King Mswati III is a man out of touch with reality. He is very confused about what should be his priorities in his country and that is a bad look for a country already clinging to an outdated system of governance. At a celebration to mark 50 years of independence, the King announced that his kingdom is now to be called eSwatini. It is a beautiful name inspired by the liked of Botswana which means "land of the Tswana" and Lesotho which means "Land of the Sotho". ESwatini means "land of the Swazi" and one cannot deny it is an amazing name. No one who should be taken seriously has ever doubted the king when it comes to his appreciation of beauty! What is problematic is not the name itself but the King's priorities.
Changing a country's name is a tedious process and the BBC gives a synopsis of just how many things need to be changed: The name Swaziland appears more than 200 times in the country's constitution. This means a wholesale amendment is on its way! The country's airline is called Swaziland Airlink and the country's notes and coins bear the name Central Bank of Swaziland. This means the central bank itself will need a name change, along with many other government institutions. The notes and coins will have to be changed. How important is this name? King Mswati III's reasoning is that people are confusing his kingdom with Switzerland and he is not flattered. First of all, Swaziland and Switzerland are very difficult to mix up but since the King said it, no one can challenge him. In any case, his reason is (with all due respect to his Highness) too trifling to warrant a costly change of name. He should have at least attempted to play the pan-African card to try and appeal to the world's intellectual sensibilities. After all, the truth of the matter is the name Swaziland is an inheritance from the British and at some point, it had it go. However, whatever explanation he would have given, the question would remain: Why now?
Why now when the World Food Programme says 63% of citizens live below the national poverty line? All this energy being expended on names should be redirected to matters of life. A good name will not feed citizens. Why would the kingdom change its name now when it was ranked 148th of 188 in the 2016 Human Development Index? It has a high HIV prevalence rate of 26% for all people between the ages of 15 and 49. The kingdom also has 159,000 food insecure persons and 26% of children under 5 are affected by stunted growth. The King needs to go back to the drawing board and realize he is leader not to legitimate the desires of his heart but to help his people. After the change of name, will life change for the poor? These people deserve better than a beautiful name. They deserve beautiful lives that affirm their humanity.