Post 4: Swaziland, Cheetahs, and Democracy

In Africa, in these developing nations, there is a new movement forming. A new kind of leader is rising, young and inspired Africans who have the vision to change the world. These are called “cheetahs”, a new generation of professionals and leaders who are poised to help lift African nations out of their current situation. Inside South Africa we find Swaziland, a country with a whole heap of issues and very little growth. Much of this is caused by the government, the King of which is the last absolute monarch in Africa. The King allows no criticism of his regime, and employs police and secret service to keep his people in line. There is a congressional body and a prime minister, but they are both under heavy influence of the king and the elections themselves have been determined as unfair and biased by outside observers. One young man in Swaziland, Maxwell Diamini, is taking direct action to fight for freedoms in Swaziland. Any attempts or even discussion of democracy in Swaziland are considered terrorism, so Maxwell has spent much of his life in prison. As former President of the Swaziland National Union of Students, and current Secretary General of the Swaziland Youth Congress, Maxwell has been tirelessly fighting for free speech and for democracy in his country, but has faced much persecution. He has been held in jail for multiple charges of terrorism of criticism of the King’s regime, and also on explosives charges which were later dropped for being false (he was forced to sign a confession.) Many young people in Swaziland are adopting social media as a way to find fresh new perspectives, and to see how people feel about current events. I have actually found Maxwell’s Facebook profile, and he has some really interesting things to say!

“For the first time since 2009, I spent a full year out of prison. My court issues are not yet over pending the state appeal of our constitutional challenge of the STA. Major achievement for me, but I still deeply about Zonkhe Dlamini, Thantaza Silolo, and Amos Mbedzi who are still languishing in Jail. My heart feels for our brothers and sisters who are in exile. Far away from home and their love ones for our freedom. Their sacrifices are not in vain for our people shall be free and they shall come back to the land of their birth. May we reorganize ourselves in 2017 and wage a relentless and heroic struggle for our total liberation” (Diamini, December 31, 2016)

 

Obviously, Maxwell cares deeply about his country and his people, and is not done fighting for the youth in Swaziland, even after government intervention. Cheetahs like Maxwell with fresh perspective and tenacious drive are what give Africa hope, a new kind of leader with humanitarian goals and ambitious ideas. Swazilan ranks very poorly in metrics based on good governance and human rights, with the monarchy failing to do much to help its people. The Freedom House Think Tank gives Swaziland an 18/100 aggregate score on freedoms and civil liberties. 29% of adults age 15-49 are living with HIV infection, which can’t help economic growth or fighting for personal freedoms. Physical health is often the first step to getting work done and achieving goals, without it not much can get done because people aren’t able to reach their full potential. As a monarchy with little political agency for the common people, Swaziland ranks very low in democracy. In general, politically, Swazi citizens have almost no say in decisions for their country, and attempts to organize are usually crushed with violence and arrests. Swaziland does have hope, but that hope does not lie with its current government. The future and freedom of Swaziland is in the hands of its young people, like Maxwell. With sustained efforts, I do believe progress can still be made there.

In Poor Economics chapter 3, “Low Hanging Fruit for Better (Global) Health?” Banerjee and Duflo go into how problems of health impact low-income countries. Sachs’ “Health Trap” talks about this as well, and how poverty is compounded by poor health. People in these impoverished areas usually end up spending the same money on health care, but on less effective solutions. They tend to spend money on expensive cures like antibiotics or last-minute surgery, rather than inexpensive prevention measures. Investments like clean water and sanitation, malaria nets, and immunizations are cheaper and provide long-lasting solutions. Doctors in these areas often tend to underdiagnose and overmedicate, making antibiotics less functional in the future. But if health care providers have better education, these solutions can be implemented and people can actually be helped. By investing in cheaper hygiene systems, money can be saved and waste minimized. When the people are healthy, productivity and quality of life increase dramatically. By creating affordable healthcare and sanitary conditions, these impoverished countries will have the tools to succeed and develop as nations in the 21st century. The path forward is not clear or simple, but steps can be taken to ensure proper health care across the globe, with tangible results.

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