Tuesday, November 28, 2006

PUDEMO Press Statement on-A Secret Army or a Fairy Tale Story?

PUDEMO Press Statement on-A Secret Army or a Fairy Tale Story?
Date: November 28, 2006

The South African-based daily newspaper, The Star (25/11/06), reported to have uncovered a PUDEMO/SWAYOCO secret guerrilla training 'camp' and plans to violently overthrow the Swazi regime. According to the report, the camp is run by the Young Communist League. This story must go down in history as one of the greatest fairy tale stories that have been told about the Swaziland liberation movement. The Swazi Observer (27/11/06), a royal family-owned daily newspaper, was the first to reproduce The Star's report in Swaziland with a high degree of sensationalism. Although The Star does not mention the military capacity of this 'guerrilla unit', The Swazi Observer calls it "the deadly unit" (Ibid).

Readers should not be surprised by this report because in the past, there have been numerous fabricated stories of armed insurrection plans linked to PUDEMO and its youth wing, the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO). Each time, we remind our people, the international community and the media of our policy. We again take this opportunity to reiterate that our policy is to peacefully bring about political change in Swaziland. In his response to the report, the PUDEMO President, Cde Mario Masuku, unambiguously affirmed the organisation's commitment to this policy. Recently, Masuku told the Chris Hani Institute that PUDEMO believes that there is still hope for a peaceful dialogue with the regime.

Although the government has never responded to numerous calls from our organisation for a negotiated solution to the political crisis, we have not yet abandoned our policy. Unfortunately, the government has abused our commitment to peace by waging a violent witch-hunt against our membership. It has misinterpreted our non-violent resistance as an invitation for the state to use violence against us.

For more than twenty years, the regime has worked tirelessly to draw our organisation into a violent confrontation but we have maintained that we will not be drawn into such confrontation on the government's terms. Our policy priority is peace and restoration of political, social and economic harmony among our people. We are more interested in making life better for all Swazis than destroying it as this government has done for many years. This is what the regime fears – our capacity to make a difference and give Swazis a fresh start in life. The regime cannot engage with PUDEMO because it does not have the political competence to remain viable in an open democratic environment.

It is telling that the only time the government talks about PUDEMO is in relation to fairy tale stories. This time, the story is about an armed insurrection. In late 2005 and early 2006, the government peddled allegations of a PUDEMO/SWAYOCO petrol bombing campaign. The local media, particularly The Swazi Observer is guilty of giving unprecedented coverage of these slurs against our organisation. Both the government and The Swazi Observer have refused to engage with the substantive issues we continually raise about the future of this country and its people. Instead, they are concerned about protecting the political and economic privilege of the ruling royal family. The so-called training guerrilla camp is a rehashed old strategy to divert public attention away from the current corruption scandal involving senior government officials.

The timing of the report is interesting. It could herald the beginning of the treason trial against our members accused of the so-called petrol bombing campaign in December 2005. Several PUDEMO and SWAYOCO members were rounded up and accused of fire bombing government infrastructure. One of the accused was tortured to make false confession and subsequently turned into a state witness. However, he later withdrew his statement claiming that it was made under duress. This put the prosecution case at risk. The Directorate of Public Prosecution applied for an indefinite suspension of the trial whilst it searched for a new state witness and 'fresh evidence'. A year after the first arrests, our members are still awaiting trial. Could the report published in The Star be the 'smoking gun' the government is hoping to produce as evidence against our members?

Alternatively, the enthusiasm with which government officials have received The Star's story could be the beginning of another violent Christmas witch hunt against our membership. Renown for his hatred of the pro-democracy movement, the government spokesperson, Percy Simelane, warned of a massive crackdown ( The Swazi Observer, 27/11/06). In 2005, police tortured an innocent woman to death in their fanatic attempts to prove the existence of mythical PUDEMO 'petrol bombers'. As was the case in 2005, the government will use the training camp story to create unnecessary public panic and present itself as the guardian of peace in the hope that this will yield political benefits.

We have been waiting for some time for the regime to try to cash in on international fears of terrorism by trying to implicate PUDEMO in terrorist activities. Unfortunately, their attempts to do so have been characteristically incompetent. As we have mentioned, the attempt to construct a PUDEMO-led bombing campaign has been a spectacular failure. This latest attempt is also inept and should embarrass any self-respecting dictator.

Michael Schmidt, the author of The Star article, must hang his head in shame for allowing himself to be used by this evil regime. None of the people he contacted other than his so-called informant, confirmed the existence of a secret PUDEMO/SWAYOCO guerrilla army. Even the siSwati name of the 'guerrilla army' (uKukhulwa eMaswati) does not make sense – but then perhaps it is unfair of us to expect a non-Swazi to be competent in Siswati when he is writing fairy-tales. Schmidt writes that this "is an official yet underground armed wing of Pudemo…" but fails to support this with concrete evidence. Thus, the story lacks even the tiniest fragment of credibility. Michael Schmidt was a white apartheid supporter and a Communist hater fearful of the 'red plot' in the 1980s. He now hopes to use our liberation movement to mobilise the royal family in Swaziland to hunt the 'reds' under the beds. Anyone who believes in this story believes in Alice in Wonderland.

Dr. Jabulane Matsebula
PUDEMO Representative Australia, Asia and the South Pacific Region

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