Watched the short documentary Without the King, about the kingdom of Swaziland the other night. I’m eagerly awaiting the verdict of one of my cousins, who spent time there as a Peace Corps worker. The film’s essentially a series of interviews, largely with members of the Swazi royal family, including King Mswati III, his first wife Queen LaMbikiza, and the king’s eldest child Princess Sikhanyiso, who at the time the story begins is just about to set off for Biola University, a Bible college in Southern California. The other interviewees include members of various local aid organizations and inhabitants of the shantytowns where the average Swazi lives on sixty-odd cents a day and many rely on food from the UN’s World Food Programme. The king of the nation of 1.1 million people, on the other hand, lives in a palace and has a private jet. And did I mention that Swaziland has the world’s highest incidence of AIDS? The film reports one in two Swazis are infected with the virus, other reports say that’s only one in four, but it’s at the top of the charts by anyone’s measure (the rate of infection in the US stated in the film is nearly 1/70th that of Swaziland).

Crazy stuff.

But maybe not as crazy as some of the comments left on the review of the movie by a Toronto film blogger.

Why do the international media and community take one side? And why can’t these organizations take time to listen to both sides and also read the constitution of Swaziland ? And last but not least, why can’t they take time to see for themselves who the majority of Swazi citizens really support? Do the majority of Swazi citizens support the banned political parties or do they support the current Tinkhundla system of governance?

Alternatively, one might ask, since the current system of government bans all political parties (and has done so since well before the current king took his place), do the citizens have any choice about whether they support them or the current system?