Sunday, May 30, 2004

Basic conditions for a legitimate and acceptable constitutional solution to the crisis in the country

People’s United Democratic Movement
Basic conditions for a legitimate and acceptable constitutional solution to the crisis in the country


‘In keeping with this noble resolve, we welcome any genuine invitation to all organised formations, registered and unregistered, to a properly constituted and representative constitutional forum that will be mandated to work the wayforward for Swaziland. However, to safeguard against a repeat of the political blackmail and socio-economic evils of the tinkhundla legacy, there are important pre-conditions that should be satisfied.” (PUDEMO document on the wayforward towards a constituent assembly through a negotiated settlement issued in 1992.)

Since its formation in 1983, PUDEMO has always been willing and ready to engage the tinkhundla regime in a serious process of negotiations for change in Swaziland. Even in this year of its 20th anniversary, it still remains willing and ready to engage the tinkhundla regime and all stakeholders in a serious process of negotiations.

In this regard, PUDEMO has consistently stated that for the process of constitutional change to be legitimate and broadly acceptable, it must be broad based, all-inclusive and free, in order to guarantee the full and effective participation of all the people of Swaziland in a process they should own and drive.

This means that the process is as important to the outcome as is the content itself. What the constitution says about the future Swaziland and how it will look like and in whose interest it will be shaped, is as much important as how was it made, by who and for who.

This requires that the regime must demonstrate beyond doubt its commitment to the peaceful transition to democracy in Swaziland. Further, the terms of reference and related processes, such as conflict resolution mechanisms and methods of operation must be clarified and adopted with the full participation of all stakeholders.

The king’s constitution and the future of Swaziland

Consistently, PUDEMO has maintained that it is committed to the creation of a political system based on the universal principles of multiparty democracy. In our historic document, the People’s manifesto, which has been the guiding document of the movement since its formation in 1983, we affirmed in no uncertain terms that the participation of all the people in the running of the country’s affairs is central to real progress towards change in Swaziland.

The king is about to announce the constitution that he commissioned in 1996. The basis upon which this constitution was founded included, amongst other things;
Hostile political environment; arrests, detentions, torture and systematic persecution of innocent people for their belief in democracy
Lack of basic freedoms to _expression, assembly, organisation and the general state of fear and reign of terror enforced by the 1973 king’s decree
Systematic and organised offensive against any semblance of judicial independence, media criticism, worker’s organised power and all the institutions that work to protect the interest of the people, in the absence of formal political space in the form of political parties
Continued dominance of the political stage by members of the royal family and their friends, hence the overwhelming dominance of princes, chiefs, princesses and hangers-on of the system in the constitutional team and related commissions.

Systematic propaganda demonising multiparty democratic as evil, foreign and divisive in order to instil a sense of loyalty to the tinkhundla system. This was made possible by the regime’s limitless access to the media which became the key instrument of character assassination against the progressive movement which enjoys no access to the media.
Political parties and political space in general remain closed, such that free political debate has not been possible to ensure the mass involvement of the majority of the people of Swaziland

These and many others reasons led to the principled stand and position of the progressive movement in general, PUDEMO in particular, which said that the process cannot deliver the real solution to the serious political and constitutional problems of the country. The overwhelming majority of the people of Swaziland in their organised and unorganised forums expressed their unequivocal rejection of the process, as a window-dressing mechanism of the system to renew, rather than abolish the system of royal oppression.

This position was supported by the whole international community of civilised and peace-loving humanity which reaffirmed it support for a process underpinned by the pre-conditions laid out in the PUDEMO document, the Wayforward towards a constituent assembly through a negotiated settlement.

Therefore, it is clear that the expected outcome from the king’s royal projects has no legitimacy and is not viewed by the majority of the people of Swaziland as the solution to the situation of their country, particularly because it excluded them in this important exercise.

PUDEMO calls upon the people of Swaziland and the international community to remain firm in their position that a legitimate constitution for Swaziland can only be a product of full and effective participation of the mass of the people and their organised representations. This can be the only basis for a real and serious alternative for Swaziland.

This should lay basis for immediate advance towards a multiparty
democratic dispensation for Swaziland. This means that a democratically elected constituent assembly rather than handpicked royal stooges can draft a legitimate constitution for the country, which could enjoy the overwhelming support of the majority of the people of Swaziland. An imposed constitution under the barrel of a gun and draconian laws, will not serve the purpose, instead it will short-circuit the process or even
abort it, much to the detriment of the country’s future.

What PUDEMO demands and what it expects from the king on Saturday

The real solution lies with, first of all, accepting that the real problem in Swaziland is political and that the people cannot be excluded forever in the resolution of the country’s problems.

In this regard, PUDEMO expects that the king’s announcement on Saturday should have the following key elements of commitment;

Time-frames and clear processes for a national forum of all stakeholders in Swaziland to discuss the future of the country; political parties, trade unions, women and youth organisations, religious and faith-based organisations, business, professional and academic institutions, etc;
Time-frames for the removal of all laws that militate against democratic change, in particular the most problematic elements of the 1973 king’s decree;
Time-frames for a transitional authority in Swaziland to oversee the smooth process of change;
Immediate guarantee of the most basic rights for all; free expression,
free assembly, free organisation, etc;

Our call to the international community

PUDEMO in its recent conference held in Piet Retief committed itself to the continental initiatives; the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s development (NEPAD). These initiatives, particularly the African Peer Review mechanism is very central to the process of democratisation and upholding of high standards of governance in Africa. PUDEMO supports these initiatives out of the common belief that they can take the continent forward and have been supported by the whole
international community as a good basis for the renewal of our continent.

Therefore, our support for NEPAD is a support for universally accepted standards of democracy. It is a commitment to the most civilised traditions of governance. In the words of NEPAD itself, “Africa undertakes to respect the global standards of democracy, the core components of which include; political pluralism, allowing for the existence of several political parties and worker’s unions, and fair, open and democratic
elections periodically organised to enable people to choose their leaders freely”. (NEPAD, democracy and political governance initiative, pp 17)

Therefore, the democratisation of Swaziland shall be both a local expression of a changing world and part of a struggle for renewed effortsaimed at international peace, justice and democracy. It is our own contribution to the worldwide effort for human dignity, democracy and peace.

This means that the international community is morally and politically obliged to be part of this historical effort and contribution. It is called upon by the people of Swaziland to play its part in defending the ideals laid out in the AU constitutive act and NEPAD for the creation of democratic and good governance in Africa.

At this hour of darkness, the people of Swaziland need your support in their efforts. They have demonstrated their unequivocal determination to make Swaziland a democratic and prosperous society among other nations of this emerging continent.

These standards that have been proven to represent the best traditions of human development must be upheld and defended everywhere, and that time is now in Swaziland.


“Today, the people of Swaziland stand on the threshold of a critical strategic rubicon. Those who remain addicted to tinkhundla experiments such as the proposed constitution apparatus 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.”

PUDEMO document on the wayforward towards a constituent assembly through a negotiated settlement published in 1992.

The document continues to elaborate on PUDEMO’s long standing commitment to a political situation in Swaziland. But it is PUDEMO’s belief that the regime’s present initiative of cosmetic reforms is buying time and space for continued tinkhundla rule.

In essence, the question of whether there is serious and meaningful dialogue or not depends on the attitude of the tinkhundla regime, not on PUDEMO. If the regime is serious about dialogue it would create a climate for talks, so that the people in their representative organs can decide the future of their country.

Finally, PUDEMO insists that only a sovereign legitimate body can draw up a new constitution for Swaziland. This will have to involve all Swazis participating in the actual formulation and work of the sovereign constituent assembly.