Monday, June 16, 2008


Times of Swaziland

15 May 2008

Democracy should be home grown, says USA’s Herman ...


MBABANE - If abso­lute monarchs were to move towards constitu­tional monarchs, they would find a very satis­fied citizenry.

This was the observation of Dr Robert Herman from the United States of America (USA), who was giving a lec­ture on democracy, the rule of law and civil society.

Herman has been invited into the country by the US Em­bassy.

Speaking about the Swazi situation, Herman said it would do a lot of good for the coun­try if the leaders were to con­sider this. He made an exam­ple of the Bhutan state where its monarch, after being ex­posed to democratic principles in the United Kingdom where he was schooling, returned to that country and changed the system from an absolute mon­arch to a constitutional one.

The speaker acknowledged though that he did not sup­port shoving things down peo­ple's throats, but the Bhutan monarch's heart was in the right place.

What should surely be mu­sic to the country's authori­ties' ears was Herman's state­ment to the effect that democ­racy should not be imposed on any state, but should be home grown.

"While democracy is not the solution to every societal prob­lem, it's the best way to en­sure that people's rights are realised and implemented. Having a constitution alone does not guarantee rights but they should be implemented. I almost cried when I read the So­viet Union constitution be­cause it was so beautiful, but the things contained in there were not implemented," said Herman.

He observed that Swaziland ought to change for the better and that it was still behind in the region in as far as imple­menting traits of democracy, which include the freedom of thought, association, press and an independent judiciary.

"The citizens should also be­lieve that they have the power to shape their destiny. Democ­racy should create conditions where people can fulfil their potential. While democracy may create chances for those who may abuse the system, it can also minimise chances of conflict. It creates mechanisms to channel dissent,” said Herman.

... and advised leaders to address citizens

MBABANE - Contrary to assertions by the country's leaders that there was no need for multi-party democracy in Swaziland because the nation was homog­enous, an expert in the field has said this would in fact be to the advan­tage of multi-party de­mocracy.

Dr Robert Herman said he was shocked during a meet­ing he held with the coun­try's Elections and Bounda­ries Commission (EBC) when it told him that the reason Swazis did not need multi-party democracy was that the nation was not divided along ethnic and religious lines. Herman said it was a fallacy to assume that just because a nation was homogenous ple are one. This presents a great opportunity for Swazis to debate real issues of policy and other social issues that affect the nation as a whole without worrying about whether the help is going to assist people of a particular ethnic group," reasoned Herman.

He also disclosed that the EBC informed him that the people of Swaziland did not want political parties and EBC agreed with this because they did not want to witness what occurred in Kenya.

Dr Herman said he would not dictate to Swazis on what of government they should have but stressed that if they wanted political parties, they have to press for them.

He said he did not under­stand the logic behind candi­dates saying they should be elected on individual merit or because they are known, they are good or because they look like the voters. Herman said someone should be elected on the basis of the input he was going to bring to that country's well-being.

He also had advice for the country's leaders.

"Stop having briefings with donors and other interna­tional organisations on your actions but ignoring the citizenry. You should always address the citizens even if you are taking an unpopular decision. This enables the people to connect with you. They might not agree with what you are saying but they will understand why you are doing it and feel like part of the nation," said Herman.

Herman's lecture was at­tended by representatives from civic organisations, busi­ness people and government officials. While in the coun­try, Herman will meet various stakeholders.

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