The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Skelemani, has denied that his government applies double standards on Swaziland.
This came after concerns from some quarters that while the government of Botswana has openly criticized neighbouring Zimbabwe and other African governments it deems repressive, the country appears to have adopted a soft stance towards King Mswati II.
“There is no issue of double standards here. People like to compare the situation in Swaziland to that of Zimbabwe. In the case of Zimbabwe, the ruling elite had broken the election rules.
Swaziland has a constitution which, as far as I am concerned, no one has ever said has been broken. Our position has and will always be that the people of Swaziland must give one another sufficient political room,” Skelemani told the Telegraph on Monday.
Answering a question in parliament from Member of Parliament for South East South, Odirile Motlhale, recently, Skelemani said Botswana has no special foreign policy position on any specific country.
The MP had wanted the minister to state the country’s foreign policy position on Swaziland and to explain why the Botswana Government has remained silent in the face of arrests and other forms of harassment directed at pro-democracy protesters.
“Botswana’s foreign policy may broadly be stated to be a belief in the respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, peaceful resolution of conflicts, peaceful co-existence and good neighbourliness amongst other principles. This certainly applies to the Kingdom of Swaziland,” Skelemani told parliament.
As to why Botswana has remained silent in the face of arrests and other forms of harassment directed at pro-democracy protesters, Skelemani said Botswana has been following with keen interest, developments in the Kingdom of Swaziland.
“We have observed that His Majesty’s Government has, over the years, made efforts towards improving democracy in the country. For instance, the adoption of the new Constitution in July 2005 was aimed at addressing the needs and aspirations of the people of Swaziland. That Constitution would have circumscribed the powers of the Monarch as was during the reign of King Sobhuza II,” he said.
“We also believe that the responsibility of bringing about any political change or new dispensation in Swaziland rests primarily with the Government and people of Swaziland. We can only encourage the Government and those affected to resolve their differences through peaceful means,” he added.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has spoken against the Swazi ruling monarchy while Botswana has said she will not prescribe to Swaziland.