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Swaziland Democracy Campaign launched: `Justice denied anywhere is justice denied everywhere'

Swaziland's absolute monarch and tyrant, King Mswati III.

By the Swaziland Democracy Campaign

Campaigning for democracy in Swaziland NOW!

February 25, 2010 -- Johannesburg, South Africa --  On February 21, 2010, the world witnessed the launch of a global initiative to support pro-democracy forces in Swaziland: the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). This is a product of many years of working together between South African and Swaziland organisations, which includes political parties, trade unions, churches, youth and students organisations.

The SDC is an expression of the just and legitimate struggles waged by the Swazi people in their quest for human dignity, justice, democracy and human rights. It endorses the principle of justice denied anywhere is justice denied everywhere. Further, that the freedom of all the peoples of the world remains incomplete without the freedom of the people of Swaziland.

Our program

In this regard we wish to state that immediate campaigning priorities will be:

  • A gobal week of action beginning on April 12, 2010, which will see an intensification of measures to unleash a massive program all over the world focusing on Swaziland.
  • An acceleration of a comprehensive boycott of luxury goods of the ruling class and the non-handling of items such as weapons by workers all over the world, that are used to brutalise the people, as well as isolation of members of the oppressive regime from schools and other places where they receive superior attention that those reserved for ordinary people inside the country.
  • A global march for democracy in Swaziland, otherwise known as the Swazi Democracy March (SDM), on September 6, 2010, to coincide with the so-called independence celebrations; to raise and popularise the struggle for democracy. This march shall involve people from all over the world joining the Swazi people inside Swaziland for a historic march whose details are yet to be fully released, in order to make the world taste the reality faced by the Swazi people everyday. The SDM shall include fact-finding missions, visits to various areas to assess the conditions in the country and briefings. A huge media contingent from all over the world shall accompany the events.
  • Development of a Swaziland Information Bank where we shall deposit and receive information about developments inside the country on a regular basis.
  • Establishment of a Swazi Democracy Fund, whose full details shall be released in due course.

All these shall be co-ordinated by a joint co-ordinating team made up of four people from Swaziland and four people from South Africa to constitute a transitional team which shall lead until November 2010, when a proper co-ordination mechanism shall have been determined to lead this initiative and the work involved. The names of the co-ordinators shall be released in two weeks' time, after all mandating processes have been fulfilled.

The crisis deepens in Swaziland

For decades the people of Swaziland have been subjected to inhumane treatment at the hands of an entrenched and ruthless ruling elite. Poverty has continued to ravage the mass of people and especially in the rural areas.

Swaziland has been subjected to the longest state of emergency in the whole world, now having been in place for a staggering 37 years.

Political parties remain banned, opposition parties and movements are proscribed, and the notorious Suppression Terrorism Act is used to prevent any expression of democratic activity.

HIV has destroyed many families and communities. Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infections in the whole world. Life expectancy has dropped from 65 to 31 in the last 13 years, and the regime remains complacent to its devastating impact.

The cost of education makes it completely inaccessible to many poor communities, forcing many learners to drop out. Women and children's rights are undermined daily, and abuse is commonplace, is often justified in the name if culture.

Recent reports have confirmed arbitrary killings of unarmed civilians by the army and police, and yet no one is held to account. Political activists are regularly arrested, tortured and humiliated.

The recent student struggle is a case in point. In this regard we wish to strongly condemn the arrests and torture of a number of student leaders over the last two weeks, and the forced suspension/expulsion of Bhekie Khumalo, the president of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) for raising legitimate student concerns. The regime has closed six tertiary institutions, putting the future of thousands of poor Swazi youth in jeopardy. Of course the children of the ruling elite do not study in the country but are in other parts of the world enjoying their education at the expense of the people of Swaziland.

This endless litany of abuse against the people of Swaziland has been taking place under the noses and the eyes of the world; and the world has largely remained silent.

This must come to an end. It will come to an end

The SDC is a platform for the whole world to do what is right, to defend humanity. It will provide progressive forces of Swaziland, and all peace and democracy loving people around the world, an opportunity to do something practical to raise and amplify the voices calling for democracy in our country.

A joint strategy meeting of civic organisations from both countries has endorsed a Program of Action through which pressure will be mounted on the regime to democratise.

There will be campaigns to put increasing pressure on the regime to force it to respond to the demands for democracy. The strategy meeting recognised the important role that must be played by the Swaziland United Democratic Front working with all those who wish to see a democratic Swaziland.

We are confident that these initiatives will be successful and will be supported globally. Many organisations have pledged their support to the campaign, these include the Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC) based in Botswana, Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) based in London, and the British Trades Union Congress, and very many individual organisations and activists in other countries such as Denmark, Tanzania and Norway. Unions in South Africa, especially those under the banner of COSATU have fully endorsed the campaign.

This campaign does not seek to replace existing organisations but to compliment their work. In this regard, the demands of the SDC are shared demands among those who have been involved in the struggle for democracy for decades, these include:

  • the unbanning of political parties;
  • the unconditional return of all exiles;
  • free and democratic multiparty elections;
  • freedom of the media;
  • an independent judiciary;
  • an end to abuse of culture and women’s rights.

We also call for the immediate scrapping of the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which makes it a terrorist offense to belong to certain parties and organisations.

We take this opportunity to salute the gallant fighter of the people, Comrade Mario Masuku, president of the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), who was arrested under this act and spent more than 350 days in detention without trial. We salute all those who have been victimised in this manner.

In conclusion, we wish to salute other solidarity structures that continue to do work on Swaziland, the Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) based in South Africa, the Swaziland Democracy Watch in Denmark and the Swazi Vigil in Britain. We encourage activists around the world to intensify the call for democracy and assist with all available resources to build unity in action of all forces for change in Swaziland.

We call on multilateral institutions such as Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations to begin to put the issue of Swaziland on their agenda. The SADC in particular must stop awarding King Mswati with leadership positions in the region while he oppresses his people. This is a mockery of the peoples of SADC.

This is a call to action in defence of humanity.

For further information contact: Philani Ndebele on 07694 23565; Venitia Govender 0822223074.

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