President Mario Masuku's briefing to diplomats
Invitation to all civilised humanity:
Join us in the march towards a new and democratic Swaziland
A turning point in the history of Swaziland
Friends and allies in the struggle for human dignity,
Please receive, on behalf of the National Executive Committee of PUDEMO and all the struggling people of Swaziland in general, warm and fraternal greetings at this historic moment in the political life of our country. We take this opportunity to welcome all of you and appreciate your interest in this subject matter that has escaped international headlines for far too long.
1. Background to the political crisis in Swaziland
The country called Swaziland is in geo-political terms situated between South Africa and Mozambique with a population of about 1.2 million people and occupying a space of about 17 000 square kilometers. This means it is a relatively small country, but well endowed with natural resources and a rich heritage, as well as fairly good climate.
However, this small country is facing big political problems arising out of a crisis of royal hegemony and the failure of imposed authority by a system which vests all powers in the hands of a tiny minority to the total exclusion of the majority of the people.
The system of royal oppression takes the institutional form of a political architecture called “tinkhundla”. If apartheid used race to exclude other people and safeguard the privileges of one group over another, then tinkhundla uses “royal bona-fides” or royal relations to serve the same purpose. Therefore, if in the context of humanity’s resolve to broaden the frontiers of dignity for all apartheid was declared a crime against humanity on the grounds of its brutality against the majority of the
people, then there is no question whatsoever that the tinkhundla system is equally a crime against humanity.
With these few reflections, we do not only seek to raise uncomfortable questions about global standards of acceptable governance, but to further deepen discussion about the challenges facing the international community in resolving global conflicts and building a global society based on the
ideals of democracy, peace and justice.
The people of Swaziland, of necessity, are playing their part in this whole process of seeking to create a new and truly democratic Swaziland. They have defied all odds to mount a mass movement for democracy led by their political voice and proud representative, PUDEMO. Everywhere in Swaziland, the people are on their feet demanding justice; workers at the workplace, students in institutions of learning, the poor and unemployed
in communities, believers in churches, the landless masses in rural areas are all speaking in one voice, demanding an immediate end to the system that has caused untold suffering to our country and its people.
They are demanding a system that seeks to end; poverty, reckless spending, economic plunder, destruction of the environment, women and children abuse, and oppression in all its forms. All this is not possible without fundamental and thoroughgoing changes in the country’s political system. Tinkhundla must be removed and in its place, a truly democratic system must be created. This is the lasting solution to the crisis facing our
country. No amount of desperate quick-fix solution will bring about the desired stability and progress. No amount of military might and proficient strategy will bring about a real political solution, because the problem is political and not military, such that only through genuine political dialogue rooted in popular participation, can a lasting solution be found. Finally, like all other people, Swazis want progress and prosperity.
2. Historical development of the ruling system in Swaziland
Developments in Swaziland are primarily linked to developments in the whole Southern African region, particularly South Africa. This means, the historical development of the Swazi political system remains integrally linked to or can only be understood through tracing the development of the whole region, with more emphasis on South Africa.
There are three distinct periods in the development of the tinkhundla political system;
· Pre-colonial period and the making of a dynasty
· Colonial period and the making of a repressive modern state
· Post-colonial period and the consolidation of royal supremacy through the tinkhundla project
Swaziland was colonized by Britain (though we are told it was a
protectorate, as if it meant some form of benevolence) from 1902 until 1968 when the colonialists handed over power to the royal aristocracy of Swaziland. The British had left in place a constitution which by any standards allowed a fair space for democratic engagement, which was repealed by the monarchy in its desperate thirst for power in 1973 through a royal decree whose provisions entailed, inter alia;
· Banning of political parties
· Banning of the most basic rights and freedoms to associate, organize and speak, as well as all forms of political activity
· Proclamation of a perpetual state of emergency, which is effective to date.
Recently there has been speculation to the effect that the decree has been removed with the coming into force of the new royal constitution. It is important to clarify the confusion surrounding this matter, because what the regime has done is to formalize and institutionalize further the contents and provisions of this decree as a core element of the new
constitution being paraded as the heralding of democracy in our country.
In this sense, it may no longer need a separate document containing these, because the constitution is a revised version, though in advanced form, of the 1973 king’s decree. If this is what some commentators call victory for democracy, then we have a reason to be worried.
The scrapping of the 1968 constitution by the late king Sobhuza 11 and its replacement by the 1973 decree was also informed by the advice of the Afrkaner Broederbond Society through its agent Van Wyk De Vries, a Pretoria advocate. It must be remembered that the threat to the apartheid regime at the time was the liberation movement of South Africa, particularly the ANC-led Alliance, which prompted the apartheid regime to realize that its own survival lies in consolidating closer and stronger
ties with and supporting what it called “like-minded” regimes. Amongst these was Mobutu Seseseko of the then Zaire (now DRC), Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and the Swazi monarchy, who had come to constitute, together with their apartheid patrons, the axis of resistance to freedom and democracy.
After the banning of the constitution and political parties in particular, the system called tinkhundla came to constitute the political vehicle through which royal hegemony was to be entrenched by the monarchy. It was formally introduced in the political scene of Swazi society in 1978. Its official introduction came with an electoral system based on an electoral
college through which people were to elect at tinkhundla centers
(constituencies), electees who were to constitute the electoral college and not parliament.
Only the electoral college could elect parliamentarians from a list provided by the royal house, who were to then constitute the parliament of the kingdom of Swaziland. In this sense, it was guaranteed that the ultimate product of this process is composed of members of the ruling system or at least those blindly loyal and sympathetic to it. This is on top of a politically sophisticated parliamentary system, in which the
upper house, Senate comprised of the most staunch stalwarts of the system, particularly chiefs and princes, who had veto powers over the house of assembly in the case of “deviations” from the official line (royal interests). This parliamentary form of gate-keeping is still in command in the current system, though in an even more sophisticated and subtle form, as an upgraded model of the same.
3. The Road towards democracy begins:
The Birth of PUDEMO in 1983 as a watershed moment in the history of Swaziland
The consolidation of royal supremacy through the formalisation of tinkhundla as a political system of Swaziland left the people with no alternative or hope for change without waging a mass based struggle for democracy. This led to workers, students, rural and landless masses, women of different religious, racial and social backgrounds coming together on the 6th July, 1983 to form the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) as their legitimate representative and co-ordinator of the struggle for democracy in Swaziland.
In its founding provisions, they proclaimed that, “We, the people of Swaziland met on the 6th July, 1983 to form the People’ s United Democratic Movement, to represent fully the interests of the people of Swaziland and to unite them against undemocratic governance, oppression, exploitation, unfair discrimination, corruption, nepotism and favouritism. We declare to the world that Swaziland belongs to all its people regardless of race, colour, sex, religion or social status and that
PUDEMO is our true representative. We dedicate ourselves to struggling together in unity until final victory”.
It must also be remembered that part of the basis for PUDEMO formation related to its internationalist duty to assist the liberation movement of South Africa in the struggle against the brutal clutches of apartheid, particularly after a realization that Swaziland can never be liberated or democratic while South Africa was still under apartheid, because of the well known policy of aggression by the apartheid regime.
The intensified persecution of anti-apartheid activists on Swazi soil by a joint force of the apartheid regime and their tinkhundla counterparts confirmed the need for a political intervention on Swazi soil. This persecution saw the deaths of many ANC cadres, amongst them; Zweli Nyanda, Mildred Msomi, Cassius Make, Paul Dikeledi just to mention a few (for
elaborate details please refer to the South African TRC report on Swaziland). This was not by accident, but a deliberate effort on the part of the Swazi regime and its apartheid ally, because as early as February, 1982 a secret non-aggression pact was signed between the two regimes, which was immediately followed in 1984 by the Extradition treaty, which allowed the apartheid regime to extradite cadres of the anti-apartheid movement from Swaziland to South Africa, most of who later died in the hands of the racist regime.
In this sense, the birth of PUDEMO in 1983 signalled two important and interlinked events:
- The beginning of organized resistance and challenge to the tinkhundla regime and the nearing end of royal oppression in Swaziland, and
- The organized challenge to the open collaboration between the tinkhundla and apartheid regimes, to accelerate the process of moving towards a free and democratic South Africa, ultimately leading to a free and democratic Southern Africa, with Swaziland included.
PUDEMO worked consistently from the underground to build a mass movement for democracy until the regime rounded up the leadership of the movement in the now famous treason trial of 1990. However, the trial did not succeed in dampening the fighting spirit of PUDEMO and the mass of the oppressed people of Swaziland in general, instead it bolstered their
confidence and inspired an unprecedented wave of mass activities for democracy and social justice throughout the whole country, as workers, students, rural masses, churches, women and all organs of social organization began to articulate their demands in an even more clearer way than before, all of which hinged on the need for fundamental change and democracy in the country.
This explains why today the whole Swazi society speak with one voice that, a day more without democracy means more unbearable suffering and terror against the democracy-loving people of our country. The struggle for democracy is at the heart of the solutions we need to build a new and prosperous Swaziland in all facets of our society.
4. The situation in Swaziland today
The tinkhundla regime is on the warpath against the democracy-loving people of Swaziland
The Swazi regime continues to inflict legislative and political terror upon the people as the political atmosphere in the country has become even more grim and threatening reflecting the growing insecurity of the regime, which despite its arrogant posture has never been so isolated not only from the mass of the people of our country, but also from world public opinion. Alarmingly, there are signs that, with the full connivance of the ruling authorities secret squads are beginning to operate in Swaziland.
The several attempts on individual comrades’ lives is one example of the numerous assaults, tortures, arbitrary arrests and all forms of persecution on men and women who refuse to bow to the tyranny of tinkhundla. Families of political activists are daily being terrorized by the regime in its desperate attempt to crush, through force of arms, the democratic movement and instill fear amongst the oppressed and struggling masses.
The tinkhundla ruling system of Swaziland is facing a deep irreversible crisis. Years of royal misrule has plunged our country into a permanent crisis of; economic decline, massive poverty and unemployment, the HIV and AIDS disaster, women and children abuse in the holy name of Swazi culture, as well as the all-round political instability characteristic of our country today.
In the recent past we have seen the following indicators of the worsening crisis;
- The intensified arrests of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO activists for holding peaceful demonstrations and spreading the message of liberation throughout all corners of the country
- The closure of two independent newspapers by the monarchy for reporting uncomfortable truths about Swaziland
- The overruling of judicial rulings by the king and the subsequent resignation of the whole bench of the Court of appeal
- The massive arrests of trade union leaders for demanding the right of workers to organize, as well as improved conditions of work
- The massive evacuation of communities in the eastern part of the country; Kamkhweli and Macetjeni for refusing the recognize an imposed royal puppet as their chief. These people were forced to flee the country for their safety and in the process lost their property and suffered serious disruption in their lives as workers, students and ordinary citizens of the country.
- The extravagant royal spending spree and intensified economic plunder that has caused severe economic bleeding and resulted in a social decay as regards social services for the majority
These are just some of the prime features of Swazi society today and they are explained in no better terms than the way the 2006 Budget presented by the minister of finance and those preceding it, have shown the continued skyrocketing military or security expenditure, presumably to safeguard people who are hungry. This means more and more security for less and less food. The indicators are terrifying to say the least;
· HIV and AIDS stand at around 40%
· Unemployment is around 40%
· Disinvestment and lack of new investment in the country have resulted in deepening socio-economic crisis
· Declining sources of revenue for government, which has resulted in the regime resorting to extreme anti-poor means of raising revenue. The decline and threat of ultimate loss of SACU (Southern African Customs Union) is a glaring example
· The alarming increase in the number of insecure, casual and highly inhumane jobs, which have tremendously lowered the dignity and living standards of our people
· The crisis of landlessness is on the increase and threatens the very future of stability, as the regime has resorted to the strategy of forceful evictions as a means to re-organise the economy or resolve the crisis
· The scourge of corruption has eaten into the core of our society and turned every sphere of Swazi society into an extension of the wholly corrupt system as a whole.
This situation has resulted in a new resolve by the oppressed people of Swaziland and a rejuvenated determination to find a lasting solution to the country, which unfortunately is not possible without the accompanying sacrifices of jail, torture, inhumane treatment and all sorts of suffering to which those who stand for justice must, of necessity go through.
On the other hand, people have resorted to all sorts of methods to secure their freedom, amongst others, an armed response to the perpetual violence of the state, which situation has given a justification to the regime to carry out its long held desire to militarise our country and turn the whole Swaziland into an army barrack.
As PUDEMO, we wish to state clearly and unequivocally that we are still committed to a negotiated settlement to rescue our country from the ills of tinkhundla crisis. We are still committed to methods of struggle that do not seek to divert us from our proven record of peaceful engagement. We however, want to warn seriously that our patience is not limitless. We love our country and our people and for that we are not prepared to bow down on our knees and tolerate suffering forever, we only hope sanity will prevail in the minds of the royal powers that be.
This leads us to the next issue of the massive arrests against PUDEMO and SWAYOCO activists whose only crime is that of their political affiliation and commitment to the cause of democracy, hence they are rotting in tinkhundla jails. Their arrests have nothing to do with what they did, but what they believe in. The ideas they stand for, as espoused by the movement, are so powerful, they threaten the very foundation of royal injustice and corruption.
About 18 activists of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO are facing charges of treason. They were immediately rounded up after the string of bombings that shook the whole Swaziland recently. The regime has failed to bring forward concrete evidence, except to link the political ideas of the comrades and their membership to PUDEMO to acts of treason, such that being a member of the movement is a treasonable offence in Swaziland. Instead, the regime has resorted to acts of terror against other activists outside jail to fabricate evidence and trump up charges, secured through torture to implicate other comrades.
I can testify myself to the unbearable conditions in Swazi jails, certainly because I have been a regular visitor myself. This imposes upon all of us the urgency of doing something practical NOW to secure their release.
But further, we must clarify that their release should not be for the sake of it, but as an integral element of the struggle to secure the release of all the people of Swaziland from the Royal prison called tinkhundla, which has suffocated our people for the past 33 years.
Torture, poor habitation conditions, poor diet and solitary confinement are the daily experiences faced by the comrades in jail. They are the conditions the regime learnt from their apartheid patrons over the years, which calls for immediate international attention and action. Amnesty International released a report on the abominable jail conditions in
Swaziland sometime back, but since then conditions have worsened even more. We have seen numerous deaths in jails relation to torture, amongst the most recent are the wife of one of the arrested comrades, Mduduzi Mamba, Mathousand Ngubeni and Mthokothoko Mamba, to mention a few. Deaths in jail are becoming a daily experience and “normal” feature of Swazi society, if not an integral part of our country’s life.
While the focus is on those who are in jail, we also have those who have been forced out of their own country into exile by the same conditions, with the most recent group having left Swaziland a few days away. On top of that, we have those who are still inside the country but whose lives are nothing less than hell itself. They are daily victims of police raids, instant detention and torture after which they are immediately released,
those who are daily subjected to police surveillance in their private and general lives, etc. All these are pointers of a society that has become militarized to the core. The question is what should be done. I am sure none of us does not know what should be done, because the answer to that is; we should all intensify our efforts to support the movement for democracy in Swaziland, practically. We have neither the luxury of time
nor the leisure of academic debates about it.
As we talk, we have a comrade, Brian Shaw, who was shot by the police for no other reason than their own desperacy and frustration about the case that can't produce tangible evidence, hence putting them in the spotlight about fabricating lies about PUDEMO. He has been refused access to lawyers, his parents denied access to him, comrades could not be allowed to see him, and everybody else could not see him for days. This was part
of the strategy to ensure that by the time everybody else sees him, he should have recovered from the wounds of the bullet, so as to destroy all evidence against the state. Brian was shot by the police who then later tried to criminalise his case and claim he was running away on criminal charges. The list goes on and on about the acts of terror that we are daily subjected to in the country we call home.
Finally, we seek to clarify the situation with regard to the on-going constitutional crisis as an element of the political crisis in general.
The tinkhundla royal constitution has gone through several stages;
· Announcement of several Royal commissions, purportedly to gather the views of the people about the direction the country should take in political terms, which was in response to the pressure PUDEMO and the mass democratic movement as a whole, with the trade union movement as a key player, were putting for change and a new constitutional dispensation for Swaziland
· Consolidation of those views gathered under very politically hostile conditions of intimidation, police terror and state of emergency
· Formal introduction of the finished product to the public and the world
In all these stages, there have been key characteristics, such as attempts to buy time and divert the issues from the core matters facing the country into some artificial and trivial discussions about our country, whipping up values of prejudice against democracy as foreign and unSwazi, as well as intimidating all those whose views differ with the system, including their frequent arrests and victimization from work, as well as in their places of residence.
The regime tried to silence PUDEMO and the trade union movement by co-opting some of us into the process as commissioners, but it could not succeed as the principled character of PUDEMO came to the fore, when the National Congress of the movement resolved that we can only participate in a constitutional process under pinned by the following conditions:
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;
But on the contrary, the conditions that gave birth to the current constitutional product of the regime have been;
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.
Civic education of a special type, which in actual fact was state propaganda meant to instil tinkhundla values amongst the people.
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 other 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.
On the issue of a constitution, as PUDEMO we have consistently remained primarily committed to genuine dialogue as expressed in our document entitled, “Wayforward towards a Constituent Assembly through a negotiated settlement”, whose provisions states clearly that,
‘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.”
The satisfaction of these pre-conditions is of utmost importance to us, because we have learnt through bitter experiences what kind of a regime is the tinkhundla royal regime.
We cannot take chances about people’s lives and raise their hopes and expectations beyond what is real, to such an extent that the people lose faith in the very cause of democracy and justice.
5. Towards a free and democratic Swaziland through intensified mass action and international solidarity
Our goal is very clear; to destroy the system of tinkhundla royal supremacy and in its stead, establish a truly democratic society.
It was on the 12th April, 1973, when the late king Sobhuza 11 proclaimed to the nation that, `
“Now therefore I, Sobhuza 11, king of Swaziland, hereby declare that, in collaboration with my cabinet ministers and supported by the whole nation, I have assumed supreme power in the kingdom of Swaziland and that all legislative, executive and judicial power is now vested in myself and shall, for the meantime by excercised in collaboration with my cabinet ministers. I further declare that to ensure the continued maintenance of peace, order and good government, my armed forces have been posted to all strategic places and have taken charge of all government places and all public services” (section 3)…………………………………………all political parties and similar bodies that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings within the nation are hereby dissolved and prohibited” (section 11, 1973 King’s decree to the nation).
Any struggle cannot progress until the people have the courage to organise and fight and the will to sacrifice and readiness, if needs be, to die! Our will and determination to be free has now gone beyond the point of general remarks into concrete and clear time-frames for democratic change.
The issue today is not whether or not freedom will come. The question is on which side you should be – whether to perish with tinkhundla or to triumph with the forces of democracy and change. Freedom is within sight, the horizons of democracy are ever drawing nearer on a daily basis.
Therefore, anyone seeking refuge in the tinkhundla house shall perish with it. The flames of revolution and justice are unstoppable. This is why anyone talking dialogue with a violent and treacherous system can only succeed in misleading the people and betraying the ideals for which our movement was formed. This is not the time for tea breaks, but the moment we have been waiting for all along, to bury the royal demon once and for
By refusing to be bullied into acceptance of the enemy’s constitutional schemes, we reaffirmed our determination to defend the integrity of the Swazi people in pursuit of a common victory against a common enemy. We are asserting the truth that freedom is indivisible, that democracy for some is democracy for none, and hence, that no section of the people can be free while another is oppressed.
On the shoulders of the tinkhundla regime rest such crimes as the scandalously high infant mortality rate amongst our children, the HIV and AIDS genocide, the unemployment disaster and the general crisis that bring about endless misery for our people in their own country. Swaziland is littered with graves of young men and women, patriots of our nation and future hopefuls of our country who are victims of the viciousness of the system. Therefore, we have no reason to relax, our nation is dying out slowly like a candle in the wind.
Swaziland is in flames and no one can afford to sit by and watch as the royal regime massacre agents of hope and democracy. Who can deny that time is against us in the quest for human dignity. We are individually and collectively responsible for all lives lost to tinkhundla brutality, therefore, we must act NOW to save a whole nation from a looming catastrophe and possibly, a civil war.
6. The future belongs to the people!
The Programme towards a new and democratic Swaziland
The Swazi regime is daily arming itself with the most dangerous weapons of war, which constitutes a threat to world peace. Yet the tinkhundla regime, in its turn is only able to continue its murderous system and piracy because of the support it receives from “like-minded” regimes throughout the world.
This is where the international solidarity initiative comes in, providing the momentum for an intensification of the campaign to cut links with the brutal regime of Swaziland. As the crisis mounts to its peak, let all humanity vow that it will tolerate no further delay in the application of effective pressure against Swaziland in support of the suffering and struggling masses of our country.
The young people of Swaziland, organized workers and freedom fighters in the ranks of the democratic movement, are daily demonstrating their courage and determination, their willingness to sacrifice in the fight for freedom. It is not only in their interests, but in the interests of progress and human security for all of the world’s peoples, that PUDEMO and the mass democratic movement in general are calling for a meaningful
response to the call for anti-tinkhundla solidarity. The agony of tinkhundla must be ended. We urge all democracy-loving people to recognize their responsibility to do something practical NOW to help bring an end to it.
To this end, we have identified pillars of our short-term programme in the current period, which are;
· Rolling mass action to demand the release of all political prisoners through mass rallies and other forms of mass activities
· Creation of mass awareness through exploring alternative media and information avenues to counter the misinformation campaign of the tinkhundla regime
· Deepen our work amongst all organs of social mobilization to build a mass movement against tinkhundla, in the country and internationally
· Build PUDEMO to assume fully its role as the hope of the Swazi people, ready and capable of leading the whole country towards a new and democratic society
These elements of our programme forms the basis of our continued struggle on the ground, but they do not substitute our will to engage in dialogue, whenever reasonable and dignified people.
Finally, we shall be convening an urgent Conference of the movement to clearly outline our medium-to-long term programme, which envisages a real and qualitative advance to people’s power in Swaziland.
We cannot delay any further, we must adopt concrete measures in our search for an alternative system to the crisis of tinkhundla. This programme shall include all elements and stages of a real challenge to the system for a lasting solution in our country. We are sure after that Conference, the history of Swaziland shall be written anew.
We thank you all!