Times of Swaziland
15 May 2008
Democracy should be home grown, says USA’s Herman ...
STORIES BY ARTHUR MORDAUNT
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.