Pretoria – Civil society groups have demanded that Swaziland’s absolute monarch repeal a 44 year decree banning political parties.
The decree which was passed in 1973 by the father to the current King Mswati III, "outlawed political parties, dissolved parliament and placed legislative, executive and judicial powers in the hands of the king".
In a joint memorandum,the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN), said that the Tinkhundla Royal decree was "a complete disregard of the peoples will".
SSN Spokesperson, Lucky Lukhele, said the majority of the people in the country were living under the poverty line, and the monarch was sustaining its repressive laws at the expense of the people.
"After four decades of heinous attacks on the living conditions of the Swazi people, your rabidly intolerant regime is a dismal failure. It has sustained all its regressive policies that impoverish the people at the barrel of a gun," said Lukhele.
Deeply patriarchal society
In recent years, the last absolute monarch in Africa has faced a barrage of criticism from rights groups and trade unions.
In July last year, King Mswati III was blamed for the oppression of women within his kingdom.
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) said that women in Swaziland continued to be oppressed and discriminated against despite claims indicating that the country was modern.
ACTSA described the country as a "deeply patriarchal society", with King Mswati remaining "unwilling to make any change".
"The King has demonstrated he is unwilling to change the status quo and promotes multiple aspects of the patriarchal society," the group was quoted as saying at the time.
Meanwhile, on its website, the Solidarity Centre in Swaziland said dissenting voices which were calling for greater parliamentary democracy were being targeted by the country's government.
"Unions and opposition parties pressing for a transition to greater parliamentary democracy have been severely repressed, with grassroots leaders beaten and imprisoned and groups banned from participating in civil society,” it said.
The centre also claimed that the country's biggest trade union federation, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) had consistently been targeted by the government.
Several leaders of the trade union and other civil society leaders have over the years been jailed.
In February 2014, Political activist Zonke Tradewell Dlamini was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment after being convicted on terrorism charges, reported the Swazi Observer.
Dlamini was co-charged with Bhekumusa Bheki Dlamini, the President of Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), a prohibited political group.
Bhekumusa was, however, acquitted and discharged on all three counts of terrorism.
Rights groups have often claimed that the Swazi monarch was using trumped up charges to deal with activists.
Amnesty International accused Mswati of using colonial-era laws to silence critics and detain political opponents.