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OPENING OF PARLIAMENT 1997
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Your Majesty the Ndlovukazi,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Your Lordship, The Chief Justice
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
President Speaker, and Members of both Houses of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me welcome you all to the opening of the fourth session of the
Kingdom's sixth parliament as we look forward to what will be a busy year
ahead for you, the nation's legislators.
Let us thank God for the rain that has fallen so far on our land. We pray
for his continued blessings, so that we may look forward to good harvests
for our farmers and the whole agricultural sector.
The past year has seen many developments on the world stage, offering hope
to some and despair to others.
For millions of Africans, it has sadly been hopeless despair that has
followed them for the past twelve months. Their individual disasters serve
as reminders and lessons for all of us.
We think of the refugees in Zaire: in the middle of fighting, hundreds of
miles from safety and with no prospect of reaching their own homes. And, we
think of the many thousands, from across the continent, who have died at
the hands of their fellow countrymen as a result of internal division
within their own nations.
And we see the cross border confrontations between countries in the horn of
Africa and the suffering experienced by so many of their people as a
While we pray for the innocent people, caught up in these crises, let us be
careful to learn from their misfortune and vow to avoid the tragic mistakes
that caused it.
In our own sub-region, it has been a year of consolidation. Peace
throughout southern Africa means that we can focus on strengthening
relationships and concentrate our resources and energy on improving the
conditions for increased trade, investment and employment for the benefit
of all our peoples.
Our membership of SADC has been important in this respect, as have our
efforts in increasing cooperation with our neighbours in a number of areas.
The Maputo corridor and the Lubombo initiative are examples of the type of
opportunity we must take advantage of. Both hold out the real prospect of
improvement to our economy, and, of a desperately needed increase in
employment for Swazis.
SADC has been exploring ways in which to improve conditions among member
states, and the establishment of a new organ on politics, defence and
security has been an important development in this respect.
We all agree that stability for the sub-region and within member states is
an essential pre-condition for increased prosperity for us all.
Each country has its own problems - we all experience difficulties in
whatever field be it labour unrest, or social imbalances, or tribal
division, or a whole host of other problems that inevitably affect us all.
The new organ in SADC is designed to allow individual countries, when faced
with problems that they cannot overcome themselves - or which involve
others in the sub-region - to call on the advice and experience of fellow
An important point to make is that the organ is not intended as a tool of
interference in the internal affairs of member states. In keeping with our
Kingdom's own foreign policy, SADC was founded on the basis of respect for
the sovereignty of independent nations. Any involvement by the organisation
- or by other member states - in the affairs of individual countries in
strictly on the invitation of the heads of state of those nations involved.
My recent meeting with the chairman and vice-chairman of SADC served to
confirm that principle.
Another corner stone of our foreign policy has always been to maintain our
status as a "good neighbour". We view it as essential that respect is given
to one's neighbours: For their sovereignty, their culture and traditions,
and for their way of doing things - even if they are vastly different from
one's own. Problems that may arise from time to time in a neighbouring
country should be the cause for sympathy and support - and assistance if
requested - but not for interference. It is the abandonment of this
principle that has led to so many problems elsewhere in Africa, where
aggression across borders has led to such serious situations.
We are grateful to our two neighbours that they share our views on this
issue, and for the confirmation from their governments that they do not
support attempts by elements in their countries to interfere in our affairs
here. We are confident that they will continue to discourage any such
interference should it occur.
Traditionally, this occasion each year is used to focus on the nation's
business in the months ahead and guidelines are given for government
This year, we have a blueprint for government's activities, setting out a
clear agenda of priorities and linked to a timetable of deadlines for the
next two to three years.
The economic and social reform agenda - known as "ESRA" - is a
comprehensive document, prepared in consultation with all the major
stakeholders, which is designed to accelerate economic growth, improve
social services and promote good governance.
It is intended to bring about the right conditions to allow the private
sector to be the driving force in increasing economic growth and improving
the living standards of all Swazis.
ESRA can be considered the working handbook for parliament on government
matters and should be understood thoroughly by all in their chambers. We
look forward to the launch of ESRA in the very near future and its adoption
by the whole nation as government's priorities for the next two years.
Government has committed itself to the introduction this year of a number
of important bills for debate by parliament. In one way or another, All
these pieces of legislation will have direct, major impact on our capacity
to improve our economic and social structures and thereby help raise the
living standards of our people.
They cover such areas as income tax, audit, investment promotion,
companies, trade facilitation, insurance and pensions, disabled persons,
urban government, communications, road transportation and water.
Clearly, you in parliament have a busy year ahead, but a busy work load is
no excuse for careless procedures. We expect you to examine and discuss the
merits of each of these important pieces of legislation, and, most
importantly, to involve those whom you represent in the process.
These bills, after all, are for the benefit of the people, and you will
need to take seriously your responsibility to keep your constituencies
fully informed of progress. We urge you to keep in touch with those who put
their faith in you, and to introduce discussion and debate throughout the
The Kingdom must be serious about creating the right environment for
progress. One measure of economic progress is an increase in jobs, brought
about by private sector investment.
An essential element of the right environment is stability in the workplace
and industrial harmony throughout the country. Without these, we cannot
expect to retain Swazi and foreign investment, nor attract new businesses
to start up.
For the sake of the whole nation, we need to bring an end to the constant
round of strike action. This should surely be clear for all to see. And
yet, as events last week have shown, this is either not fully understood by
small sections of the Kingdom, or is instead the very motive behind the
instability we have encountered in recent years.
It is, however, clear from the relative lack of support for the recent
call to engage in economic sabotage, that the link between labour issues
and political ambition is now widely understood amongst a growing number of
Swazis. It could be said that labour has been used as a front for political
ambition, resulting in confusion for all.
Recent events have highlighted the depths to which some sections of the
Kingdom have fallen, to pursue their own selfish agendas.
Petrol bombs, sabotage of essential services, intimidation, enforced
closure of schools, destruction of property. These are the tactics of fear,
waged by the cowardly, and they have no place in Swaziland. Indeed, they
are truly unSwazi and we reject them and all who advocate and support them.
I would ask all who subscribe to the views and organisations which employ
such tactics, to think hard and long about whether such methods can really
bring any sort of lasting settlement.
Let us instead make us of the correct channels to settle our disputes. Let
us make use of the outlets for political expression that already exist, in
the Tinkhundla centres and in debate about the constitution; and leave
labour issues to be handled in the various structures that exist in law.
The fact is that the process is already under way to allow full political
expression. I announced last year the establishment of a constitutional
review committee to begin the process of drafting a new constitution for
I have heard of criticism of the process before we have even begun to hear
submissions from the people. We need to analyse these complaints and see if
they are valid. So let us review what has been put in place so far.
The committee has been chosen from right across the social and political
spectrum of Swazi society, terms of reference with the widest possible
licence have been agreed, and the committee's plain of action has been
All will have the opportunity to make submissions to the committee without
fear or prejudice. No individual or group has the right to pre-empt
discussion on any of the points in the terms of reference. To do so would
take away the democratic right of all Swazi citizens to submit their own
views on the issues that, after all, affect all of us. The final version of
the constitution will represent the wishes of the majority.
Let there be patience. We have always preached that the hasty way is the
wrong way. The committee is committed to a programme which they must make
every effort to abide by.
We want to see the process progress smoothly, with urgency, and with due
regard to the wishes of the Swazi people. All will be educated on the
meaning of a constitution; and all will have their say due course.
I stated earlier that growth in our economy will result from introducing
the right conditions to encourage private sector investment.
We need investors - both Swazis and foreigners. There is no other way for
us to increase the number of jobs.
I am conscious that the international investor community, in particular,
has been receiving mixed signals concerning Swaziland's attitude towards
them and I want to use this occasion to make the Kingdom's views known.
We positively and whole-heatedly welcome investor interest from whatever
legitimate source, and we will do all we can to retain existing investment
and encourage its expansion. As is the case in any country in the world,
the only condition we attach is the need for respect for the laws that
govern all who live in Swaziland, and for the traditions and culture that
give our people their identity and independence.
We are all subject to the law of the land. And, as in any civilised
society, those who break our laws and show disrespect for our traditions
and culture do not, in turn, deserve our respect and will be treated
Swaziland has a long history of peace and stability. Our country is blessed
with great natural beauty. We have always welcomed non-Swazis to set up
businesses here. It is for exactly these reasons that we have managed to
attract investment in the past.
Let us all, Swazi and non-Swazi alike, work together and regain our
reputation for peace and stability; and, with tolerance, patience and,
above all, respect, we can bring profit and prosperity for all.
We have already spoken to government's programme of action for the short
term. The medium and long term planning will be contained in the national
development strategy which we will expect to see later this year. Both
processes contain all the important elements of the economic consultation
exercise conducted in 1995, and bring together the recommendations and
wishes of the nation.
One such recommendation is for a fundamental re-think on the organisation
of communities in the rural areas.
The majority of our people live in widely scattered rural communities
without easy access to all the essential social services and employment
opportunities. Planning for these types of communities is difficult and
options for improvements are costly.
There has been an overwhelming call for the introduction of a rural
resettlement scheme to address the problems and I believe that the planning
for such a scheme should begin as soon as possible.
I look to the members of parliament representing the rural communities to
raise this issue both here and amongst your constituents. Within the next
few months, we want to be able to identify specific areas in each region,
to be used for the pilot schemes to test the viability of the proposal.
Further delay on this vital project will mean inevitable rise in costs, to
a point where such an ambitious scheme will be unaffordable in the years
ahead. We must begin the search now for financing for the scheme, and we
will be approaching our international partners for support and for advice
on how to proceed.
One key indicator of progress for a country is the ability to keep economic
growth above population increase. By that measure, the Kingdom of Swaziland
is heading for disaster.
Today, we cannot employ all our people. Tomorrow, with one of the
continent's fastest growing populations, we will neither be able to employ
all our people nor have enough land to settle them. And we certainly will
not be able to afford the essential social services expected by all.
This is not an issue we can put off until tomorrow. This is a priority for
the nation, we all share equal responsibility to face the challenge and we
need to find answers fast.
I want now to impress on the nation as a whole how crucial this is to the
future of our country. We can no longer afford to keep on producing
children without proper planning.
This is a topic I want you MP's to raise in your constituencies, and for
all leaders to discuss with their people.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the international community for
their continuing support for our development efforts. We are determined to
maximise the benefit we can obtain from such support, to make sure that
those Swazis who need it most will receive it.
Our own foreign missions will be subject to a fundamental review this year,
to ensure that the best use is being made of these expensive but
potentially very valuable assets.
Our embassies abroad will spearhead our investment promotion efforts and
will be the Kingdom's trade ambassadors.
There are challenging times ahead, in these days of intense competition
amongst all the countries of the region, and in the interests of our own
peace and stability, we need to pull together, stick to our priorities and
bring prosperity to the nation.
We have in place a process to address the nation's wishes for a new
constitution: it needs the support and participation of each one of us. And
we have begun the steps back on the road to economic and social recovery.
Now, more than ever before, we need the sense of unity that has always
protected us, and from which we have drawn strength in the past.
Let us work hard, accept our responsibilities and, with Almighty God to
guide us, we will move forward as a family and as a united nation.
Thank you and may God Bless us all.
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