6B5C2149B30FF4536E172DFCE9B?service=direct/1/Home/older.titleStory&sp=l34096 (page off-line 9 Mar 2010).

SIMELANE, T 2008 "No political parties at elections", Swazi Observer, April 9, Swaziland@Newsletter 61, [www] http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/SAK-Swazinewsletter/message/109 [opens new window] (accessed 9 Mar 2010).

SWAZI OBSERVER 2008 "SA 'bomber' charged with high treason", 22 September, 3.

TIMES OF SWAZILAND 2008 "SA man charged for Lozitha bombing", 22 September, 3.

TIMES OF SWAZILAND 2009 "Editorial: Obama: SD's nigttmare?", 23 January, [www] http://www.times.co.sz/index.php?news=4835 [opens new window] (accessed 31 Mar 2010).