Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Random News Generator- Swaziland

Swaziland, that little dot carved out of the northeast corner of South Africa, is pretty much as scary and angry lately as everywhere else in the news.

Swaziland's mainstream press is severely hamstrung, ranking 144th in the 2011-12 Press Freedom Index out of 179 countries. As such, those unhappy with the ruling absolute monarchy of King Mswati III often go to Twitter and Facebook to express their displeasure over what is widely seen as a kleptocracy, with the monarchy cutting funds to education, pensions and disaster management, living extravagantly while the general population is beset by the world's highest HIV infection rate, showing a 26.1% infection rate among adults 18-49. In addition, there is 40.6% unemployment, with 81% of the population living on less than $2 US a day (62.9% live on under $1.25). Swaziland also suffers from the second-lowest life expectancy on Earth, one of only two countries- the other Mozambique- where someone born today is not expected to see their 40th birthday. The life expectancy is 39.6 years. (King Mswati III is 43 years old.)

They may not be able to rage about all this in social media for much longer, at least legally, as the monarchy is mulling making such acts illegal. According to one senator (Swaziland is an enforced one-party state), Thuli Msani, "It's like, the moment Swazi people cross the border to neighbouring countries they begin to go on a campaign to disrespect their own country and king. Surely there is something that must be done with them. There must be a law that can take them to task."

Given that protests are common and organized via social media, such as this one yesterday, onlookers do not see this as likely to be taken lightly. It's not like there's all that much left to lose.

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