Thursday, December 21, 2006

Address to the 6th General Congress of PUDEMO by Willie Madisha, COSATU President,

Address to the 6th General Congress of PUDEMO (Swaziland) on the 21st December, 2006 by Willie Madisha, COSATU President

Cde Mario Masuku, PUDEMO President (in absentia),
Members of the National Executive Committee of PUDEMO,
Guests and allies, particularly trade union and alliance leaders
Fraternal organizations,
Comrades delegates,

On behalf of the more than 1.8million working people of our country, South Africa, please receive warm and fraternal greetings.

We take this opportunity to extend our sincere appreciation to PUDEMO for having invited us to this important gathering of freedom-fighters representing the struggling masses of Swaziland, whose magnitude is of historic significance not only to the lives of Swazi people, but to the people of the whole region.

We also take this opportunity to wish the principled leader of the Swazi people’s struggle Cde Mario Masuku, the President of PUDEMO, a speedy recovery following his serious illness that for the past few weeks was a cause for concern amongst all progressive people in South Africa and beyond.

However, we are relieved to hear that he is recovering, knowing the insurmountability of the tasks on his shoulders, we are hopeful that soon he shall be ready to resume his political role in the frontlines of the Swazi people’s struggle for democracy and fundamental change.

The significance of the Swazi struggle for the Southern African people

This gathering is reminiscent of the historic gathering of the ANC in exile, the Kabwe Conference that was proclaimed by the ANC as the last such gathering outside the country and indeed it was to be, because the next Congress of the ANC was to be held in 1991 in Durban. We say this because we are not at a distance, we are part of the movement that offers no apology for supporting the people of Swaziland in their quest for democracy. Their struggle is our struggle and their demands are our demands.

We salute the steadfastness of the Swazi people; political activists of PUDEMO, workers and the youth in particular, who in the midst of intensified state brutality, they have stood firm and faced the armed might of the state with peaceful marches and mass demonstrations to rightfully demand what belongs to them. We have and continue to share in your pains and are doing all in our power to ensure that the crisis facing Swaziland are in the eyes of the world and adequate attention is paid to this source of discomfort for all of us as Africans, as we seek to part with the past of tyranny, poverty and underdevelopment.

We follow with keen interests developments in your country, not because we are intruders, but because our destiny is bound to your destiny. The intolerable socio-economic and political conditions of life in Swaziland impact directly on those of the people of South Africa and the whole region.

The alarming indicators as regards HIV and AIDS, the unemployment and poverty rates, the massive retrenchment of workers and the generalized neo-liberal restructuring of the economy compound the political suffering of the people. The only thing we see recording sustained increase is a security budget that reflects the growing insecurity of the Swazi state and its determined desire to deal decisively with mass dissatisfaction and uprisings. Education and health have suffered and state institutions are collapsing in our eyes, yet the world watch with silent dismay.

We call on our own government to act now and act decisively in the interest of the people of Swaziland and democracy for development in the continent. We support the demands of the people and workers of Swaziland for;

  • The Unbanning of political parties and guaranteeing of the rights to free expression, organization and holding of peaceful marches

  • The unconditional return of all exiles and the immediate cessation of all political hostilities against political activists and workers

  • An immediate end to the brutal eviction of rural people from their land, which consolidates the monopoly over land by the royal family regime

  • The unconditional release of political prisoners and an end to the intensified state brutality and arbitrary arrests of political activists for exercising their rights to march peacefully

  • The re-orientation of the Swazi police from being agents of a despot or a royal private army into a professional force providing security to all Swazis and not the tiny royal minority

We shall intensify our call in support of your demands, particularly the following;

· Smart sanctions against the Swazi tinkhundla regime until the dawning of a new and truly democratic era for Swaziland. In this sense, the royal family regime should be isolated from all international forums until it accedes to the democratic demands of the people

· Adoption of the process towards an all-inclusive and legitimate constitutional process as outlined in your document, the wayforward towards a constituent assembly through a negotiated settlement, and emphasized by the Road map to a new and democratic Swaziland

In this sense, we reiterate our belief that no constitution can claim to be legitimate unless it is based on the will of the people, this is why we stand by the people of Swaziland in their rejection of the royal constitution which entrenches the absolute power of the monarchy

We continue to participate in the work of the Swaziland Solidarity Network as we seek to mobilize all forces for democracy behind the cause of the Swazi people, to the extent that we together organized a very successful border blockade as we all can testify. This successful campaign, as expected, invited unprecedented vernomous attack from the Swazi state and their friends against COSATU and the progressive movement in general.

However, COSATU remains unshaken in its firm conviction that it is not only in the interest of Swazi people, but also in the best interests of South African workers and people in general, as well as the whole region, that Swaziland becomes democratic soon and join the community of prospering nations.

Interestingly after the border blockade, a certain fellow by the name of Mgabhi Dlamini wrote to us attacking COSATU for “interfering” in Swazi matters, even citing that Swazi people do not welcome us as statements from the Swazi radio suggested, according to him. But what he did not tell us was which Swazi people was he speaking on behalf, the privileged royal minority or the suffering poor majority. He forgot that we stand on the side of the suffering poor majority, whose interests and conditions are of concern to us always and wherever they are.

We share a common history – a history of struggle against plunder, oppression and colonial dispossession

Together we belong to the mighty wave of the African workers and peasants that for all these years have fought against dispossession, plunder and oppression throughout the continent. We share traditions of militant and revolutionary struggle against the dehumanization of the African people on the basic of class, race and gender.

We take this opportunity before all of you comrades to acknowledge the huge contribution you made to our own liberation struggle at the height of apartheid brutality against not only South Africans, but the people of the whole region. You all suffered the consequences of that racist ruthlessness.

We shared the trenches of struggle together with you, and some of you died for our own freedom. The Swazi royal family regime chose to side with the apartheid regime in persecuting cadres of the liberation movement, but some of you protected us, President Mario Masuku being one of those who made a sterling contribution to that effect together with the rest of you. We dare not forget that.

We are not here as foreigners in this movement for a democratic Swaziland, but as part of the family of patriots seeking the best for the continent and its people, which explains our consistency in supporting your efforts always.

Our geo-strategic and economic destinies are bound to each other, hence none can afford to ignore the fire on other side of the fence, because who said it needs a passport to get through to our own yard. This is the central message that we have always affirmed whenever we talk about international solidarity. We are participating in the Swazi struggle, because we believe it is wrong to oppress people, wherever they are and no amount of justification can change that.

In this regard, therefore, we dare not allow anyone amongst us to replace the exploitative master in the table of privilege and perpetuate the evils of inequality and suffering in whatever form. We must build the all-round vigilance of the people against anyone amongst us seeking to join the bandwagon of crass materialism and wealth accumulation for the enrichment of a few. Only through their organized power can the masses build and maintain that vigilance in practice.

No person, however royal, should be allowed the right to exploit women in the name of culture, exploit poor people in the name of patriotism and oppress a whole nation in the name of “unique Swazi democracy”, as the royal family would like us to believe.

The trade union movement as a critical detachment of the liberation movement

From our own experience, workers cannot keep out of the political conflict, because they are the producers of the country’s wealth and should be as much interested in how that produce is controlled and used. In this sense, we have worked with fellow Swazi workers to confront the might of the tinkhundla regime and will continue to do so.

In our own conditions, at a time when the liberation movement was banned, particularly in the form of the ANC and SACP, COSATU and its predecessor, SACTU played a central role in organizing the mass of the people of South Africa to wage determined struggles against the system. Many comrades joined the liberation movement and all its organs through their exposure to basic political issues by the trade union movement.

Trade unions are schools of revolution, they train workers in the art of organizing, educating and mobilizing. They also are a workshop for democracy, where workers learn to control and run their own affairs free from the domination they experience in daily life. This imposes upon us the obligation to ensure that we all participate in building very strong trade unions as engines for workers power, run by workers and in their own interests.

Central to the struggle to build a strong trade union movement is the issue of deepening working class consciousness in the ranks of the workers movement. Ideological development is very important in this era of neo-liberal and capitalist dominance, particularly in the realm of ideas.

Many people have begun to believe that there is no alternative to the savage attacks on workers by capital, yet our comrades in Latin America are daily exposing this myth as untrue. We are inspired by their resilience in the midst of the most determined imperialist offensive to have been seen yet in history.

Therefore, we want to put it at the doorstep of all comrades gathered here today and all Swazis in general that we must do all we can to build a strong trade union movement, a strong civil society movement and a strong liberation movement that blend all these forces creatively to form a revolutionary movement, that has the power and capacity to change Swaziland for the better. This challenge is beyond just Swaziland, but is about the whole of Africa, where the challenges facing workers require a strong trade union movement that works creatively with the rest of the progressive movement to transform society.

We appreciate the very enriching debates that have been characteristic of the process leading to this Congress and this is what should be the vital part of any progressive movement and these traditions must be cherished and defended jealously. We are sure that this process will yield the desired results as we shall be awaiting the outcomes which shall constitute the key marching orders for all of us as we seek to intensify our contribution to the urgency of a political settlement in Swaziland.

On the Road map to a new and democratic Swaziland

These past few days, we have in our own way, interacted with your forthright and honest discussions relating to the recently released proposal for a political programme of PUDEMO, the Road map to a new and democratic Swaziland.

We are encouraged to know that PUDEMO has set the pace and clarified the direction of the Swazi struggle through this historic document, which has also assisted us as part of the forces interested in the attainment of a new and democratic Swaziland. This document creates space for a rallying platform around which all forces committed to a new and democratic Swaziland can be mobilized.

It interestingly touches on the fundamental issues of what are the tasks of a liberation movement and how does it relate to the masses. It touches on the question of challenging for state power and the imperative of using state power to drive through a determined transformation agenda in the interest of the poor and working people of Swaziland.

The key lesson for all liberation movements in Africa has been the lack of a clear guiding programme around which to consolidate the revolutionary momentum and heighten the political tempo of struggle to a new phase.

This leads to confusion and demoralization of the mobilized forces and spirit of the people in general and leads to personalized attacks against each other and not political debates on issues. In particular, the phase of negotiations or democratic breakthrough can be dangerous for a movement that is not prepared for the challenges it presents. This is why the document clearly spells out the linkages between the immediate tasks of the Swazi revolution and the medium-to-long-term focus for social transformation and democratic governance.

As COSATU we have been consistent in calling for fundamental social change in Africa, at the centre of which lies working people acting always as a united force to advance the ideals of social transformation to challenge the syndrome of elitism that has destroyed the revolutionary fibre of the liberation movement throughout the continent. We surely trust that PUDEMO will learn from the experiences of these movements, as it contributes its own valuable lessons for all our benefit.

This is why we fully agree with the assertion of the Road Map as regards the integral linkages between democratic governance and social transformation as two sides of the same coin, none is complete without the other and none is possible without the other.

Further, we are interested in what the document refers to as the Strategic Liberation Plan, which captures the essence of the current phase and the challenges faced by the struggling people of Swaziland. This is because our contribution to the democratic solution of Swaziland shall always be guided by the interests and feelings of the people of Swaziland themselves. This, therefore, allows us to begin to engage with what tasks arise from all these revolutionary perspectives placed before us.

Unity of the oppressed is a condition for victory

The most central conclusion you can safely arrive at when drawing lesson from struggles all over the world is that unity is a condition for the victory of the oppressed. Without unity, the enemy is more stronger and with unity, the revolutionary forces are more stronger and this is the most profound formula for any struggle.

However, building unity is not as easy as it can be assumed. It requires patience and perseverance, honesty and a firm grasp of the tasks of the revolution. Our own experience in COSATU leading to the launch of the federation in 1985 is an example. It takes courage, humility, clarity, determination and more than anything else, placing the interests of the people before ours, to achieve unity.

In the spirit of your Congress discussion document, we surely want to add our voice to the call for unity amongst the oppressed and struggling people of Swaziland. We must place a high premium on the urgency of maximizing the forces that are committed to change in order to isolate the enemy from the people and the world community of civilized and democracy-loving humanity.

COSATU will support and do all within its power to support the process of building unity, because it is important for the workers of Swaziland, in particular and the people of Swaziland in general. However, you must lead it and determine how it should proceed in the best interest of the Swazi people, particularly in view of the unique and specific conditions existing in the country.


Central to all our efforts is the recognition of the fundamental class interests behind every political direction. In this sense, the Political Report of the President to this Congress which talks about how the sweet fruits of liberation can turn sour and the poor have to bear the consequences and bitterness of betrayal, unless the masses are organized to excercise all-round vigilance, is a warning bell that must ring in our heads all the time.

We are confident that the men and women gathered in this house are equal to the tasks placed by history before them and we shall be eagerly awaiting your outcomes, not only as COSATU, but as the people of the world committed to a different Swaziland that offers hope and prosperity for all its people.

Never again should the mere mention of the word Swaziland trigger bitter memories of a sad situation, hopelessness and royal misery. It should rekindle fond memories and hope that inspires all of us and is envied by the world as a model of a truly democratic and prosperous society. That is what you are gathered here to do and surely you cannot fail us in that. The people of Swaziland have entrusted you with the responsibility to bring light and hope to their suffering and terrifying darkness that seems to have no ending.

Once again Comrades, we thank you for the wonderful opportunity to be present in this watershed moment in the course of Swazi history, whose bearing shall be felt across the whole region and whose ramifications shall reverberate throughout the whole world.

We wish you the best in your deliberations and shall be ready to go together with you to the trenches whenever called upon by the people of Swaziland. Our detractors shall not divert us from the task of contributing to all those of you who made contributions to our own liberation and we are fully aware of the historic responsibility imposed that fact and our own revolutionary convictions against injustice and oppression wherever it occurs.

Thank you!

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