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Swaziland: `The people are getting angrier and angrier'; Swaziland Democracy Campaign to be launched

February 13, 2010 -- B.V. Dlamini, deputy secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, spoke to London Student's Ingrida Kerusauskaite about the way forward for Swaziland. London Student is Europe's largest independent student newspaper. This interview is posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.

What is the political situation in Swaziland? What does that mean to the citizens?

The country is ruled under a dictatorship, where there is no separation of power: the judiciary, legislative and executive powers are all invested in the king, to the extent that the government cannot properly advise the monarch. First they have to know what he wants to hear, and then they tell him what he wants to hear, not what he has to hear. The distribution of resources in the country is very uneven: 69 per cent of the population live under the poverty line, despite the fact that Swaziland is regarded as a middle-income country by the international financial institutions. There are also serious violations of human rights.

Swaziland has an international reputation of being an “ideal tourist destination”. What effect does that have on the country?

There are high levels of cultural indoctrination – where culture is used in a way to ensure the royal family’s stronghold on power. Moreover, there has been this misplaced self-congratulatory outcome where the rulers of the country say “Look, people are coming to the cultural festivities, then that means they endorse in the way we are governing, they are happy with the way that the country is being governed.”

While in other countries indoctrination manifests itself in political terms, party political ideologies, in Swaziland it is very strong in the cultural form – that we need to be seen as a cultural destination for the West. In Swaziland, you can often hear, “You are not expected to behave like this, it is un-Swazi. Listen to your leaders, pray for your leaders, make sure your leaders do not have trouble in ruling the country.” I think it inhibits people’s development. I haven’t seen anybody who participates in the activities and comes out saying “my life has improved”.

People participate in these cultural activities not because they choose to, but because they are intimidated into participation by various fines and sanctions. I know people who have had difficulties in accessing tertiary education institutions because the traditional chief (of the village) wouldn’t sign their application for a scholarship form, on grounds that they had not been seen in some of the traditional festivities. They just say “you are not an obedient citizen, we summon people to the royal calling, and you are not there”.

I got the impression that you believed that only a democratic republic could significantly improve the situation in Swaziland. Is that true?

I think a democracy is fundamental to propel the country forward. But within the context of Swaziland, we are calling for the repeal of all oppressive laws, the separation of powers, where the judiciary must remain independent, the legislature must be able to enact proper laws that would develop the people, and the executive must run the country. We are not saying that the kng must be removed, he should remain as the unifying figure and play a certain role in terms of governance, like for example in the UK.

The king’s participation in the day to day running of the country causes very serious problems. Certain projects known as “white elephants” are very dear to the king, however destructive to the country’s economy, and no one was able to stand up and protest against them. For example we are currently building a big international airport, which we will not be able to sustain as there is not much air traffic into Swaziland.

Even now, with a small airport, we are struggling to get people to fly on the small jetstream plane between Johannesburg and Manzini, and we are building a very big international airport that will accommodate Boeing 777s or Airbuses. So who is going to fund it? A lot of public resources had to be moved as no international investors were willing to invest in the project.

The feasibility of the project states very clearly that it will be a failure. And that is just one example. Right now the king has 13 wives. I wouldn’t want to be seen to be criticising him for the number of wives, but for the expenditure. It is becoming increasingly expensive, because each and every one of them is having a palace built for them, they all have these nice cars and escorts, they go shopping all over the globe – Las Vegas and Kuwait recently, Dubai, London, New York… Just living a life of luxury, in the face of abject poverty. At the end of the day it will only work against them, because people are getting angrier and angrier, as they are hungry while seeing these people living large. I’m saying that if we democratise the country, then all these problems of poverty, dilapidated health system, poor infrastructure could be solved. We would be able to direct the resources to where they could best be utilised.

Swaziland is a member of the UN, has ratified numerous international conventions, but it seems to be abusing them?

Swaziland is a member of the United Nations, and a signatory to quite a number of international conventions and international charters, but it violates all of them. Even though Swaziland is always one of the first countries to sign any convention that comes around, it is also one of the first ones to do exactly the opposite to that particular convention. You are free to associate as long as you associate with people that agree with the government. You are free to express yourself as long as you say things that they want to hear.

The government has also signed the Internation Labour Organisation conventions on workers' rights and trade union rights, and subsequently violated them. Recently, the international trade union congress has issued a report on the southern African countries, stating that Swaziland is the worst violator of workers' rights in the region. A good example is the fact that village chiefs make their communities work their fields in the name of tradition. The leaders own subsistence farms which require labour power, so they call the people of the village to do that work. They do the work for free. It is "tradition".

From the trade union perspective, we say that this is forced labour, and the government says “no, it is tradition”. We say that if it is tradition, then people must have a choice whether to take part or not. It mustn’t be a situation where those not wishing to participate are then punished – in the form of not being able to access certain rights and privileges.

What are the views, structures and objectives of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, and why is it sometimes in conflict with the government?

The trade union movement is actively involved in the pro-democracy struggle, calling for a multi-party democracy and a democratic constitution-making process. We want a people-driven, people-centred constitution. We advocate for the rights of workers, whose conditions are often unbearable: they work until they drop. Some have even given birth inside the factories.

We believe that such conditions are abusive, in violation of workers' rights, ILO conventions and human rights. These rights are being violated by employers, with the assistance of the government. When workers go on strike, the government sends the police to beat the hell out of them. There are even cases where police agents were shooting the workers just because they went on strike, demanding better working conditions. The government said that it was “not going to tolerate [strikes], because it will chase [away] investors”. 

What is the situation for students in Swaziland? How effective, do you think, would established links between students at British and Swazi universities be?

The extent to which students are free in Swaziland is very limited. They face legislative challenges, because it is very difficult to register a student union in Swaziland. The country is characterised by immense poverty, which means that most people can’t pay for tertiary education.

However, there is a very limited number of government scholarships available. The problem arises out of misplaced priorities, and in order to address that problem, we have to address the problem of governance.

Student unions are told to concentrate on students, not political issues. There are also issues of academic freedom. You can’t express yourself within the university while outside the gates of the university you can’t be free. You should be able to publish your views. But if those views are not favourable to the government, publishing them would be putting yourself in jeopardy. Sometimes students embark on action, but they are beaten down. The institutions themselves are a microcosm of what happens in the working class. 

What impact do links between British and Swazi university students have?

The Swazi students’ plight would be heard by the British students, who can then advocate for the cause on other platforms. Also, Swazi students are interested to know what students in Britain are learning, and whether it is similar to their curriculums. We are not used to discussing the content of our education in universities, and we often wonder whether our degree is really what it takes to survive out there in the job market. Students could share their experiences, compare similar degrees and broaden their perspectives.

Swaziland Democracy Campaign to be launched: `The hour of democracy in Swaziland has struck!'

Sunday, February 21, 2010, will be a watershed moment in the struggle for democracy in Swaziland. On that day, the historic launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) will take place in Johannesburg. Progressive organisations from South Africa and Swaziland will combine in the Swaziland Democracy Campaign to accelerate global momentum for democracy in Swaziland. The launch will be preceded by a strategy development workshop, where a comprehensive program shall be developed to consolidate and advance the campaign.

At this time, thousands of people in Swaziland, and students in particular, have demonstrated their courage and determination and their willingness to sacrifice in the fight for their freedom. By taking action, they have opened the eyes of the world to the royal elite's scourge of legalised terror. In the name of culture, and divine right, the royal elite have ruthlessly protected their privileged position while the vast majority of the population live in complete impoverishment. The royal elite has used the tinkhundla system to spy upon and oppress popular and democratic activists throughout society. However, in schools, workplaces, institutions of higher learning and communities, there is resistance, and it is growing, despite an escalation of repression and use of the notorious Suppression of Terrorism Act.

Following years of joint activities, marches and border blockades, the progressive movement in Swaziland and their South African counterparts have decided to take their co-operation to new heights, from the Joint Swaziland Action Campaign (JSAC), which was created on August 12, emerges the Swaziland Democracy Campaign.

The SDC is comprised of organisations involved in the struggle for democracy in Swaziland and in South Africa. The campaign recognises and supports the democratic initiatives and efforts undertaken by trade unions, NGOs, church organisations, students and youth organisations, women and cultural forums, political movements and progressive forces in South Africa and globally to support the struggle in Swaziland.

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign will popularise an initiative to intensify the call to cut links with the brutal regime and mobilise practical support for the democratic movement in Swaziland. As the crisis in Swaziland continues to its peak, let all of us vow to step up pressure on the ruling Swazi regime, and those who protect it.

The following documents have been drafted for consideration and final adoption at the launch;

  • Draft public declaration of the campaign
  • Draft concept founding document
  • Draft Program of Action

A final list of speakers shall be made public soon. Meanwhile, the organisations from Swaziland have confirmed their speakers as follows:

  • Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) – Barnes Dlamini, chairperson
  • People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) – Mario Masuku, president
  • Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) – Alvit Dlamini, president
  • Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) – Mduduzi Gina, secretary general
  • Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) – Vincent Ncongwane, secretary general
  • National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) – Thulani Maseko, chairperson
  • Council of Swaziland Churches CSC) – to chair proceedings

Meanwhile at least 20 organisations from Swaziland have confirmed they are coming. The South African list shall be consolidated and sent out soon regarding speakers, as about 20 organisations have also confirmed their participation in the workshop and more than that for the public launch. Details of the launch are:

Venue: Johannesburg Civic Centre (Metro)

Time: 10h00

Date: February 21, 2010 (Sunday)

For more information contact Philani Ndebele +27 76 942 3565

Email: philani@asc.org.za

Swaziland National Union of Students: `We are members of the community before we are students'

By Thabo Dlamini, Bheki Khumalo and Maxwell Dlamini

February 15, 2010 -- The Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) want to convey our heartfelt appreciation to the many progressive friends of the Swazi students who have been issuing statements of solidarity to the oppressed students of Swaziland. We are encouraged and our spirits are renewed knowing that the progressive world community is with us and believes in the correctness of our struggle against this undemocratic kingdom of King Mswati III.

We were not aware that our struggle had struck the right chord, we thought we were alone but today we know that indeed the world community of progressive organisations will never let us struggle alone and this has made us to struggle with even more determination. We would like to single out the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) in South Africa, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its sister unions, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Denmark allies, and many other organisations that have helped profile our struggle.

Today comrades, we report that owing to the insurmountable pressure that the regime found itself under when it charged our comrade Sicelo Vilane, it decided to withdraw the "terrorism" charges against him without stating the reasons why. Also, all our comrades that were abducted by the police during our last rally in Manzini were released without charge.  We do not believe that this was because of the benevolence of King Mswati III's government, but rather to the pressure that you patriots of the world have put.

The SNUS would also like to tell the Swaziland government led by the illegally appointed Sibusiso Dlamini that the students are angry at the response that his government has given to their demands. In fact, the response is nothing short of showing us the middle finger. The government was given four demands but responded only to two and in the most sarcastic of ways without regard to the seriousness and urgency that the students view their demands. The government has not even dared to respond to our concerns on free quality education for all students, as well as how it will register our union.

Instead the government has written a one-page responce in which it states that it will not address the issue of a personal [monetary] allowance now but rather talk about it once the scholarship policy has been passed into law. It says that the present scholarship will be revisited and students will be "consulted" in due course.
Our problem is that government wants to pass the scholarship policy clandestinely and we wonder who will represent the collective interests of students if the government does not want to register the SNUS. We have dealt with this government long enough to know its cunning plans.

We say today that we will no longer be begging the government to respond positively to our demands, we shall now be on the streets mobilising and organising until the government feels the heat and realise that we are serious and angry.

Our successful night vigil in Manzini deliberated and agreed that the problem in this country is not individuals that do not want to listen to us, but is the foundation on which this country is built. Students realise that the problem in this country is a lack of democracy; it is the lack of power for the people to choose the government of their choice, hence the arrogance of the present administration. It was therefore agreed that the January 30 resolution must be reaffirmed and pursued to the bitter end.

Students also welcomed the formation of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign expected to be launched this coming week. Such noble initiatives have unwavering support from the students and come at the right time when students have vowed to make this country ungovernable and Tinkhundla unworkable. As students we have taken it upon our shoulders to ensure that democracy comes in our lifetime and we believe that Swaziland can no longer be an island of dictatorship in a sea of democracy. Students will hold a rally this coming week as a build-up to this watershed moment in the Swazi struggle.

Lastly, the SNUS is expected to meet the South African Students Congress (SASCO). SASCO has a history of always being on the side of the oppressed, poor Swazi youth and students in particular. Even at this hour of need, they have opened their arms and welcomed the students to their shores and to that we are more than grateful.

Our demands are clear

1) Scrap the scholarship policy.

2) Provide free primary education to all pupils.

3) Register the SNUS as the official voice of students across colleges and universities in Swaziland.

4) Increase our pathetic personal allowances.

[Thabo Dlamini is Swaziland National Union of Students secretary general. Maxwell Dlamini is the SNUS organising secretary. Bheki Khumalo is SNUS president.]

Comments

This is our loved country

In the North-East of South Africa,
South-West of Mozambique
Where a landlocked is,
It is locked for the victimization of its own people
Without a disturbance from other forces.

Those who feel it’s a country named it Swaziland
It’s a Swazi farm, an Island of autocracy
People should not choose their capable leaders,
To voice against the prevailing hegemony,
To unite for capable leadership.

Who can own the land beside him?
Who can own luxuries above his?
Either rides an airplane without his concern.
Who can have home without his concern?
Who can receive higher wages in his soil; however, his chicks defend him because of the thigh they get from his grasshopper.

They talked about the 1968 freedom
It’s a pseudo-freedom.
Look at the men, weman, sons and daughters who work in his farm with bare feet in a blazing sun just for bread without butter.
Where the schooling to these kids is if there is true freedom,
His are graduating overseas, no one to blame that because they are prince and princesses by the energy of the nation.

Yes there is a freedom,
But,
Of poverty and unemployment.
See how free HIV/AIDS it is, illiteracy and oppression.
See slave practice, selfishness, corruption, and the sodomsing of the hungry people.

You Pharaoh III think a rein as your forefathers’ heritance
Louis XVI thought so in France, it did happen in Russia, in Cuba, here in South Africa it was. Let them tell you if there’s a permanent situation in life.
Let them tell you about the history of the true freedom they are enjoying now.
The freedom of the people,
By the people,
For the people,
With the people to the people.
The freedom, unguarded of sex, race, religion….in the land of the people.

No matter how many freedom fighters are detained, exiled, arrested or killed but
One day the Swazis will be free, the sun will glitter, the day will joy
All the illness, starvation, slavery, illiteracy,
as many sufferings are, will be laughter.
We don’t know where your way will be about if you’ll luckily survive
Swaziland is our best mother land, we love it,
Let it be free!

Action for Southern Africa greets Swaziland Democracy Campaign

19 February 2010

Message to launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign from ACTSA.

Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), the successor organisation to the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, warmly welcomes the launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign as a southern Africa initiative campaigning for democracy in Swaziland. The situation in Swaziland is a long standing one that has been ignored by the regional and wider international community for too long.

The Swaziland Democracy Campaign, which involves trade unions, church organisations, women’s organisations, NGOs, student and youth organisations, political movements and progressives forces in southern Africa and globally, sends an important message to the Swaziland democracy activists that they are not alone; their struggle for democracy, freedom, an end to poverty and gross inequality is also our struggle. It sends an important message to the rulers of Swaziland that those struggling for democracy in Swaziland are not alone.

We pledge our support alongside the members of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign to do all we can in support of Democracy for Swaziland.

ACTSA supports the demands of trade unions and other civil society organisations in Swaziland and the region that call upon:

The Government of Swaziland to:

_ Convene a democratically elected National Constitutional Forum to realise a democratic, people-led Constitution.

_ Immediately un-ban all political parties and ensure that multi-party, democratic elections are introduced in line with the SADC principles and guidelines for democratic elections.

_ Remove all laws that inhibit political activity and the unconditional release of all political prisoners and return of all political exiles.

_ Ensure a free and independent media and judiciary, as well as ending corruption, cronyism and bribery.

_ Ensure the fairer distribution of national wealth through pro-poor policies, programmes and public expenditure.

_ Respect and implement the ILO mandates and conventions on labour standards working closely with the trade union movement.

ACTSA further supports the demands of civil society in Swaziland and the region for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union to:

_ Publicly condemn the undemocratic regime in Swaziland, with particular reference signature to the Africa Unions' Charter on Human and People's Rights which it continues to violate. to its signature to the SADC's Principles and guidelines on democratic, elections given the undemocratic nature of the 2008 parliamentary elections; and its

_ Work bilaterally and multilaterally to raise the issue of democracy and political
infringements, including the unconditional release of all politically motivated detentions and press for the immediate establishment of a multi-party electoral system.

Based on the views expressed to us from partners in the region, ACTSA specifically calls on the UK government, the Commonwealth, the European Union and other relevant international institutions to:

_ Be more outspoken on Swaziland and publicly condemn the lack of democracy.

The silence of the UK and EU on Swaziland is in sharp contrast to Zimbabwe and can appear as them condoning the situation in Swaziland.

_ To work bi- and multi-laterally to raise the issue of democracy and rights in internationally on a more regular and sustained basis, thus taking greater leadership and responsibility in the crisis. Swaziland

_ Not host or participate in royal visits with the monarchy of Swaziland until basic democratic measures are implemented.

ACTSA looks forward to receiving a report from the launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and working in partnership and solidarity with it.

Best wishes from all at ACTSA for a successful launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign. We will be with you in spirit. We look forward to the day democracy truly arrives in Swaziland.

Best wishes for a most successful launch

Tony Dykes

Director, ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa)

email: tony.dykes@actsa.org

Tel W. +44 (0)20 3263 2001

       M  + 44 (0) 7809396129

Fax: +44 (0)20 79319398

address; 231 Vauxhall Bridge Road

                       London

                       SW1V 1EH

Southern African unions support Swazi struggle

Trade Unions in the SADC region deplore the increasing suppression of Human Rights in Swaziland

19 February 2010.

A coalition of Trade Unions under the Public Service International (PSI) have collectively agreed to give solidarity support and offer a helping hand to achieve a Swaziland free from oppression and violence. The recent reports received by the coalition of Trade Unions about the current brutality meted against the masses are deplorable and disheartening.

On a daily basis progressive forces seeking a better life for all in Swaziland are receiving inhumane treatment from the armed forces under the terrorism act. Swazi nationals of more than three people are unable to meet in the streets, regardless of what their meetings may be about.

We condemn in the strongest terms the behavior of the Swazi Government, and we will mobilize millions collectively in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to respond in whatever way they can to accelerate the struggle for freedom in Swaziland.

For far too long the International Community has left the situation in Swaziland to deteriorate and human rights atrocities to occur.

The delegation of Trade Unions under the PSI has decided unanimously that now is the time for action.  We have already identified strategies in a recent PSI workshop that will enhance our solidarity support and the road to democracy.

We therefore demand the following from the Swaziland Government;

  • Freedom of expression and association for all;
  • The independence of the media;
  • Unbanning of political parties and inclusive participation in consultation with relevant stake holders
  • A cessation of oppressive legislation prohibiting the democratic participation of citizenry; and
  • An end to the State of Emergency and the restoration of constitutional freedoms.

Trade Unions that have endorsed the above course of action;

Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU)

Botswana Land Boards and Local Authorities Workers Union BLLAWU

Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa (DENOSA)

Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (HOSPERSA)

National Public Service Workers Union (NPSWU)

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU)

South African Municipal    Workers Union (SAMWU)

Swaziland National Association of Civil Workers Union (SNACS)

Organizacao Dos Trabalhadores de Mocambique – Central Sindical (OTM-CS)

University of Zambia and Allied Workers` Union (UNZAAWU)

Water Employees Trade Union of Malawi (WETUM)

Zimbabwe Rural District Councils Workers Union (ZRDCWU)

Tahir Sema.
South African Municipal Workers' Union of COSATU.
National Media and Publicity officer.
tahir.sema@samwu.org.za
Office: 011-331 0333.
Cell: 0829403403. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

SACP Solidarity message to the Swaziland Democracy Campaign

The role of the Party in the Swazi struggle

February 22, 2010

International solidarity played a crucial role in the liberation of South Africa. Swaziland was a de facto Bantustan that sided with the apartheid regime. However, ordinary Swazi people, many of them PUDEMO members actively supported the South African liberation movement.

SSN founded by SACP members guided by the spirit of internationalism. The liberation of South Africa is meaningless if other parts of Africa are still oppressed.

Since SSN's inception, SACP has played central role in supporting, from SA side, the legitimate struggle for democracy in Swaziland.

Even though the Party has the least resources when compared to the other components of the Tripartite Alliance, we have been housing SSN for over a decade now. And continue to share our meagre resources with the Swazi struggle.

The Party through its structures is also actively involved in organising the coming SSN Conference late this year.

The balance of forces in Swaziland: Opportunities and threats

The political situation in Swaziland currently a stalemate where the regime is failing to liquate the democratic forces, while the progressive forces are also not in a position to defeat the regime. That is why the regime has resorted in declaring the peoples' organisations terrorists entities.

The second banning of PUDEMO has resulted in the intensification of repressions against the progressive forces.

That has called for a need to revise the tactics of engaging the enemy. The intention of the Terrorism legislation is the drive the liberation movement underground. In a way they have succeed in frustrating the momentum of the struggle. The hard question that comrades need to answer is whether the enemy should determine how the struggle is conducted. Should mass action and open defiance be abandoned for underground strategies?

The downward spiral of the economic situation has both positive and negative implications in the struggle for democracy in Swaziland. Negative in that the increase in retrenchments is likely to weaken organised labour. However, the failure of the regime to intervene in these consequences will harden attitudes of the masses and create conducive revolutionary conditions.

The need to intensify the isolation of the Swazi regime regionally and beyond. Regional bodies such as the SADC and the South African need to take an unambiguous position on Swazi question. Currently there is no diplomatic isolation of the Swazi regime.

Unity

There is a need for unity and concentration of resources than dispersing them. One of the main shortcomings of the Swazi struggle is disunity amongst its cadres. The struggle is broad and needs everyone's effort. There is no need to compete or try to outdo each other. Petty squabbles can only alienate the masses and potential allies. All efforts should be directed at the enemy not other comrades.

We therefore call the Swazi regime to respond to long standing demand of the people of Swaziland by:

Unbanning of political parties and abrogation of the 37 year old State of Emergency and all laws that impede free political activity

Unconditional return and indemnification of all political exiles

A fair and equitable distribution of wealth

An end to royal cronyism, corruption and thievery

Free trade union activity and implementation of all conventions on labour standards

Release of political prisoners including the internationalist, Amos Mbedzi

Dissolution of all secret cabals such Liqoqo and end to the politicisation and abuse of Swazi culture.

COSATU address to public launch of Swaziland Democracy Campaign

COSATU President Sidumo Dlamini

February 21, 2010 -- One of the oldest and most protracted international campaigns of COSATU is that in support of the oppressed people of Swaziland. We have been involved in this campaign long before we even imagined we could have a campaign on Zimbabwe. This goes to show the impatience and stubbornness of the tinkhundla regime and the urgency of decisive action.

Dear comrades, we take this opportunity to welcome all of you, particularly our comrades from Swaziland to this all-important assembly of freedom fighters and soldiers of democracy and justice. We are gathered here as we have no choice, but to struggle, because to perish is not an option.

There are difficult questions we must ask openly and provide honest answers to them. These questions are uncomfortable and sometimes demanding, but they contain seeds of real advance, if properly attended to. The questions are;

  • Given the amount of effort put by all of together, can we confidently say we are making real progress and if not, why?
  • Definitely, the centre of gravity of this struggle is inside the country and that is where things must happen decisively, but what is the actual state of affairs there. Are the people able to feel the momentum and participate in it fully knowing its theirs?
  • Why is it that the global media, including our own media here in South Africa continue to ignore without shame, the pains and suffering of the Swazi people, in whose interests is that?
  • Can we say the South African people, including the alliance and government are doing or have done enough and if not. Why?
  • Finally, are Swazis themselves doing enough for their own liberation, demonstrating willingness to provide leadership on this issue that only them can lead the way?

These questions are not necessarily so that we answer each other during the course of this session, but they are so that we honestly reflect on them and develop appropriate responses in due course.

We have held so many border blockades, marches, pickets and public awareness campaigns together, we have demanded the release of PUDEMO President Cde Masuku and several other activists. We have demanded that organisations that have become labelled terrorists, particularly PUDEMO and its associate structures be decriminalised and allowed to organise freely. We have also fought side by side with our comrades and fellow workers in the trade union movement, SFTU in particular, but we still must answer the question, is that enough and is it taking us forward.

Banning and calling other organisations terrorists mean there is impact being made and we must do more to shake them into deeper crisis. The state seek to isolate and divide the progressive forces by labelling others as terrorists and in the process, creating an attitude of “holier than thou”, amongst others who seek to portray themselves as more reasonable to the state. The reality comrades is that a brutal enemy cannot be pleased or massaged into changing, but its only through struggle and painful sacrifices that change comes. In this regard, we need to be a bit more honest and not feed into illusions and myths created by the regime. Our only focus should be on building our unity in struggle and not debating about languages or labels attached by the enemy to divide us, because then we do exactly what it sought to do, bring confusion and division.

The crisis in the country continue to deepen; education institutions are closed, because students have demanded what rightfully belongs to them and have rejected inferior education and exclusive opportunities for the royal family to learning chances. We salute and encourage them to march on, their cause is our cause. We also call upon everyone to support them, because every struggle takes Swaziland closer to freedom. We understand that there are those who have distanced themselves from the students struggles, citing various reasons, such as that its seen as aimed at overthrowing the oppressive system. However, we are encouraged to hear that all progressive forces, except vacillating elements have practically supported them.

We also seek to use this opportunity dear comrades to congratulate our counterparts, both the SFTU and SFL for holding their successful Congresses and coming out with new ideas to take forward the Swazi workers struggle. We also congratulate those who have been entrusted by workers to lead them for the next term. In this regard, we also seek to congratulate the long-serving and out-gone General Secretary, Jan Sithole whose contribution to the trade union movement is undoubted. The peaceful manner in which your Congresses went demonstrated the maturity and democratic orientation of the trade union movement in Swaziland, a remarkable lesson indeed for all workers everywhere.

We also continue to support the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) a giant indeed. It is our most potent weapon in pursuit of victory. Every attempt to unite the struggling masses of Swaziland is a giant step forward and every effort at dividing them is a giant step backward. Unity is not a luxury comrades, but the most precious weapon of struggle and only through your unity shall the world also acts in unity as they offer support and solidarity to your own struggle. We fully support every effort that aims at uniting the people and would do all within our power to ensure it succeeds.

It is in this light that we believe the birth of this giant, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign takes us forward in many ways and on all fronts. It is the greatest gift the people of Swaziland can have in the quest for a decisive and well co-ordinated international solidarity movement. The people of Swaziland want liberation and not unproductive debates that take us nowhere and only serve to undermine the cause of the Swazi people and the integrity of their struggle in the eyes of the world.

The duty of internationalists is to unite the people in whose name they wage solidarity and not divide them, or encourage things that would undermine their undisputed role as the leaders of their own struggle. As we render solidarity, we must take responsibility for our own contributions to the delays that the struggle has faced as a result of our own activities. In this regard, we must do all within our powers to support them on the basis of their own interests and demands and not our own. The core principles of a progressive solidarity effort include; transparency and accountability to those in whose name we are waging that particular solidarity.

Various lessons from all over the world have taught the progressive movement that open and comradely engagement on a regular basis limits the possibilities for gossip, divisions and doing things that undermine the other. Only when we talk openly about the issues and problems we face can we move a step further towards resolving them, however uncomfortable they might be.

With these words, we affirm our full support for this great initiative and pledge to play our part in advancing the objectives of a free and democratic Swaziland within our own limitations. We repeat again, that we are not involved in the Swazi struggle of our own accord, but under the leadership and guidance of the organisations that have the mandate of the Swazi people themselves. We stand ready to support you, but will not substitute you in your own struggle.

We have no doubt that we have a direct interest in a democratic and developing Swaziland, because only then can the region enjoy stability and development. True to our traditions of an injury to one is an injury to all, we share and feel your pains. It was international solidarity that inspired and kept us confident even during the darkest days of apartheid brutality here. We have that duty to other people too and shall not be cowed by commentators of whatever form.

Comrades, we must jealously safeguard our creations and initiatives in order to derive maximum gains and benefits from them. We must defend them and nourish them so that they can advance our objectives in the manner we have planned for them. Let us make 2010 a year of new and wider horizons, let us redefine the terrain of struggle and set the pace, instead of always responding to the regime’s designs.

Amandla!

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