Swaziland: (Updated April 15) Monarchy cracks down on pro-democracy protests

Swazi regime’s 'victory' is a pyrrhic one

By Peter Kenworthy

(Earlier reports and statements below.)

April 14, 2011 -- Pambazuka News -- Swaziland’s minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, Lutfo Dlamini, called the brutally crushed peaceful protest or uprising against Swaziland’s absolute monarchy, that lets a small elite live in luxury while two thirds of the population live below the poverty line, a “failure” yesterday.

I beg to differ. In fact, the so-called “victory” of the regime against the demonstrators, whose call for democracy and rule of law in the absolute monarchy that is Swaziland, may turn out to be a pyrrhic one,  making Swazi’s less likely to accept reformist measures once the inevitable change that most people want comes.

Because while the demonstrators didn’t manage to amass the numbers they had hoped for, this was mainly due to the intimidation, blocking tactics and violence of the police and security forces that did everything they could to stop people from assembling in Manzini.

And while the regime might thus claim a victory in terms of numbers – there were an unprecedented amount of police and armed forces patrolling the width and breadth of Swaziland – their “success” was something of a public relations disaster, both within and outside Swaziland.

Now all ordinary Swazi’s, who don’t normally associate with the democratic movement that the regime brands “terrorists” for simply calling peacefully for democratisation, have seen the true face of the regime, if they hadn’t seen it already.

Ordinary people were stopped at road blocks, denied access to Manzini, beaten up for no apparent reason, or driven to far-flung areas of Swaziland and left to walk home, simply for going about their daily business.

And with the unparalleled amount of press coverage of the brutal clampdown on both demonstrators and the  press, newspaper readers all over the world have also been alerted to the true nature of a Swaziland normally seen as a peaceful tourist retreat.

“Workers have exposed the undemocratic nature of Swaziland’s government, and clearly sent a message to our people and the entire world that the time for multiparty democracy in Swaziland is now”, said secretary general of the Labour Coordinating Council, one of the organisers of the protest, Mduduzi Gina today.

Who would disagree? The Swazi regime might have won the battle in the streets, preliminarily at least, as the unions have called of what would have been a third day of protest today, fearing for the lives of their members. But the regime is losing the war of the hearts and minds of the Swazi people and the international community.

Monarchy cracks down on pro-democracy protests

April 12, 2011 -- Various sources -- Swaziland's army and paramilitary police force has attacked pro-democracy protesters, and detained movement and trade union leaders in an effort to crush a planned "people's uprising" announced for April 12. Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at those who managed to gather. Demonstrators are calling on King Mswati III to step down and want a democratically elected government.

The police action followed a call for three days of protest by pro-democracy groups against the tyrannical rule of King Mswati III, who rules as an absolute monarch with the support of a undemocratic political system known as "Tinkhundla".

South Africa's Times Live reported on April 13 that "clashes broke out between the police and protesters in Manzini, Swaziland's commercial capital, about 30km from the administrative capital, Mbabane, yesterday. By midday Manzini resembled a war zone, with police beating anyone seen to be part of the protests. In the city centre, police told protesters that anyone speaking against the king was committing treason and would be jailed... hundreds of riot and other police chased protesters and used water cannons and tear gas against them... Though it has not been announced, a state of emergency is said to have been imposed, with curfews and 24-hour roadblocks across the country."

The Swazi liberation movement, the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), said its president, Mario Masuku, had been placed under house arrest.

The Johannesburg-based Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) said protesters were in control of some sections of Manzini. It said police in the town first beat protesters and then fired rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse them.

SSN's Lucky Lukhele said union leaders and members of the student movement were rounded up the night before the planned protests.

Leading trade unionists and activists including leaders of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) were roughly manhandled and arrested at the offices of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) on April 11. Among those detained were: Barnes Dlamini, SFTU president; Sipho Kunene, Swaziland United Democratic Front president;  Sibongile Mazibuko, Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) president; Muzi Mhlanga, SNAT secretary general; and Nomkhosi Dlamini-Gumedze, SFTU Women's Wing secretary.

Mary Pais Da Silva and Sikelela Dlamini, the coordinators of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) respectively, were also detained.

The SDC and SUDF said it was the largest security mobilisation that has taken place in Swaziland for decades. It has also been reported that soldiers and police are bearing brand new weaponry, and the source of these instruments of oppression is being investigated.

Police camped at the University of Swaziland Kwaluseni campus to prevent students h joining the protests. They were not allowed to leave, even those who wanted to go home. Anyone wearing union or political T-shirts or caps were told to take them off or risk arrest.

Police were doing all they could to restrict movement in the region. "All transport operators like buses and kombis [minibus taxis] are being turned away and those people are being taken and dumped into bushes", Lucky Lukhele said.

Those arrested continued to defiantly sing freedom songs.

The SDC noted that in several smaller towns protest gatherings have taken place for the first time in decades. Prominent leaders of faith-based organisations have joined the protests.

Police stormed the SNAT (Swaziland National Association of Teachers) Centre where more than 500 teachers had gathered. The union leadership instructed the members to sit down. The teachers' union is one of the most prominent groups agitating for democracy in Swaziland.

A teacher told the AFP wire service, "They are are throwing tear gas and beating teachers. People are running helter skelter. Police are beating us with batons." Police had earlier used water cannons to stop students and teachers from marching.

Earlier on April 12, a number of local and foreign journalists were detained by authorities.

COSATU backs protests

Meanwhile, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has joined a growing number of calls for the Swazi king to step down. Members of COSATU gathered at the Oshoek border post with Swaziland in
solidarity with protesters. Also participating were members of several COSATU-affilitated union, as well as the Young Communist League of South Africa, the South African Communist Party, exiled People's Democratic Movement of Swaziland (PUDEMO). They were joined by the general secretary of the newly formed Communist Party of Swaziland, Kenneth Kunene. COSATU's Patrick Craven said, "An effective number of COSATU members have been assembling at the Oshoek border post in solidarity with the people who are demonstrating in the face of massive repression by the police and the army..." 

The SDC noted that "International solidarity messages are pouring in, and world trade unions, rights agencies and political organisations are more determined than ever to use the ILO and many other avenues to isolate the regime and expose further its barbarous character. The abuses of the regime have hardened resolve to action a comprehensive sanctions campaign, and to deprive the royal regime and its entourage from squandering the wealth they have accumulated at the expense of the poor. Measures are also underway to pressurise the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutions to resist from investing in Swaziland to bail out the royal regime. Most importantly, what the regime is doing today is adding fuel to the fire of democratic change from below. Nothing will be quite the same ever again in Swaziland, and the days of the regime are numbered."

Below are number of statements issued in relation to the April 12 Swaziland protests. More will be added as they come to hand.

PUDEMO: Workers remain defiant

By Zakhele Mabuza, Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) head of publicity

April 12, 2011 -- This morning, the workers' movement in Swaziland staged a mass protest in the city of Manzini. A lot of developments took place in the morning as the state’s security forces were determined to ensure the mass action did not take place.

Even before the action took place, many of the worker leaders were rounded up by the security forces as a blatant show of force. More activists were brutally rounded up at random across the city, loaded into trucks and sent to the Manzini regional police headquarters. Along the roads many activists who were heading for Manzini city were forced out of their transport and sent back to their places.

In other areas like the Shiselweni region, about seven mini-buses ferrying workers were turned back halfway between Hlatikulu and Manzini.

The PUDEMO president Mario Masuku was placed under house arrest together with many other activists.

In the city, there were occasional running battles between the protesters and the police. This resulted in businesses shutting down, public transport was quickly evacuated from the city rank.

The prime minister’s promise that this was going to be a normal day was proved very wrong as there was no business as usual and the workers defied the threats made by the state.

PUDEMO salutes the workers and the people of Swaziland for standing up to the hostile regime to press through with their demands. We also salute our international allies for their undying show of solidarity to the struggling masses of Swaziland.

We further condemn the brutal use of force by the state’s security forces attempting to protect the undemocratic and oppressive Tinkhundla regime.

April 12 – what a day, a day to be remembered, a day of beginning

By Kenneth Kunene, Communist Party of Swaziland general secretary

April 12, 2011 -- Since morning today we have seen the commitment of the oppressed against oppressive rule. We have mobilised to our capacity. The enemy was also organised. We used our own strength, they used our taxes to organise against us. They think they can win because they have superiority over our resources.

Our strength

Are they really strong? No! Their strength is only because they can manipulate our power. To defeat them we need to win over our power. Our power is our collective force. Working together while we deny them our energy. This means we must be disciplined.

They resolve to use violence

They have arrested our leaders, blinding our eyes so that we do not have direction. They want to destroy us, they are not prepared to listen to our demands – is it because we asked them, then they think our demands are privileges, but we believe they are our right. We may be suffering to this extent because we place our demands to be fulfilled at their mercy. What then could be the correct line?

OUR DEMANDS ARE OUR RIGHTS – WE DEMAND THEM.

Today an extra demand has been added. FREE OUR LEADERS NOW. We cannot abandon our action before it starts. Let’s take the extra demand as a priority.

Know their tactics

We cannot overlook how they oppress us. They are violent, merciless, rude and unfriendly – have high morale against us because they make their plan and it works for them against us and it has happened for the past 38 years. Have we not learnt something over these years? Truly we have learnt a lot, we just need to apply what we have learnt.

Our tactics

We must organise in small units – fighting units – units of three. Block the roads with stones, burning tyres, trees and scrap cars. Block their movement, defend our communities. The night is the best time for this. We do this until the extra demand is met – OUR LEADERS ARE FREE – so that we can continue with our action for our original demands.

Our enemy

We must not forget that we were blocked by the agents our enemies. Our real enemies are sitting comfortable in their warm houses, drinking wine, beer and whisky – they are relaxed, not shaken. They will never agree on extra demand unless they lose comfort. We know where they stay, how they behave, who are their close friends. Why can’t we think it’s necessary to infringe the same pain to them? They can only realise the importance of our leaders next to us in times of struggles when they fill insecured too. The night remains the best time for all this.

We are committed to our demands – we cannot abandon the struggle, its our life – our conscious – our goal – Freedom Now!

COSATU: Break the silence on the Swazi struggle

By Zanele Matebula, COSATU deputy international secretary

April 13, 2011 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) congratulates all those who defied the armed might of the monarchist dictatorship in the streets of Swaziland yesterday, April 12, 2011. The brutal and violent response of the police and army showed the world just why the struggle for democracy and human rights is so necessary. The lid has been lifted on a regime that survives only though brute force and the suppression of all basic rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

COSATU strongly condemns the repression and the extreme tactics of the Swazi state in their bid to stop planned protests scheduled for April 12, 13 and 14, 2011. Police are continuing today to arrest trade union leaders and other crucial role players organising and leading the three-day action.

In the hope of destabilising the action, some of those arrested are being dropped off on the outskirts of the city to keep them from participating and giving leadership to their members, while some have simply disappeared for days and it is not known whether they are alive or dead or simply incarcerated.

For a government that claims to have no problems with its citizens, we are stunned by the stringent measures taken by the security forces to prevent peaceful protests, by blocking streets and schools, raiding, arresting and torturing people whose intention was to participate in the marches. They were equally desperate to stop the news getting out, by arresting journalists who were there to report it.

We are particularly disgusted by, and condemn, the assault of women activists. How desperate can you be to raise your giant hand to a woman?

Those who live in Swaziland expected such measures to be taken. But in the past the regime did a good job of hiding this reality to the world. Now, especially since the September 2010 global week of action, COSATU and the Swaziland Democracy Campaign knew that Swaziland would never be the same. Yesterday’s events have confirmed it and revealed the truth to a wider international audience.

COSATU also congratulates its 3000 members and allies who demonstrated at the Oshoek border gate and made the march such a success. We salute them for slowing cargo and straining movement at the border for half the day. We handed a memorandum to the commissioner of police and we shall await the response within the next 14 days. We salute all who came out.

COSATU calls on business in Swaziland, South Africa and the region to speak out on repression in Swaziland. It can’t be business as usual; they too have a role to play. We further call for the investigation into who is supplying the Swazi forces with new weapons, gadgets and uniforms; we don’t believe Swaziland can afford them, considering the economic and financial crisis in the country.

We hope discussions to take place at the Southern AFrican Development Community NGO in Angola will lead to a response from SADC on the question of democracy and human rights in Swaziland.

We support the call by the Swazi community for King Mswati to retire from politics and government and to allow his people the right to choose their own government.

Finally we wish to salute and congratulate the Swazi people for their determination, passion and unwavering dedication in achieving their goal and pledge COSATU’s continuing support.

Communist Party of Swaziland: For freedom, jobs, equality

By Kenneth Kunene, Communist Party of Swaziland, general secretary

April 11, 2011 -- The Communist Party of Swaziland supports all the demands of the workers, students, movements and individuals taking part in the days of action against the corrupt and oppressive regime of Mswati III and his “government”.

We stand with you and will fight for your freedom, for a fair and equal Swaziland where there is no more poverty and disease.

We will fight for work for all.

We will fight for free education for all that leads to good jobs.

We will fight to end the dictatorship.

Down with Mswati. Down with capitalism

They are the reason Swaziland suffers so much HIV, TB, poverty, unemployment, oppression.

Yes to socialism!

The Communist Party of Swaziland was formed just recently after years of preparation by Swazi women and men who want to give a Socialist direction to the fight against the Mswati dictatorship.

Socialism is the chance for men and women to share the wealth of the country, to be educated, to have work, to live in peace, to live in equality.

We call for: 

  • Unbanning of all parties and organisations. An interim government drawn from all parties, organisations, churches and trade unions to create the conditions for free and fair democratic elections in Swaziland.
  • The ending of the monarchic autocracy and the transfer of much of its wealth to the immediate tasks of fighting disease and the worst aspects of poverty (such as access to water and sanitation); the confiscation of all crown property and the declaration of Swaziland as a republic.
  • The dismantling of the hated tinkhundla system.
  • The isolation of the Mswati regime by all countries of the international community and the suspension of foreign business activity until the autocracy is dismantled.
  • The rights of all workers to organise into trade unions, that are in turn empowered to join the political process individually and through their federations.
  • Access to land by all who wish to work it under a controlled system of collective rights – in the short term to tackle the severe food scarcity that afflicts 40% of the population.
  • An emergency food security strategy, linked to the above demand.
  • The creation of radical processes to empower women in society, and to make women’s health a top priority in health care.
  • The creation of local workers and peasants organisations to articulate the needs of the urban and rural poor.
  • The creation of an emergency economic, industrial and employment strategy to begin to find a way out of the crisis brought about by the Mswati autocracy and the ruling class. 

The Communist Party of Swaziland supports and is part and parcel of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO. They are the central players in the broad front for national liberation. The Communist Party of Swaziland calls for Swazi women and men to join PUDEMO and SWAYOCO and to further build them as dynamic forces for change.

Join the Communist Party of Swaziland to help the struggle against poverty, for equal chances for all men and women and youth.

April 12 uprising –- not a proposal but a call to action

By Kenneth Kunene, Communist Party of Swaziland general secretary

April 12, 2011 -- The April 12 movement has reminded all of us on what we know: that April 12 1973 was the day of the commencement of our misery. In our suffering, misery, hopelessness, insecurity, hunger, poverty, disease, exploitation, exclusion, marginalisation, unemployment, illiteracy, subjugation, oppression, underdevelopment, malnutrition, slavery, death and all social ills, this date is reflected. It is a reminder that need not to be emphasised.  

If we remember well this day, what then should we do? When we organise peacefully – Mswati triples the state of emergency. He does not want us to organise and openly express our conscious. He wants us to abandon our action and betray our conscious. But can we do that? Do we have an option? No! No! No!

Then what? He blocks movement? He declares war. He arrests people, he terrorises society, threatens the ever weakened. He is a dangerous coward.   

We begin from where we are. We organise around us. We fight from our strength. Our moral is our history and experience over the past 38 years. We fight along our demands, our consciousness. We aim victory not a defeat.  We begin now, today at this very hour, we have no blankets, our houses are lacking, we never had peaceful nights, we are harassed, raided, killed during the night, we are in secured.  

What then is our action?

April 12 is the day of beginning of our action. Let’s do as we do on New Year. Beat the drums, blow our whistles and fire our crickets, blow vuvuzelas to mark the beginning of action.

Join them in the roadblocks, block the roads where they have not blocked, we don’t have the road signs, let’s use stones, logs and burning tyres, they may prove efficient than the road signs they use. We are a mourning nation. The night is the good time for all our action.

To those who cannot join the march during the day; stay home, observe, pray, don’t go to work, April 12 2011 is not a working day in Swaziland, it’s a day of struggle.

Those who normally visit Swaziland from other countries, April 12, 2011, is not a tourism day in Swaziland, come some other day.

Those running business in Swaziland, today is not a business day, but a day of struggle. Close your business, you can open it some other time, but not today. April 12, 2011, is a day of action not business.

Those in the transport industry, as they have always sided with the struggle before, no transport on April 12 because there is no one going to work. Park your buses and kombis at home. You will use them when time comes but not today.

To the activist, observe those who do not observe the call of the poor, those who will betray the call of the marginalised, they are not our enemies but are low-conscious people who cannot learn only by information, they learn better by experience, they will get that time, that class will be open soon – KNOW THEM.

Those who enjoy the beatings, shooting, torture, harassment, intimidation, killing of unarmed citizens who want nothing but who want an end to the unjust system of governance – those in uniform of terror (state police and soldiers)  must remember that this is a struggle, a process of history driven by conscious people who have no limit of thinking and action.   

COSATU memorandum to King Mswati III delivered during the protest march at the Oshoek border gate

April 12, 2011

His Majesty King Mswati III

Today, the 12 April 2011 members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, together with the Alliance partners, are gathered here at the Oshoek border in their large numbers to pay active solidarity to the people of Swaziland in their struggle for freedom and democracy in that country.

On this day, the 12 April 1973, King Sobhuza II the King of Swaziland declared a decree that gave supreme power to the King, with all legislative, executive and judicial power vested unto the King. The decree banned and illegalised political parties in Swaziland, trade unions, students, youth and women’s organisations, all structures of mass participation in that country, and peaceful demonstrations.

The decree denied the Swaziland people their legitimate rights to expression in matters that affect their daily lives, by making political participation the exclusive preserve of the royal family and its allies, and in the process turning the rest of the population into mere spectators and subjects of the royal family.

The decree has been in place since 1973 to date. The people of Swaziland are suffering from the effects of a perpetual state of emergency decreed by the Tinkundla regime.

COSATU members are gathered here today, 12 April 2011, to officially declare your oppressive rule upon the people of Swaziland a crime against humanity.

The past few weeks have seen the people of Swaziland revolting against your oppressive regime; the youth took to the streets; the workers took to the streets and as usual you used your armed forces to torture and intimidate the people from raising legitimate demands.

Today in Swaziland:

  • political parties are banned
  • more than 40% of the people are infected with HIV/AIDS
  • more than 50% are unemployed
  • political and trade union rights are denied.

In support of the struggle by the working class and the poor of Swaziland to liberate themselves, COSATU members today, 12 April 2011 demand the following:

  • Unban all political parties in Swaziland.
  • Unconditional return of all those who are in exile.
  • Introduction of multi-party democracy.
  • The repeal of all laws and legislation preventing the free exercise of both freedom association and freedom of choice.

Should we not receive an immediate response within 14 working days, the workers organised under COSATU will intensify their actions against your regime including, among others, blocking all goods from South Africa to Swaziland and from Swaziland to South Africa.

Fidel Mlombo, COSATU Mpumalanga provincial secretary

SACP: The 12 April Movement and developments in Swaziland

April 12, 2011 -- The South African Communist Party greets the peoples' determination and their actions in the epoch of Swaziland's revolutionary crisis.

Our party supports the victory of Swazi popular forces as a victory that will place the political struggle in the region on a new advanced footing. It will mark a sea of change and intensify the basic class contradictions in struggle between reactionary social groupings on the one hand and progressive forces on the other. It will diminish the dominant influence of backward, colonial, neocolonial and imperialist forces that are opposed to democracy and create progress for popular, democratic social bloc of political forces in the region.

The collective struggle for freedom, to deepen democracy, sovereignty, justice and social progress will be better served by the overthrow of the Tinkundla system under the leadership of King Mswati.

The regime is preparing to unleash a brutal crackdown on the masses and their demonstrations as a counter-offensive that is central to its overall strategic policy of reaction.

Contrary to its rhetoric about peace and order, the real political content of this policy, is to prohibit the restructuring of the Swazi system of social relations that gives adequate protection to its corporate interests for accumulation.

The SACP calls for the release of all those arrested, in a dress rehearsal against the April 12, among them several leading activists of PUDEMO, Swayoco (Swaziland Youth Congress), the trade union movement and civil society.

More raids were carried out last night and despite glaring fissures in the security apparatus, the regime maintains its scorched earth policy and heavy handedness in dealing with demonstrators.

Roughly all of the regime's 20,000 men police force remains visibly active around hot spots, across main pathways in the urban centres, near public spaces in a coercive operation of intimidation.

The SACP salutes all workers, youth, women, students and progressive forces, who are not intimidated by Mswati and bandits. We salute all the people who will be confronting this regime and drawing the country closer to achieving a democratic solution to the political crisis.

The people shall defeat the Swazi state's grand plan of dictatorship. The people shall defeat the regime's backwardness and press for the democratic renewal of Swazi society. The people shall achieve real social progress and improve their conditions under a democratic political system.

The people shall isolate the conservative reactionary forces and build a people's democracy.

The people shall crush Tinkhundla, roll back injustice, patriarchy and push for overall social, economic and political development. They shall achieve freedom, democracy, peace and social progress. The revolution shall meet the general demands of the people for rights and transform all institutions of repression.

The system cannot continue to function in the old way and now is the time for its overthrow and to regenerate new conditions without fascist dictatorship and deal a final blow to the mediocrity of King.

On the formation of the Communist Party of Swaziland

The SACP also welcomes the landmark birth of the Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) over the past weekend and are deeply encouraged by its political program and its identity with struggles led by the liberation movement in Swaziland, the youth and other progressive formations.

Our party recognises that the formation of a vanguard political party, representing the interests of the working class and the poor in alliance with the liberation movement, the rural masses, is indispensable to unify all anti-capitalist forces behind the struggle to overturn the legacy of the current and the parasitic relationship between the Swazi ruling class and international capital.

We call on all progressive forces internationally to stand in support of peoples demands for democracy and freedom in Swaziland.

Surrender is impossible, forward ever backward never!

Long live the Swaziland revolution, long live!

Support from the Young Communist League, South Africa

April 11, 2011 -- The Young Communist League of South Africa (uFasimba) calls upon all South Africans and democratic formations to join solidarity protest action at the Swaziland embassy in Pretoria as part of support for April 12 Swazi uprising. The demonstration is in support of popular mobilisation by the people of Swaziland. We support the Swaziland Democracy Campaign in their initiative of spreading awareness about the continued oppression of Swaziland people by a monarchy.

As YCLSA we equally denounce the unruly behaviour of Swaziland Royal Police who unlawfully detained comrade Maxwell Dlamini, Simanga Ginindza, Themba Mabuza and Sifiso Mabuza, at Sidvwashini, at a road block, while they were from Witbank in South Africa as part of preparing for a mass action. This comes as no shock as the Swaziland monarchy has proven to be intolerant of democracy and popular views of the people of Swaziland. This unfortunately proves that every word uttered by the king has merely been hypocritical propaganda to paint a facade to the rest of the world.

We re-affirm our support to the people of Swaziland in their struggle for democracy. We urge the South African government to play a more decisive role in addressing political problems of Swaziland. We cannot turn a blind eye to the continuous brutality faced by activists in Swaziland.

We call upon the immediate release of all detainees and for the protest action to continue as it is the democratic right of the Swaziland people without any interruption from the dictatorship.

Issued by the YCLSA head office

Mafika Mndebele

National spokesperson

YCL calls for SADC and AU intervention in Swaziland

By Mafika Mndebele, YCL national spokesperson

April 12, 2011 -- The Young Communist League [uFasimba] calls for immediate action by Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) in Swaziland. Our call is informed by the complete collapse of human rights and state institutions that are hell-bent on violently suppressing popular democracy and freedom of association as was seen with today's protests.

The violence meted by Mswati’s police and military, together with arbitrary arrest of political activists and the collapse of the economy in that country calls for immediate action and intervention, especially by the SADC's Troika and the AU.

We specifically call on Pretoria to resume economic sanctions with immediate effect, as a means to force Swaziland to conform to democratic demands of the people.

Over the last two days, more than 20 people, including trade union leaders, student activists, youth and political leaders have been detained without trial in order to stop the wave of protests all over the country.
The last straw was the arrest of reporters who were intimidated not to report on the action or the atrocities committed by the police.

We further call on the youth and workers of Swaziland to continue with their action to render the monarchy ungovernable in their demand for democracy, constitutional reform, setting up of democratic institutions and the ultimate overthrow of the puppet parliament and government of King Mswati III.

The YCL will continue to support the demonstrations, under the banner of Swaziland Democracy Coalition, and we are happy with the massive turnouts in the towns, villages, university and workplaces in support of the action. The huge turnout disproves the propaganda by the state that this is action by few people, and will clearly push the monarch to engage into democratic reforms with the people. The YCL particularly applauds the recently launched leadership of the Swaziland Communist Party, which has also played a significant role in mobilising the working class and the poor from the countryside into action.

The day slowly is nearing when the last absolute monarchy, King Mswati III, will fall on his back at his royal chair. We shall never be free, until the peoples of Swaziland have attained their freedom.

Democracy protests meet violent reaction from regime

By Mackenzie Kinmond, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

April 12, 2011 -- Widespread pro-democracy protests across Swaziland have met with a violent reaction by the security forces of King Mswati today, with leaders of the country’s trade union movement among the many detained. Barnes Dlamini, president of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions and Vincent Ncongwane, secretary general of the Swaziland Federation of Labour were, along with several other union leaders, among the hundreds detained.

Heavily armed police and military are occupying the capital Manzini and other key centres, teargas is being used against protestors, and there are reports that security forces have been firing live ammunition.

“King Mswati and his small clique of cronies have massively enriched themselves over the years, while the Swazi people have been impoverished by this feudal regime. Now they seek to cling to power using violence and intimidation, against the overwhelming will of the people. Swaziland has suffered enough – the international community must act with resolve and determination to see that justice is done and dictatorship is replaced by democracy”, said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

ITUC South African affiliate COSATU, long a supporter of the Swaziland union movement and civil society demand for democracy, organised demonstrations against the Mswati regime on the border between the two countries today, and has pledged to continue to stand by the democracy movement.

“Trade unions across the world are appalled at this latest example of a dictatorship resorting to repression and violence, and will maintain their solidarity with the Swazi movement for democracy and human rights”, said Burrow.

Public Services International sends message of solidarity to Swazi protesters; condemns crackdown by authorities

Peter Waldorff, general secretary, Public Services International

April 13, 2011 -- Public Services International sends a message of solidarity to its affiliates in Swaziland and all those participating in the pro-democracy protests held across Swaziland on April 12, 2011. These protests come at a time when Swaziland is facing bankruptcy due to the reckless mismanagement of the economy by the ruling regime – an elite group which has grown richer and richer, while the people of Swaziland grow poorer and poorer.

The Swazi authorities have responded to the mass protests, dubbed the “April 12 Uprising”, by detaining hundreds of trade union leaders and other peaceful protesters in a violent crackdown. Quinton Dlamini, president of PSI affiliate the Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants, was among those detained.

PSI calls for his immediate release, along with the release of all other protesters who have been unjustifiably detained. PSI is particularly disturbed by reports that detainees are being mistreated and tortured.

PSI general secretary Peter Waldorff says: “From the information we have received, it appears that the security forces are literally grabbing anyone they can lay their hands on from the streets and detaining them.This reaction by the Swazi authorities is all too predictable. Swaziland remains a country where democratic dissent and opposition are banned and trade union and pro-democracy human rights activists are subjected to violence, intimidation and harassment. The authorities must, however, realise that they cannot resist the wave of change forever.”

PSI stands in solidarity with the workers of Swaziland in their struggle for democracy and human rights, including the rights to freedom of association and expression.

Comments

IMF targets Swazi workers, ignores Mswati's millions

(The IMF's trying to be as helpful in southern Africa as it was in Northern Africa: "Forbes Magazine revealed in 2009 that King Mswati III himself has a personal fortune estimated at $200 million. The king also owns 10% of every mining company in Swaziland. But the IMF has not spoken about these issues. Instead it suggests that civil servants' salaries must be cut.")

http://www.thedailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2011-04-07-imf-should-think-hard-before-dictating-changes-to-swaziland

Manqoba Nxumalo

IMF should think hard before dictating changes to Swaziland

Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Swaziland and it is more and more difficult for King Mswati's regime to mask the stench. And on 12 April, the opposition groups promise to turn Africa's last absolute monarchy into another Tunisia. Not a good time for the IMF to come swinging.

History is being made in Swaziland and the past few weeks have proved this. Following several recent protest marches, we have been inundated with reports of Swazi parliamentarians trying to respond to – and circumvent –  growing anti-government sentiment, mostly from the youth and students.

On the day of the biggest protest marches so far, 18 March, Mswati III was passing out soldiers at army headquarters. He sternly warned soldiers against siding with opponents of his government. Perhaps he wants to ensure that the loyalty of the army. That night Swazi prime minister Barnabas Sibusiso hastily convened a press conference where he announced the reshuffle of the principal secretaries.

Two days later, in a parliamentary session, senators asked the prime minister to “deal” with one of the founders of the April 12 Uprising Facebook group. Senators asked the prime minister to arrest a man we have come to know as “Gangadza Masilela” because the information he was spreading on Facebook about Swaziland was dangerous. The senators rightly observed that many uprisings had been started by Facebook and called for the prime minister to do something.

The following day, the minister of labour and social security called for people behind the April 12 Uprising to come to the table to negotiate with the government. He then laid down a condition: That the government was only ready to negotiate with anyone who had proof that the people of Swaziland wanted multi-party democracy. This demand epitomises the attitude of the government of Swaziland towards change.

It is quite evident the present regime has lost legitimacy and the economic collapse has not made their case any easier. However, what is worrying is the silence of the International Monetary Fund on these developments. The IMF has been scrutinising the government’s account books recommending this and suggesting that, but has not once talked about the root cause of the economic problems in Swaziland. Instead of acknowledging the political problem that caused the economic collapse in the first place, the IMF is suggesting structural-adjustment programmes and privatisation.

The economy has collapsed mainly because of, among other things, the exorbitant cost of the upkeep of the royal family, as well as pervasive corruption. For example, in the wake of the calls from higher authorities for fiscal prudence as receipts from Southern African Customs Union dropped to an all-time low, adding pressure to sluggish economic growth, the royal family’s budget was increased. This increase is reflected in the latest budget estimates released by minister of finance Majozi Sithole.

The government has been warned about its escalating reckless expenditure, which sees priorities often taking a backseat and an excessive government wage bill. Last year alone it was reported that government had budgeted R170 million (up from R130 million) for the royal family. In terms of the Royal Emoluments and Civil List Act, signed into the law by King Mswati III on 23 September 1998, each year for a decade R15 million and budget estimates for last year showed that a staggering R503 million, which is 5% of the R10 billion national budget for 2010/2011, has gone to cover expenditure associated with the monarchy. Making matters worse, according to the 2005 constitution the King, his mother, the Indlovukazi,  and the senior prince who exercises the duties of the king when the position is vacant.

The R503 million comprises R170 million from Royal Emoluments and Civil List, despite the law stating the amount should be R15 million; R158 million recurrent budget for the Swazi national treasury under the King’s office; the usual R125 million for state houses and R50 million for link roads to royal residences. The last two projects for the royal household have featured in the national budget for the past two years. A sum of R25 million for the rehabilitation, maintenance and construction of state houses is, effective from last fiscal year, under the Swazi national treasury and the R5 million royal link roads is still under the ministry of public works and transport. Paid under royal emoluments are salaries for the monarch and related payments to such immediate members of the royal household as determined by the king.

Previously it was revealed by the Times of Swaziland that the king’s brothers and sisters draw R50,000 yearly allowances from the monarch’s budget. Expenditure under the civil list category is monitored and managed by the royal trustees – led by the minister of finance. Any savings or excess amounts from the royal emoluments and civil list “budget” is not remitted to the Consolidated Fund, but invested by the royal trustees as they deem fit. The Consolidated Fund is the purse which supports and funds the Civil List. The Consolidated Fund is financed by the shares that government owns in the big investors in the country such as the Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation and MTN Swaziland. The Consolidated Fund receives money from profit shares, and it's estimated to receive about R16 billion on an annual basis. The fund is also said to be responsible for the repayment of government loans to the African Development Bank  and World Bank, which would amount to R1 billion a year, at least according to Swaziland Times columnist Qalakaliboli Dlamini.

Salary reviews for personnel in the king’s office and other royal residences, palaces and state guest houses are directly linked to those of civil servants. The law states that whenever there is an adjustment or review of salaries for civil servants such adjustments shall be applied to the salaries of personnel in the king’s office and the yearly sum of R15 million adjusted accordingly. Coupled with that, Forbes Magazine revealed in 2009 that King Mswati III himself has a personal fortune estimated at $200 million. The king also owns 10% of every mining company in Swaziland.

But the IMF has not spoken about these issues. Instead it suggests that civil servants' salaries must be cut. In this year’s budget speech, finance minister Majozi Sithole revealed the country was losing up to R80 million a year owing to corruption. Not that we are unaware of the IMF’s neo-liberal agenda, but we all thought the fund would be logical in its assessment of the situation in Swaziland. The IMF wants the Swazi capitalist state, already dominated by the neo-liberal agenda, the World Bank and World Trade Organisation to accelerate privatisation. This agenda advocates “a lean and mean state” as expressed in official policy documents such as Swaziland’s Public Sector Management Programme and Economic and Social Reform Agenda. PSMP is the key vehicle used by the Swaziland government to deliver the devastating blow of privatisation within the public service.

Vincent Dlamini, National Public Service and Allied Workers Union secretary-general, argues that the state should play an active role in the development process to transform the economy from low to high value-adding economic activities. “In Swaziland, the challenge is to transform from a largely agricultural to an industrial society. The panacea to Swaziland’s socioeconomic ills and efficient service delivery can be found answering the question: What kind of a state do we want to establish in our country?” Dlamini states in a report he submitted during a civil society consultative meeting on the response of workers to the government’s privatisation initiatives

He goes on: “The majority of workers who face retrenchment are low-skilled Swazis who will not easily find new jobs. It must be remembered that for every worker who loses a job between six and 10 people lose their livelihood. Outsourcing and ‘casualisation’ move workers outside their bargaining unit and thus expose them to reduced pay, reduced benefits, (and) job insecurity”. To Dlamini the problems facing Swaziland are structurally deep and can only be addressed by transforming the entire state. “The country’s current economic slowdown is exceptionally deep and broad, with no evidence that the downward spiral that began some years ago will see a recovery. The working class of Swaziland should struggle to establish a people-centred developmental state, which shall guarantee their rights and freedoms paying particular attention to the majority poor people,” he argues.

Without a doubt, establishing a people-centred developmental state would mean overhauling the entire structure of the Swazi system of governance, and making the state democratic, accountable, and transparent. Democracy would ensure that the government of the day has a mandate of the people which is tested periodically over a set period of time. As it is often said, democracy may not be the best way of governing people, but it is the other options that scare me.

And as for the IMF, my message to this institution is simple: Thanks, but no thanks. Swaziland needs a deep and profound change, but not what you suggest.

Aluta continua!

The state of affairs is worse than any person could imagine in Swaziland. The propaganda machinery is no longer able to convince the people of Swaziland to support the absolute mornachy of king Mswati III. The liberation movement in Swaziland should seize this opportunity to defeat the Swazi regime. I am totally opposed to violence and fully support the struggle for democracy and freedom. But, if violence will be the only means to achieve freedom, let there be violence. The brutal force of the state agents in Swaziland should be met with equal revolutionary force. An eye for an eye makes the world blind. That will only assist Mswati to realise that he does not own Swaziland and that only a collective leadership will bring stability in that country.
Long live the spirit of freedom in Swaziland!!

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