By Sifiso Sibandze
The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini on Friday indicated that the European Union (EU) had not yet communicated anything about the resolution taken by the EU Parliament to ‘review and, where applicable, suspend support programmes for Eswatini where funds risk being used for activities that violate human rights’.
In a statement issued by the government’s Spokesperson Alpheus Nxumalo on Friday, the government said it learnt from news sources about the resolution taken by the European Parliament about the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Nxumalo said the government values every aspect of the EU’s friendly advice as a highly valued strategic partner and a friend to the Kingdom. However, he was quick to mention that the government wants emaSwati to note that this is neither a binding nor compelling resolution.
He went on to say that the resolution was canvassed by independent members of the European Parliament, not by the incumbent or sitting government parties from the European bloc. The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the EU and one of its seven institutions.
“Having said that, the government wishes to reiterate that Eswatini is a peace-loving country and a defender of human rights; including the rights of those who do not share the same political perspective with the majority of the population,” he said in the statement.
Nxumalo said the government continues to strongly condemn the brutal and barbaric killings which occurred across the country and further rejects the unsubstantiated claims of its involvement in some of these killings and heinous crimes.
The government spin doctor said the position has been consistently that of protecting and assuring safety and justice to all emaSwati. Aligned with this commitment, the government, through the office of the Prime Minister, has released a number of statements stating that the country has already commissioned investigations on all killings in the country, including that of Human Rights Lawyer Thulani Maseko and further revealed that some of the perpetrators have already been apprehended in connection with some of the killings, Nxumalo said.
On the issue of a national dialogue, Nxumalo expressed that the government has stated categorically that it has always been ready to commence the same.
“However, the government maintains that this can only be possible when the safety and protection of all emaSwati are guaranteed. Further, emaSwati have their right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Section 25(1) & (2) of the Constitution. There are relevant existing structures at all levels of government-mandated to sanction/enforce these clauses of the Constitution,” he said.
Nxumalo said Eswatini, as a member of the regional body SADC, continues to engage with the Troika to find the most suitable and appropriate modality for the dialogue.
“Government is looking for modest ways to engage all multilateral organisations going into the future in an endeavour to clarify and explain its position,” he said.
The European Parliament on Thursday voted to ‘review and, where applicable, suspend support programmes for Eswatini where funds risk being used for activities that violate human rights’.
Following the EU Parliament vote on Thursday, Eswatini risks losing out on over E557 million in funding from the Union. The EU Parliament voted on a joint motion calling for among other things, for the EU to review and, where applicable, suspend support programmes for Eswatini where ‘funds risk being used for activities that violate human rights’.
The resolution was agreed upon, which means the vote passed. The E557 million is money which was set aside by the EU for the period 2021 to 2024 and the funding was meant to focus on the priority area of human development and social inclusion, to assist emaSwati youth as announced in November.
The EU has other projects in the country including the GET. Invest Programme which mobilises investment in renewable energy in developing countries which supports project developers and companies towards investment readiness and links them with financiers.
According to the joint motion about human rights defenders in Eswatini, notably the murder of Thulani Maseko, the Parliament wanted to vote on a motion to strongly condemn the killing.
By Sifiso Sibandze