Let Swazis NOT watch films

By Richard Lee | November 20th, 2013

You would think – considering how often everyone is told that all Swazis love their king – that he wouldn’t mind them seeing a documentary about The King and The People. Surely it would be something that every good Swazi should see?

And yet, police broke up a screening last week and now the Times of Swaziland has weighed in with a review that says that the film makes ‘allegations which cannot be repeated because of their seditious nature’.

And what are these seditious allegations? Well they obviously aren’t to do with the country’s social and economic crises since the paper reports that the film highlights Swaziland’s high levels of HIV, food insecurity and poverty.

And they obviously aren’t to do with the calls from the people of Swaziland and civil society activists for a return to multi-party democracy – since that is also mentioned in the report.

So it must be all the factual material about King Mswati’s absolute control over all three arms of government, the military, the economy, the huge Tibiyo Trust and much more. But why would the authorities think that these facts are seditious? And that Swazis should be shielded from them?

Perhaps because the film paints an accurate picture of the realities of power in Swaziland – realities that most Swazis are probably largely unaware of due to the regime’s control of the media: realities that show that everything that happens in Swaziland – the good and the (mostly) bad – can be laid at the door of the all-powerful monarch.

And yet the documentary is not a revolutionary work. It does not – in any way – call for the removal of the King or an end to the monarchy. It very clearly calls for change because the current crisis of governance – and the ensuing social, economic, political and judicial crises – cannot be allowed to continue if Swaziland wants to grow, develop and prosper.

But it calls for peaceful change to a constitutional monarchy and a multi-party democratic system.

But clearly it is not a message that the King and his entourage like the sound of. And therefore, they are going to do everything they can to stop Swazis from hearing it even if this means illegally preventing film screenings and trampling - once again – over the fundamental freedoms of speech and expression.

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