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.
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.
Many Swazi women married in community of property have been left in the cold by their husbands, who chase them out of their matrimonial homes or sell property without their knowledge. In some cases, the wives will have paid for the property but leave with nothing because it is registered in their husband’s name. Dolly Ndlovu found herself in this situation after moving out of her matrimonial home last year. She is still paying the bond on the house where her estranged husband now lives with his mistress.
Back in 1995 when she applied for the loan Ndlovu was not aware of what she was getting herself into. It was only 10 years later, when she tried to use the property as collateral on a car loan application, that she realised the house was not actually hers. "I was shocked when the bank told me that, although I was the sole payer of the bond, my husband was the sole owner of the property," said Ndlovu, a primary school principal and women’s rights activist. The bank refused to stop deducting the loan installments from her salary when she moved out of the four bedroomed house because the bond is in her name.
Due to the brave efforts of women’s rights activist, Doo Aphane who challenged the Deeds Registry Act on the basis of the equality clause of the Constitution, other Swazi women will no longer have to experience what Ndlovu has gone through. Last year Aphane took government to court where she argued that the provisions of Section 16(3) of the Deeds Registry Act not only undermines her dignity but is also discriminating of her and other women married in community of property in the kingdom. Section 16(3) of the Deeds Registry Act prevented women married in community of property from registering immovable property in their names. This piece of legislation further allowed the husband to be the sole administrator of the property.
Aphane further asserted that this piece of legislation is against the provision of Section 20 of the Constitution, which states that everyone is equal before the law while Section 28 awards women equal rights to men in political, economic and social activities. Justice Qinisile Mabuza last week gave women married in community of property the right to register property in their names and have equal partnership with their husbands in its administration. She further ordered parliament to put into motion the law reform process so that offending statutory provisions such as Section 16(3) of the Deeds Registry Act are removed from the country’s statutes.
Mabuza observed that the legislature has had enough time since the adoption of the Constitution in 2005 "to embark on aggressive law reforms, especially those relating to women who have been marginalised over the years in many areas of the law." Despite being signatory to various international instruments aimed at empowering women, including the Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, the Swazi government has done little to amend laws that subjected women to perpetual minority status.
The women's movement sees the judgment on property registration as an important milestone towards law reform in the country and an opportunity for women’s economic advancement. "Now women can use their 50 percent of the property they own jointly with their husbands as collateral to get loans to start businesses," said Aphane. Although title deed land accounts for only 30 percent of the land in the Kingdom, Aphane said a lot of economic activity takes place in urban areas, which is why this judgment will uplift the Swazi economy.
Lungile Mzizi, project manager at the Business Women’s Forum of Swaziland could not agree more with Aphane. She said women in the country are now in a position to venture into big businesses such as construction and property development because it is clear who owns what between husband and wife. The Swaziland Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) has also welcomed the judgment. Member of Parliament and women’s rights activist Nonhlanhla Dlamini, told IPS that it was brave of Aphane to take the tedious legal route because many other women in her position were afraid.
"As the WPC we’re very excited about this judgment and we’ll take it upon ourselves to ensure that laws aimed at protecting women are passed in Parliament," said Dlamini. Dlamini told IPS the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill would be a priority for Parliamentary debate when the legislature starts sitting this month. Because this judgment does not apply in reverse, it will not affect Ndlovu's situation. But she told IPS she is consoled by the fact that her child will not go through the same experience as she did. *Not her real name
By Lucky Lukhele, Swaziland Solidarity Network spokesperson
March 8, 2010 --The Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] condemn with strongest possible term the recently introduce 3% taxation of the poorest of the poor by the Swaziland government led by King Mswati. It is apparent to anybody who is not in denial that the Swazi economy is on its knees. The country’s revenue has sunk so low that the government, through the ministry of finance has decided to resort to the most pathetically anti-poor policies in order to remedy the situation.
The Swazi economy has not been doing well for the last decade, recording the lowest economic growth in the region at an average of 2% annually when the regional aggregate was 5%. What made the situation worse was that when the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recently decided to review its formula for sharing receipts it reduced Swaziland’s share by 30.8 percent. That act in itself was enough to lead to a crisis in a country so heavily dependent on SACU receipts for its revenue. As a direct result the ministry of finance to reduce the national budget by E1 Billion for the 2010 financial year. This budget cut was enforced indiscriminately throughout all ministries, which meant that already ailing ministries like the health and education ministries would also be expected to go deeper into crisis.
Alongside these drastic yet unavoidable measures, the government seeks to increase its revenue base. Unfortunately, in doing so, it has done the unthinkable by introducing a 3% tax for the poorest labourers whose have previously been deemed too low to be taxed. This is an outrageous demand to make on a population that has had to endure lack of basic necessities that government has an obligation to fund. It is a move which will increase the economic gap between the country’s elite and the poor folk whose cheap labour is the reason why Swaziland still has an economy in the first place. It is also a move that exhibits a low level of thinking. Taxing the poorest labourers amounts to burning a candle at both ends, and it will only exacerbate the prevailing circumstance instead of remedying the situation. This is unfortunately not the time to destabilise the population by enforcing policies that will impact negatively on the morale of the economy’s producers. It is a time to make the decisions which, although unpopular to the ruling elite, will resuscitate the economy
A more logical approach would
therefore include reducing the royal budget or simply just doing away with it
completely. The royal family has enough privately owned assets and companies to
feed itself. There is absolutely no reason why it should still be on public
welfare at the expense of more deserving sectors of the population. Another
perhaps more pragmatic solution would be reducing the defence budget, which
currently stands at E663 million, despite the fact that the country is not at
war and has more than enough police and riot-police to control the population,
should it find the need to do so.
March 12, 2010 -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions wish to add its voice to the numerous messages of congratulation to the President of PUDEMO, Mario Masuku, for being awarded the prestigious Democracy Prize by the people of Denmark.
COSATU has consistently stood firm on the side of the working and struggling masses of Swaziland during these trying times in the history of their noble struggle for democracy. It is a struggle for the extension of the frontiers of democracy and justice in our region and continent, hence our active interest in its success.
During these joint efforts, we have come to know and work with Comrade Masuku who has proven to be a solid force, source of inspiration and resilient personality, resembling the best of the Swazi people.
The struggling fraternity of Swaziland should be proud of their achievement, for Masuku is their product, a product of the heroic struggles and sacrifices of the militant, yet humble masses of Swaziland. In receiving this great award, Masuku will be doing so on behalf of the thousands of Swazis in the trenches of struggle, who are daily waging determined struggles against land dispossession by the royal family, grinding levels of poverty and unemployment, rampant abuse of women in the name of culture and repressive political leaders, as well as the extreme levels of royal looting that has bled the economy dry.
COSATU continues to mobilise the world community of democrats and revolutionaries behind the cause of the Swazi people for democracy, in the same way that we have done so and continue to do so in Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.
Therefore, we wish to pay special tribute to the living legend of the Swazi people’s struggle for democracy and justice, Mario Masuku and pledge our continued commitment to the cause of the Swazi people, as recently demonstrated by the successful launch of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC), which is bound to take the struggle to new heights.
Our firm view could not be captured any better than in the words of our President, Sidumo Dlamini during the historic launch of the SDC two weeks ago in Johannesburg, when he said, “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.”
Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
P.O. Box 1019
Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC) congratulates and salutes PUDEMO President Mario Masuku for being awarded the prestigious Danish Democracy Prize
On the occasion of this great achievement and recognition of a humble son of the Swazi soil, Mario Masuku, the President of PUDEMO, the world cannot help but deliver a standing ovation for his well deserved award. Born in Makhosini, a tiny village south of Swaziland, where grinding poverty and ruthless conditions of existence enforced by surrogates of the ruling royal family gave him no choice but to throw his lot behind the cause of the suffering people throughout the country.
This was to be the destiny of a humble, yet legendary giant of the Swazi people’s struggle for freedom. Throughout his years he has been navigating the dangerous waters of a very repressive and violent system, whose jails are marked with the ink of hundreds of ordinary Swazis in search for freedom and dignity. Amongst those names is none other than Mario Masuku who has been in and out of prison, bravely refusing to be silenced or intimidated into submission by draconian might.
We know that Comrade Mario will accept this prize on behalf of all those who are struggling against the oppressive Swazi regime, for his fight is not an individual one, but part of a much deeper collective effort. There are many who have not been given recognition for the contribution they have made, and this award will give them encouragement and a feeling of shared victory.
Dating back to the days of the mighty struggle against apartheid, Masuku has always been at the forefront of a brave resistance as part of the internal machinery inside Swaziland of the ANC-led liberation movement that risked the ruthlessness of the joint apartheid and tinkhundla forces ranged against the liberation forces on both sides of the border. This unholy alliance between tinkhundla and apartheid resulted in the brutal killings of so many comrades and activists of both the South African and Swazi liberation movements.
The historic 1990 treason trial, the subsequent seditious and subversive trials, the Suppression of terrorism charges are just some of the illustrative experiences of a journey through the valley of sacrifice, pain and humiliation, as well as the contrasting feelings of joy and achievement in the process. Through his selflessness, the world came to recognise the suffering of the Swazi people and the tragedy of a silently bleeding society was brought into the open. At last, the eyes of the world could be blinded no more by false pretentions, hypocrisy and double standards of a regime that used culture to justify oppression, abuse and impoverishment of the masses.
However, we fully agree with Masuku in his acceptance statement that its an achievement of the people and the whole struggling fraternity of Swaziland. It’s an honour befitting the great sacrifices of the people as a whole, it’s a collective award to the great cause for which so many have sacrificed and died for. The Swazi people have made it possible that in him, the best of their traits is brought to the open for the world to see. His qualities and outstanding attributes tell a story not just about him, but about the Swazi people in general and their dignified resistance to all that is wrong and dehumanising.
We also take this opportunity to salute the whole Swazi nation, particularly its leading detachment, as expressed in their political home, the Swaziland United Democratic Front, which has come to symbolise their unity and determination to fight divisions and fragmentation that keeps tinkhundla going. The front should be proud that one of its own has been recognised, a fitting tribute to their own quality of leadership of the mass movement.
In this regard, the SDC warmly embraces this great achievement as a giant step forward in the march towards a new and democratic Swaziland. It is a special tribute to the greatness of the resilient and fighting masses of Swaziland on whose side the world community of compatriots stand. We call upon everyone to join this historic march as profoundly articulated by the Founding Declaration of the SDC at its historic launch two weeks ago, when it said:
“Since 1973, the Swazi Monarchy has the dubious honour of maintaining the longest state of emergency anywhere on the continent. It has literally turned the country into an open-air prison controlled by a series of draconian laws. Every sphere of life in society has become militarised. The notorious Suppression of Terrorism Act is but the latest indication that repression is to be extended. Despite these conditions, within Swaziland there are many people of courage and dignity who are prepared to make common cause in their communities, their workplaces, their schools and colleges, and in their places of worship. They are prepared to unite and challenge the repression and the wastefulness of the royal elite. They are prepared to make sacrifices for the country they love, and it is to these brave and honourable people that we must reach out to. We believe there must be no ambiguity about our moral duty to support those who are oppressed to resist and struggle for liberation, justice and democracy.”
It went to say:
“We therefore hope this declaration is a first step in breaking through the wall of silence and complacency that helps perpetuate the myth that Swaziland is a caring society ruled by a benevolent royal family. We seek to give voice to ordinary Swazi people and their quest for human dignity, democracy and freedom.”
Therefore, we must affirm that your greatness Masuku is in your humility and selflessness. Only through your sacrifice and commitment will the world be forced to raise its eyes to the daily struggles waged by the thousands of ordinary Swazis in schools, workplaces, churches, communities, social and cultural centres, as well as institutions of learning. You represent the entirety of the nation in that recognition and you must always maintain the pride of being their humble and loyal servant.
For more details contact;
Philani Ndebele at
Mobile: 076 942 3565
Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN]
*02 Apr. 2010 *
In an eventful week which witnessed, amongst other things uniquely Swazi,
Swaziland’s only private television station return to the ownership of the
king’s cousin, the Swazi Observer – owned and run by Tibiyo, the king’s
private piggy-bank – announced that the state would invest enormous amounts
of time and money in running the biggest Public Relations campaign. This
campaign seeks to promote the country’s image internationally.
As if the mere fact that Swaziland’s willingness to take advantage of the
media freedoms of other countries to facilitate its campaign to keep Swazis
in a state of eternal censorship was not ironic enough, the state mouthpiece
interviewed a number of the king’s sycophantic warriors “emabutfo” , asking
them about the planned trip by the Congress of South African Trade Unions to
the country. Typical of a bunch of uncultivated tribesmen with no political
nous, they had a field day threatening the South African organisation with
war-talk reminiscent of the “Kukhamana Speech” made by the king at the royal
kraal in 2008. They expressed their distaste with all forms of international
solidarity with the forces for democracy in Swaziland and cited these as
being “interference”. Alongside these rather unfortunate remarks by
associates of a king trying in his desperate to promote an image of a
peaceful and happy Swaziland, there were a few comments from Swaziland’s
progressive formations, albeit the fact that they were printed at the very
end of the news article, to indicate that the editor wished they be
All this concern with image is obviously a reaction to the much publicised
award given to the president of the banned People’s united Democratic
Movement by the Danish Parliament in March this year. The mere fact that the
parliament of country with diplomatic ties with the kingdom had openly
bestowed a prestigious prize on the leader of a political party that the
country’s authorities loath even mentioning by name must have sent shock
waves throughout the Royal establishment. It is only a matter of time
before the true effect of that very historic event is known. For now, it
would be a great lesson to all future generations to note how not to launch
a Public Relations campaign by simply watching Swaziland’s deeply
*Issued by The Swaziland Solidarity network [SSN] South Africa Chapter*
*For more information contact:*
*Lucky Lukhele- SSN –spokesperson*
*072 502 4141*
“Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”: so says an African proverb. Very few countries in this epoch have borne witness to a more crude distortion of their national history than Swaziland. Central to this are the events which lead up to the late king’s unilateral decision to disregard a national constitution and assume the role of a supreme ruler on the 12th of April 1973.
While a thorough rebuttal of the official story peddled to the Swazi masses may be the subject of an entire book, there are few facts whose mere mention exposes the propaganda version for the absurd lie that it is. The most important being the fact that Swaziland was never officially a colony of Great Britain, although it might have been administered as one. Swaziland was a British protectorate. The distinction between the two is crucial to understanding the nature of the relationship that the Swazi tribal authorities had with the colonial government. The Swazi tribal authorities, being the ones who had literally begged to be a part of the British colonial system, have always been an important instrument for ruling the native population. It is therefore not surprising that Great Britain, a constitutional monarchy, saw nothing ironic with handing power to what was clearly an executive monarchy which had ascended to power thanks to its collusion with forces some of which were, at the time, engaged in the most dehumanising policies against indigenous Africans.
It is also not surprising that when the king decided to rescind the independence constitution unlawfully, crushing all form of dissent, he had the practical backing of the former colonial power. Despite the Royal cabinet, a new flag, national anthem and other trappings of an independent state, Swaziland’s socio-economic relationship post independence remained largely unchanged. It was the same politics of exploitation. Political parties and all forms of political expression were banned. Failure to heed to the king’s decree was severely punishable by a sixty day detention without trial. All in all, such tactics were always a mirror image of the manner in which the South Africa Apartheid government, then a close ally and political advisor of the new Swazi government, used to crush opponents of Apartheid.
Taking advantage of a population which was largely uneducated and politically naive, Sobhuza reigned supreme after the initial opposition to his decree had been defeated. The rapid economic development of that time, fuelled largely by the British through the Commonwealth Development Corporation coupled with the exclusive relationship which the Sobhuza regime enjoyed within J. B. Vorster’s “Outward looking policy”, which sought to neutralise opposition to Apartheid by creating friendships with neighbouring African states, led to the creation of a new national Bourgeois which was comfortable with maintaining the status quo regardless of its very illegitimate nature. It was a period of superficial prosperity which belied the troubling times which were yet to come.
The Swaziland of today is one that fits the definition of the term “Banana republic”. It has the lowest economic growth rate in the kingdom, the worst human rights record-after Zimbabwe, and the only statistics that it lays claim of being “the highest” in are in the rates of poverty and HIV infections. All these can be directly traced to the dehumanising proclamation of 1973 which held that Swazis ought not to consider themselves a part of the human family by seeking the respect of their inalienable human rights. They were to be nothing but slaves, or as the Ndebele language describes them: *Amahole*, second class citizens who at best can hope to be nothing but mere bootlickers to the royal family, which of late has had the audacity to proclaim that it is their divine right to rule over the lesser beings within the country who should never eat of the same dish, *Umgcwembe,
* as those who are “Closer to God”. The economic disparities indicate this line of thinking clearly. The percentage of the budget that is allocated Royal expenditure is increasing at such an alarming rate that in future it might well be the sum total of government expenses. Social expenditure such as public health and education is way below that required.
Yet despite these very gloomy facts, one can take solace from the fact that the opposition, despite being banned and brutally suppressed, is showing no indication of disappearing. Political parties, although banned, continue to grow and the growth in numbers is most visible amongst the most militant ones. Even some vocal supports of the monarchy have shown an indication that they would support moves towards limiting its powers or simply doing away with them. There are, however, some challenges to this resistance. The small size of the country and its pollution has rendered it unknown to the international word. Despite this, efforts to internationalise the struggle for the liberation of the country have borne fruits of late and it is only a matter of time before it dominates the politics of the region.
Before this can occur, however, the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) needs to take a proactive stance towards Swaziland’s human rights abuses. There are very few states within the region that did not have to struggle for the democratic freedoms that they currently enjoy. Indeed some of them had to pay heavily in order to do so. It is quite hypocritical of these countries to expect Swaziland to have to go through a destabilising war, which it will take decades to recover from. The moral stance that was taken by the African Union in forcing Zimbabwe to create a unity government should not be seen as being an attempt to please the West by bowing down to its pressure. It is clearly a precedent which the regional leaders need to follow, not only with regard to Swaziland but as a general rule.
*Issued by the Swaziland Solidarity Network [SSN] South Africa Chapter*
*For more information contact:*
*Lucky Lukhele: SSN spokesperson:*
*072 502 4141*
Spotlight interview with Mduduzi C. Gina (SFTU - Swaziland)
`A campaign to draw attention to the repression in Swaziland'
May 12, 2010 -- Trade unions are at the forefront of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign launched in February to push for change in one of the world's last absolute monarchies. The campaign brings together civil society, human rights groups, unions and the banned parties. It seeks to mobilize international support for democracy in a small country that is seldom in the spotlight. As Mduduzi C. Gina, general secretary of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), explains, the campaign organizers want an end to oppressive anti-terrorism laws and the lifting of restrictions on the media and political gatherings. They are demanding multi-party elections and are contemplating calling for targeted international sanctions against the ruling clique around the royal family if the authorities refuse to budge.
It's been a year since the ITUC's Union View <http://www.ituc-csi.org/swaziland-the-repressive-side-of.html> published a special report on Swaziland(1) highlighting the trade union's struggle to bring democracy to Swaziland in spite of the crackdown by the royal authorities. Have things improved since then?
Things have not changed. The hopes for justice, freedom of expression and democratization are suffering. The Suppression of Terrorism Act is being used to oppress the public and those that oppose the system, those that are human rights campaigners. Then there is the question of political parties that are proscribed. Mario Masuko (leader of the banned People's United Democratic Movement, the main opposition party) has been released after 340 days in prison. He was acquitted by the high court judge, but the country is almost the same. The coming back of the current prime minister had made things a little bit tougher.
As we speak now, the government is considering legislation that will ban public servants from political activity, despite the fact that the Labour Advisory Board advised them not go ahead with that ratification. What is happening with the public servants is that they are intending to take away all the rights of the public servants. What we have noticed is that they are intending to push the public servants out of the federation by claiming that, because of the federation's relationship with the United Democratic Front, we are a political body, so they are pushing civil servants not to take up with federation.
What has taken place is that during the Geneva International Labour Conference (in June 2009) the government was directly criticised, the conference put the country under the spotlight, so the government held back, but now the government is continued to go ahead with it.
What does the new Swaziland Democracy Campaign hope to achieve?
The Swaziland Democracy Campaign aims to mobilize opinion and publicize Swaziland's human rights failing both in our region and outside the region, to highlight the situation in the country. If you look at where the world is concentrating on undemocratic regimes and countries, they are looking at Zimbabwe where a lot of serious violations are taking place. The Swaziland Democracy Campaign is a campaign which is intended to create international attention on Swaziland. One thing I have to say is that the government was very furious at our participation in the Swaziland Democracy Campaign; they said that we joined some of our friends in South Africa to undermine the good name of Swaziland.
So the trade unions are playing an important role in that new campaign?
That is correct, that is very correct, because we are the ones who are holding those protests which are vital to the campaign. In fact, we are putting in place some programmes that will help joint activities within the Swaziland Democratic Campaign. I would predict that there will be mass protests in the country and we will be joined by our friends from the region. The protests will be inside Swaziland. And what we have done is that we have mobilized the human rights campaigners of the region, from South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, to come and march inside Swaziland. We will be projecting the workers' involvement in the protest movement, which will highlight the undemocratic tendencies in the country and we are going to give the government a fright. In view of the fact that the political parties are banned, clearly the agenda for democratization is being led by the trade unions. We are now in opposition.
There have been other attempts to put pressure on the government in the past. What makes this different, how will it be more effective?
In fact, what makes it more important in my view is that it will be a campaign will highlight the situation in the country for the outside world. What has been taking place in my opinion is that some of those colleagues internationally, they just don't know that there is anything happening inside the country, they just think it is part of South Africa. So this is a question of putting Swaziland's situation on the map. We will be opening up the situation to international organizations as part of the campaign.
What kind of support would you like to see from trade union and other international organizations in the region and around the world?
We are currently mobilizing for smart indentified individual sanctions, sanctions that will target the individuals that are frustrating the democratization of the country for their own selfish ends. What we might expect from the trade unions would be cooperation when we would be entering into some product boycotts, boycotts of some specific products that would seem to be the core pillars of some of the businesses that operate in Swaziland. We would identify some products like sugar. What is taking place there is that the King is having a substantial share in the sugar milling company and we could indentify some specific target for example in Europe to protest against products using that sugar.
Isn't there a danger that could have a negative impact on the economy of the country and eventually on your members?
Perhaps yes, one could think that would be a hit below the belt for the workers. Economic sanctions which may have a negative impact on employment would be a last resort. But we think hitting those key economic areas could be a key to change. We reiterate our acceptance and understanding that real freedom comes at a price and not on a silver platter.
How has Swaziland been affected by the economic crisis over the past year?
It has hit us. Clearly it has hit us; we have seen a lot of companies closing down. We have lost a lot of companies, particularly in the pulp sector. Close to 4,000 employees have lost their jobs. One of the oldest plants making paper, the only one in the country, closed down at the end of January, the SAPPI plant, and some textile companies have also closed down.
Interview by Paul Ames.
(1) Entitled "Swaziland: the repressive side of an absolute monarchy", this Union View report can be consulted here <http://www.ituc-csi.org/swaziland-the-repressive-side-of.html> Also see the interview with Vincent Ncongwane (SFL - Swaziland) here <http://www.ituc-csi.org/spotlight-interview-with-vincent.html>
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