Times of Eswatini
W Eoften think about one or two places in the world where we would rather be at that particular moment. Some parts of Eastern Europe would not be on that list. Can you imagine waking up in the middle of the night, feeling the ground underneath swallowing you during a massive collapse of the high-rise building in which you were sleeping; a home that you thought was never anything but safe? No warning; just the first of two huge earthquakes – 7.8 on the new MMI scale - in the border zone between southern Turkey and northern Syria. Two plates of the earth’s crust grinding up against each other and then breaking the surface. Nothing can match the horror, destruction and sheer tragedy of what happened there in the early hours of Monday February 6, 2023.
Multi-level blocks of apartments crumbled to a heap. No fewer than 6 000 buildings were destroyed. By now the number of deaths is over 40 000, with worse to come as the UN aid convoy has only recently been able to reach the rebel-held Syrian zone. The disaster workers in Turkey have been amazing as they battled against time, with inadequate resources, and in dangerous and bitterly cold conditions. But how personally devastating as thousands were brought out dead, with many more certain to be still alive in the ruins, though with no hope of survival. Huge numbers of relatives were watching and helping, with a paralysing mix of hope and dread. Knowing that thousands would perish after perhaps days of agony from wounds, hunger and dehydration. The cruellest death imaginable and their story never to be told. Just imagine.
But as you wipe away the tears of empathy, other tears come to your eyes; at the sight of the rescues. You are stunned by the heroism and bravery of rescuers and victims alike. A video showed two young boys brought out very carefully after four days, then held high in jubilation to riotous cheers. The expression of one child was that of sheer triumph. On the face of the other boy, there was a look as if to say, “What’s all the fuss about?” Certainly not what he will have been thinking. A woman and her two weeks old baby escaped the rubble after 128 hours of terror and starvation and then, defying all the odds, a young woman emerged to intensive care after 180 hours in hell. Nothing could be more moving. But tragicaly, for those still trapped beneath tonnes of concrete, the time to yearn for their rescue must surely be gone. We pray now for them in their final hours to be without pain, and for a gentle transfer to a new world of peace and happiness. And we will be immensely grateful for what we have and will enjoy in our lives on this Thursday morning in February 2023.
In the meantime, and not far away in eastern Europe, there is even more catastrophic destruction; where Russian fighters are killing large numbers of innocent Ukrainian people. And all because a self-absorbed group of Russian politicians are driven by a nationalistic obsession to try to restore the Soviet Union that collapsed 30 years ago; and because it didn’t work! These so-called leaders are appearing to stop at nothing to destroy Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The western world came promptly to Ukraine’s assistance after the Russian invasion that started a year ago. Such help was totally justified and widely supported in the ‘free world’. But, in the ensuing months, that assistance has ramped up to the supply of huge amounts of big weaponry to Ukraine. It is the Third World War with only the firing of the weapons by the West that is missing; war by proxy. The West has recently even taken it to the next level with the supply of tanks; the unqualified response to the passionate calls by the Ukraine president, a seasoned public performer, though no longer in comedy. But now he has ventured into very tricky territory. He is demanding fighter aircraft. The West is holding back on that request, not only concerned about the Russian reaction but also the practical complications, and even the risk of a negative turn of opinion on the domestic front.
Not many weeks ago we wondered whether deprivation of heat, food and water would pull the Ukrainians out with their hands up. No way; they’re all brave fighters. This war could go on for a long time. Russia cannot be beaten under the present circumstances. Ukraine is more vulnerable. The West would love a political settlement.
But how would the war crimes be settled? All we know is that the war is escalating, with NATO already technically in breach of its own cornerstone provision - Article 5 - which demands unrestricted defence by NATO against invasion of a member country. But Ukraine is not a member country. At some point the West may have to say no to Ukraine’s increasing demands. Perhaps that moment has come. Then what? Just imagine. in the country and the international community at large. They all seem to be confused by what the fuss is in convening this dialogue so that the thorny issues the country is faced with can be dealt with once and for all. Well, some of us understand what the hold-up is. The leadership of the country is still in denial that there is a political crisis in this kingdom. They want this dialogue to happen strictly on their terms, with predetermined results and choose who they speak to.
Utterances of the Prime Minister (PM) Cleopas Dlamini, in his short address when he was about to invite His Majesty the King to address the nation at Mandvulo, were quite telling and showed to all and sundry how disillusioned and disconnected the government is. In a pathetic attempt to ‘set the record straight’, he told Zuma that the kingdom did not have a political crisis but that it was only facing an issue of what he called thugs. He said those people supposedly killing other emaSwati were not emaSwati at all but just thieves. That was a very unnecessary and unfortunate statement from the head of government. It just exposed the kind of counsel Their Majesties are surrounded with.
That was not the platform for cheap politics and trying to save face when we emaSwati and the entire world know what the issues besetting us are. I am certain that Zuma did not allow himself to be hoodwinked by that patronising statement that made many of us cringe in embarrassment.
Even thugs do have a nationality and if those elements do not have a nationality, the PM should tell us where they come from and what their agenda is. The government must stop being in denial about the situation in Eswatini and the cause thereof. They must give Their Majesties proper and sound advice, devoid of untruths.