THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL FORUM:
"THE WAY FORWARD"
The National Executive Committee of
The People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO)
Swaziland - 18 July 1996
Conscious of our people's struggle to end over 23 years of undemocratic rule and to terminate 18 long years of the costly Tinkhundla experiment that has bred economic decay, autocratic domination, corruption and a breakdown of the social and cultural fabric of Swazi society;
Mindful of the resolute desire of our people to march forward, no matter what the odds, to the creation of political dispensation that guarantees lasting peace, justice, good government, progress and the welfare of all;
We reaffirm our profound conviction that real solutions to the challenges facing our country will come from a peaceful, genuine negotiation process based on real, and effective participation by the people.
Democracy is not the preserve of the select few; it is by its very nature a process guided by the principles of freedom, co-determination and shared responsibility. Essentially, therefore, we must engage all the various interests in our country in a process that will efficiently address the political, economic and socio-cultural dynamics at play in Swaziland.
Nothing short of this broadbrush approach will address the fundamental fears, concerns and aspirations of the vast majority of our people.In keeping with this noble resolve, we welcome any genuine invitation to all organised civic formations, registered and unregistered, to a properly constituted and representative Constitutional Forum that would be mandated to chart the way forward for Swaziland.
FUNDAMENTAL PRE-CONDITIONS FOR EFFECTIVE BROAD BASED PARTICIPATION
In the light of our history, particularly since 1973, coupled with the forest of unfriendly political practices prevalent in our country today, it is deceitful to suggest that we are ready as a nation to engage in the process of democratisation and real change. The fact that as recently as July 1996 some ordinary Swazis have lost their employment simply because they are members of a political organisation, casts a serious doubt on the bona fides of the present national leadership. To ensure full and genuine participation by the vast majority of our people, the ground must be level and to achieve this the following fundamental pre-conditions must be met;
- His Majesty King Mswati III must openly and unconditionally commit himself and the Government of Swaziland to the peaceful transition to democracy and change.
- There must be an unconditional repeal of Decrees 2, 11, 12 and 13 of the King's Proclamation of April 12, 1973.To grow in stature and take his rightful place amongst the leaders of the world, our King must resist the temptation to lead a nation in shackles to a "democracy" designed by only those who thrive on the status quo.
- The constitution making process must be a broad based, all-inclusive process involving Government, Traditional Authorities, political organisations, organised labour, business, the Youth, Women's Organisations, the church and other civic formations. However, it must not be turned into a social-fun club without any clear political identity and objective.
- The independence of the judiciary must be upheld.
- There must be clear terms of reference defining the purpose, objectives and the modus operandi of the forum, including;
a) appointment of an independent Chairperson.
b) dispute/conflict resolution mechanisms.
c) there must be freedom of the press and all parties must enjoy equal access.
d) the process itself must be transparent and open to the press and public.
THE MAIN STEPS IN THE PROCESS
As the nation sets out to cut its own niche in history, it is of paramount importance to have a clear view of the road ahead. This demands much more than good intentions. To ensure that the process is properly focused and directed, we should identify the distinct steps to be covered and adopt an appropriate approach and time frame for each step. These are summarised in the "Three Principal Steps to Democracy" enshrined in PUDEMO's guiding document. Namely:
1. The Preliminary Negotiation Process: Talks About Talks
The first step in the creation and implementation of a preliminary negotiation process whose main objective will be to remove all impediments and create a conducive climate for popular political participation. The main product of this exercise will include the following;
a) a Memorandum of Intent whereby His Majesty King Mswati III as the Ngwenyama and head of state openly and unconditionally commits himself and the Government to a peaceful and properly constituted negotiation process towards the democratisation of Swaziland
b) the unconditional repeal of decrees no. 2, 11, 12 and 13 of the King's Proclamation of 12th April, 1973
c) the setting out of an agenda for the negotiations
d) the identification of an independent chairperson
e) setting up of a conflict/dispute settlement mechanism
f) time frame covering the various stages in the process
g) any other matters that the parties may deem necessary for the success of the process
2. The National Convention
The National Convention shall be an all inclusive forum covering all the principal stakeholders - the government, traditional authorities, political parties, organised labour, organised business, the youth, the churches and other civic groups. Its principal objectives will include, amongst other things;
a) to conduct the negotiations and seek common solutions that shall accommodate all fundamental concerns and interests. Unlike the Tinkhundla models, this forum will deal with the real issues and arrive at real bona fide solutions.
b) to establish an interim authority that will see to the affair of state and government during the period of transition to democracy.
c) to negotiate and agree on an interim constitution for the land.NOTE: Whether or not to re-instate the 1968 Independence Constitution will be debated at this forum. However, knowing that the constitution making process is very involved, requiring thorough consultation with the government, it would be foolhardy to expect such a forum to draw up a final constitution. Only people who harbour ulterior motives would engage the nation in such blackmail.
d) to prepare the country for a general election under the new interim constitution.
3. The Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly can only be formed once a new government and Parliament has been elected in terms of the interim constitution. It is a body that will be elected by the people for purposes of drawing up the Final Democratic Constitution for Swaziland.The main product of the Constituent Assembly will include the following:
a) setting time frames for the final constitution making process
b) setting up mechanisms for public debate and education
c) setting up of a committee to gather views from the people as input into the democratic constitution
d) setting up technical teams comprising experts in the fielde) drawing up and arranging adoption of the constitution as the supreme law of the land.
Although it remains our firm conviction that the setting up of time frames for the process is not the prerogative of any particular party, we believe that the first two stages should be completed without undue delay. Six months is adequate for these preliminary steps in the process. The third and last stage of drawing up of the final constitution will require some time. However, critical as it may be, a period of 12 months is reasonable for completion of this final mile.
Today, the people of Swaziland stand on the threshold of a critical strategic rubicon. Those who remain addicted to Tinkhundla style experiments such as the proposed constitutional forum that the regime intends to parade, will invariably fall by the wayside. We, therefore, call upon His Majesty the King to abandon the Tinkhundla dinosaur, to rise to the occasion and provide the quality leadership and political wisdom required at this time of great challenge.
"FORWARD TO PEACEFUL NEGOTIATIONS"
M. T. Masuku, President
I.B. Dlamini, Secretary General