Bishop of Swaziland speaks truth to power

Bishop Meshack Mabuza, of the Diocese of Swaziland, has come out strongly in opposition to the “new” government in his country. Mabuza is critical in particular of the new constitution put in place by King Mswati III, the last absolute ruler in Africa. The Diocese of Swaziland is part of the Anglican Province of South Africa.

According to an article in Religious Intelligence by Canon George Conger:

“On Feb 6, 2006 a new constitution went into effect granting parliamentary government. However, it forbad candidates from forming political parties, effectively giving the King the sole authority to appointment ministers and squelching organized dissent.

The new constitution was being used by royalists as a ‘fig-leaf to cover the international shame of 33 years of rule by decree’ by the King, Bishop Mabuza charged. It was a ‘piece of paper that is not being promoted or even defended by the government,’ he said, and its guarantees of the rule of law had been ignored.

‘This year has seen defenceless suspects killed by the police, public meetings broken up or prevented from happening, union members harassed, property taken without due court processes, newspaper editors intimidated, journalists threatened by government. The people of Swaziland are in the dark about the constitution and their rights and the government seems more than happy to keep them that way,’ Bishop Mabuza said.

The Swazi people were no longer ‘subjects’ of the King, but ‘citizens’ of a constitutional democracy, the bishop said. ‘The difference is profound,’ he noted as ‘citizens cede their power to politicians and then call them to account for their stewardship. Subjects do as they are told.’”

In the article the leadership shown by Bishop Mabuza is called “a fine example of ‘the holistic mission that defines the Anglican Communion at its best'”.

There has been evidence of a rising level of political violence of late, so this public position by Swaziland’s Anglican bishop carries with it some real concern for his safety.

Read the rest here.

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