Sunday, November 23, 2008

How free market is supposed to foster democratic habits in Swaziland

The Sunday Times of Swaziland, by Dr a.t Dlamini on November 22,2008

A World Bank commission on growth and development recently released a report which states that the key factors necessary for economic growth in developing countries are: a credible, inclusive and pragmatic government that encourages quality of debate in a country on public policy, vigorous fight against corruption and equal opportunities.

All these characteristics are seriously deficient in the Imbokodvo one party rule.

This is little wonder then that Swaziland’s economic growth has suddenly slowed down to less than two percent annually during the past four consecutive years and there are no signs that it shall pick up as long as the policies that militate against economic growth persist, namely, dictatorship and the lack of rule of law.

One of the many definitions of democracy is that it is a single, integrated and readily identifiable political system.

The other definition of democracy that has market-fostering habits is "a political system in which peaceful compromise rather than violence or coercion settles the kinds differences that are inevitable in any society."

At the centre of democracy, are human rights and freedom; such as private property rights, religious rights-freedom of worship, and political rights, which involves the absence of government control over speech, assembly and political participation.

Desperately

Rulers in Swaziland regard these as privileges not rights.

It is said that free-market fosters democracy first-through the institution of private property, which is itself a form of liberty. Secondly-markets create wealth. It is said that a wealthier country is more likely to be governed democratically, since there are no desperately poor people who are suitable to political manipulation like the Imbokodvo does to the desperately poor Swazis.

We have seen in the last elections how even a loaf of bread was enough to secure votes in the pathetic idea of ‘individuals merit.’ We have been wondering how even criminals got voted or nominated into the legislature.

Thirdly-Market Economy produces the middle-class, the ‘capitalist’ who have money and time to participate in politics without the pressures of the struggle for day-to-day survival.

Because they are the source of the taxable income, historically they have been regarded, and have been the social backbone for democracy through their insistence that "no taxation without a representative government.

This of course presupposes that the middle class is a group of nationals who are interested and committed to the overall social upliftment of the citizenry and not transnational corporations who are only interested in maximum profits to repatriate to their countries of origin in the North.

Fourthly-Free-market is a core of civil society that supports organisations and groups in society that are separate for government such as labour unions, religious groups, and professional associations who stand between government and individuals. They restrain government power and create social space for activity and independence of government.

Compromise is the other crucial market economy fostered habit for democracy.

Indeed it leads to other definitions of democracy that is; of a political system in which peaceful compromise rather than violence or coercion settles the kinds of differences that are inevitable in a society.

Buyers and sellers must always compromise on the price of their bargain in everyday activities of a free market economy. Being undemocratic and authoritative, the leadership of Imbokodvo advocates the violent way of settling differences.

Requires

They believe that if you dare have a different view of things you must be clobbered to submission to their point of view. They believe in raw power. They quickly forget that they have signed the A U Constitutive Act of 2000, which among principles, requires signatory countries to observe the principle of "responsibility to protect citizens" against internal abuse by government, against evictions, genocide, and in cases of neglect of citizens during natural disasters like famine caused by drought, earthquakes, floods, and this emerging principle is now regarded as credible in international law and gives credence to the idea of human intervention by regional organisations or the international community.

In the event the state fails to protect the citizens, like it happened in Nynma during the last cyclone where, while the regime was failing to rescue its citizens, it denied the international community free access to come and help. The Imbokodvo leadership always accuses those who dare sympathise with progressive forces for democratic change as interfering in their domestic affairs, forgetting that they have acceded to the African Union Constitutive At 2000 which has replaced "non-interference in the domestic affairs" of AU member countries with "responsibility to protect and human intervention" which authorises the international community to intervene in case of grotesque human rights people and bashing and throttling of citizens.

We expect the African union to legitimately intervene because Swaziland signed the 2000 Constitutive Act of the AU. That justified its involvement in the internal affairs of Swaziland.

However, having said all these noble things about the Free Market Economy Fostering, democratically we note with sadness that in some countries like China, Malaysia, Russia and Swaziland; to name a few, thriving free market and the rising numbers of the middle class is not bringing about credible democracy as typified by individual liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of political participation and a free media/ press.

We note with despair that in the globalisation process certain organisations and their governments; the corporatocracy or the ‘empire’ like IMF, World Bank, WTO, GATT, G7/8, EPAS, Transnational corporations have subtly hijacked the idea of free market economy to advance Western and Northern global dominance to the exclusion and disadvantage of the South.

Imposed

They have crafted and structured these organisations to work in their favour.

These institutions have set the rules for these organisations to ensure that they have exclusive management and decision-making power.

They use these organisations to impose un-repayable loans to the South in order to create permanent hegemony. They have imposed such policies as structural adjustment programmes that caused massive unemployment, poverty, and further under development in the 1980s.

Our leaders, who pander to the corporatocracy, are to blame because they have surrendered to the empire. Even basic services like health, education, agriculture, water, etc, which are now commodified and, therefore, shall be out of reach for the poor-thus further sinking the South to the bottom depth of poverty.

While pushing their Neo-liberal policies down the throats of the South, G7/8, EPAS, Transnational corporations have subtly hijacked the idea of free market economy to advance Western and Northern global dominance at the exclusion and disadvantage of the south.

We wish to state categorically, that as NNLC we are opposed to privatisation of all parastatals, including the Swaziland Savings and Development Bank. This bank was established, and has been supported by taxpayers’ money and belongs to Swazis. In the unlikely event that it is sold, Swazis shall and must have first preference to buy shares and own the bank.

This is a local development bank and has nothing to do with ‘strategic international partners’. We are still acutely aware of such strategic partners as Speed Wing and remotely the Swazi shipping line saga.