As the African National Congress (ANC) celebrates 100 years in existence, it’s an opportune time to reflect on the state of freedom and development on the Continent. Many of the countries that supported the ANC during its struggle are in a questionable state defined by failing economies and collapsing states that are increasingly corrupt and autocratic; and ultimately failing the people. The status is so dire that some countries are de-industrialising as governments prefer to export raw materials from Africa and permit flooding of goods manufactured in India and China so take jobs from Africans.
The ANC has many case studies from which to learn from on what not to do, and what to do to grow an inclusive economy. A good example is neighbouring Swaziland. How quickly things turned. In 1968 the country was celebrating freedom from colonialism, and in 1973 the country saw the end of its short-lived “democracy” because a small elite led by the Monarch decided that the country and its population owe their freedom to them and therefore they can govern without question and accounting to the people. The people of Swaziland moved from being slavery of colonialism to being Subjects and the economy is majority owned the Monarch.
There is a huge difference to being a citizen and being a subject. In a country governed by a Monarch, even a Constitutional Monarch, the people remain Subjects who are subjected to the rules and privileges as afforded to them by the Monarch; whereas Citizens have guaranteed rights and responsibilities and the elected government can’t just be change things at a whim as the King can in Swaziland. In Swaziland, the King and his government can offer privileges such as occupation of property, and revoke that land privilege as they please, because land essentially belongs to the King.
Why does it matter in the case of Swaziland, as some may argue, people in Swaziland have access to land, they can send their children to school and can earn a living? It matters on many different levels, but most important it matters because it is not sustainable. If Swaziland and the people who live there were happy to remain in an age where they do not develop and purely rely on an archaic economic system, then it wouldn’t matter.
Without direct ownership of land and direct influence on personal matters, then people can never be secure. Since Swaziland participates in an international political economy, then its Subjects had better be prepared to operate, compete on a global and regional level and at least have an advantage in their own country. Currently Swaziland has to rely on external factors to sustain its economy and feed its people, this is not sustainable. External factors have changed drastically since 1994 when South Africa became a democracy and many companies moved their operations to a bigger and more sophisticated market. Swaziland is standing still whilst the world moves forward.
The struggle by the ANC was not just against racial domination, it was against the audacity of one group of people to dominate and subject another group of people. Subjecting another group of people limits the ability of the subjects and country to grow and develop. In Swaziland it is the audacity of a group of Swazis to subject other Swazis to a life and level of development that prohibits the people and country to grow. This subjugation has been done using history, culture and religion; these have been used as tools to disable the general populace from advancing and claiming their rightful space where they can determine where and how their taxes are spent; can participate in the community and economy as they prefer and where they can exercise basic rights every human deserves in these modern times.