The people of Swaziland are Speaking
…….Is the world listening?
Mario Masuku – PUDEMO President
Address to the EU delegation on the 14th June 2007 in Mbabane, Swaziland
IntroductionIn the past few days the world was made to observe the consolidation of royal monopoly over power in the country through a royal constitutional process, which was exclusively designed by the royal regime to serve its narrow undemocratic interests and in the process, exclude the rest of the people in such an important national process.
PUDEMO since its inception in 1983 has always made it clear that, “the pride of our sovereignty is the guaranteed respect of the will of the people” (People’s manifesto of PUDEMO). This principally means that the process of developing a legitimate national constitution can only come about as a result of a consciously inclusive, participatory and popular process. There can be no substitute for the people, because history has proven that no outcome can be sustainable unless the people themselves have determined it.
We have also watched in dismay, the cold or at best lukewarm attitude of the international community towards Swaziland, though we do appreciate the efforts from certain quarters of the international community to really pay attention to the long-standing demands and concerns of the people of Swaziland. However, there are those sectors within the international community who have chosen to stand, openly, on the side of the regime and its attempts to impose undemocratic processes down the throats of the Swazi people, key amongst them is the commonwealth.
However, we take comfort in the knowledge that the world community of civilised people are fully behind us, key amongst them are the mass of the people of South Africa under the leadership of the tripartite alliance, who have stood by us even in the midst of insults and false accusations by the royal family regime and its patrons. We salute them and vw never to let down their genuine support for democracy and people-centred development in the whole continent, Swaziland included.
Finally, we are proud of our record and consistent struggles with the full support of all Swazi patriots who have refused to be massaged by the evil system. Towards this end, we are also very proud that we have clarified our wayforward as profoundly articulated by the popular Road Map towards a new and democratic Swaziland programme of the movement adopted by the 6th General Congress recently.
We are confident that we have demonstrated without apology our profound commitment to a practical and lasting solution to the crisis facing our country. We have clarified the route from the situation of today and the struggles we seek to wage, to the transition process towards the creation of a new and democratic society, with the core elements of the new society we are struggling to build, being firmly put in place. None can ever doubt PUDEMO’s proven commitment to a real, sustainable and legitimate solution to the problems tinkhundla has plunged our country into.
We seek no short-cuts that will be reversible or avoid the foundation of the problem, but at the same time, we seek to do all within our powers to bring about a speedy solution that is inclusive, sustainable and democratic, yet anchored in fundamentally progressive traditions that civilised humanity has yet evolved.
The situation in Swaziland todayOur country is facing a deep-seated structural crisis. It al an all-round crisis that afflicts every sphere of our society. The demon of royal supremacy and the hegemony of a corrupted and bankrupt morality permeates every part of our life. It has become so normal to be corrupt that anyone questioning it, instantly has his/her mental state questioned. What kind of a society fears to challenge such terrifying levels of corruption, women and children abuse, soaring unemployment and grinding poverty levels.
The Swazi economy is at a serious crisis point and drastic measures are required to save it from ultimate collapse. Growth rate indicators point to a bleak situation as unemployment, poverty, skills and brain drain, rates of investment and general returns on investment are always pointing to a bleak picture. PUDEMO is working on a framework to begin engaging the process of how to return our economy to its rightful place, but not in isolation to, but as part of the general effort to make our country viable in all ways possible, ranging from political governance to economic performance.
Generation after generation have been subjected to the most vicious form of institutionalised subjugation. This explains why despite the massive and simmering anger, people are still sceptical of taking direct action to attack the evil system from its roots, all sorts of excuses and reasons are being put forward for lack of action. However, part of the blame should be apportioned to us as the progressive movement, surely, we could do more to organise the masses of the people to take action now. This is not to undermine the extent to which we are also facing a well-armed and finally well-resourced system, with no or bare minimum resources.
This, we believe is related to the point of the fact that the international community has not yet demonstrated their practical commitment to supporting the seeds of democracy in our country and nurturing the institutionalisation of a culture of organisation, mass participation and vibrant engagement.
On the political front, we have noted a deliberate attempt to downplay the extent of the crisis in the country by the ruling regime, with the full support of some sectors of the international community and media. They have under-recorded the significance of the numerous arrests, mass activities against the state, political statements against the regime and all the efforts of the people to expose the rottenness of the system and begin the road to a new and better society.
Most recently, we have also noted the regime’s political games to fool the world and the people through its negotiations and dialogue projects that are only meant to create an impression of engagement and open space for inclusivity in the political life of the system. It is also an attempt to buy time and renew the system’s lease of life. We have stated very clearly that the necessary climate for negotiations must be created before any meaningful process can begin. We believe that the onus is on the shoulders of the regime, they must prove they are now serious about the process of creating the necessary climate and momentum for change. The Road Map had this to say, “The removal of all laws that prohibit free political activity and the unbanning of political parties in Swaziland shall constitute a strategic victory for the movement, leading to the creation of political conditions which shall make it possible to pursue the objectives of the transfer of political power to the people through negotiations”.
We are convinced that the conditions in the country do not facilitate proper dialogue, in fact, they militate against negotiations, turning every claim to negotiations under the present climate into a joke or mockery, if not an outright insult to the dignity of the people. Our honest commitment to negotiations does not mean it should be at any cost to the interests of our people and the cause for their liberation. We are as much committed to negotiations as we are to finding a lasting solution to the problems of our country, therefore, we shall not allow ourselves to be drowned in the couldron of political confusion and desperate measures in order to divert us from our core mission – to liberate our people and speedily turn the country into a democratic society.
We have maintained that the constitution entrenches royal supremacy, particularly the consolidation of the monarchy’s hold onto power. It negates the essence of an advance towards democracy, which therefore requires all our condemnation and rejection. But beyond rejections, we need to build and support the momentum towards an alternative process underpinned by inclusivity and legitimacy. We do believe that it is not too late for a genuine alternative process towards a lasting solution to the constitutional crisis we face. We want to maintain that we shall not and have been part of the regime’s cosmetic dialogue, because we believe we have a sacred duty to our people, which is to preserve the dignity of our struggle and restore the confidence of the people in the movement and the cause for democracy itself. We shall not betray them, whatever the odds.
The intensified arrests of our members and activists indicate the growing intransigence and arrogance of the royal regime and calls for intensified political action and international focus on Swaziland. The recent border blockade brutality and the on-going attack on our movement, with the most deafening silence on the part of the international community says volumes about the character of the international community and we are sure, this meeting should mark a new era in how the international community responds to the urgencies arising out of the crisis in our country and beyond.
We call for the unconditional release of all our comrades who are on bail, the creation of conducive conditions for the unconditional return of our exiles and the immediate cessation of all political hostilities, with the security forces behaving as a professional, rather than the private royal army that they are.
The issue at hand is a multiparty democracy and the creation of sufficient political space for all our people to participate with all the rights and responsibilities that all civilised beings enjoy everywhere in the world. But multiparty on its own will not resolve the decades long crisis, which means it should only serve as a space for the intensification of a national effort against all the ills afflicting our society, poverty in particular. The regime is preparing for elections to be held under the directives of the royal constitution and under the current conditions that militate against the free and full participation of all the people and we expect that the EU will be forthright in its condemnation of this abominable act.
SADC protocol, AU and NEPAD provisions, the Harare Declaration of the Commonwealth and several other international instruments call for multiparty democracy and adequate pluralistic space for the full and effective participation of all people as a necessary condition for sustainable and legitimate electoral systems and the deepening of democracy in Africa. It is in this context that we are surprised by the behaviour of the Commonwealth that has assisted the regime to draft a constitution that bars political parties and free political activity in the name of culture, we condemn this act of hypocrisy with all the energies at our disposal. We call upon all these multilateral institutions to enforce their conventions in defence of the dignity of our people and their own dignity as institutions, whose relevance to the people of Africa is yet to be affirmed in many instances.
On the Road to a new and democratic Swaziland - the future belongs to the people!In our 6th National Congress we boldly proclaimed our profound commitment to the unity of all progressive forces in Swaziland and we saw ourselves as key, yet humble players in forging close working ties with our comrades and patriots in the mass democratic movement towards what Congress called the National Democratic Front.
We are glad to realise the amount of interest and enthusiasm it has generated throughout the length and breadth of our society, in particularly amongst all progressive organisations and patriots of our beloved country. We have dedicated significant energy and time to this noble effort and we hope with the momentum already generated, we are not turning back, but are looking forward to a new impetus on the Swazi political front.
There are basic fundamentals required to generate and sustain the momentum towards a genuine and legitimate alternative to the deepening crisis in our country;
- Support for the efforts of civil society towards a National Democratic Front which shall be the collective expression of all the oppressed and their united desire to build a new and democratic society
- A preliminary engagement process between the state and organs of civil society, particularly political parties to lay the basis for a broad and all-inclusive process of negotiations. This shall also clear all obstacles to real negotiations and remove all impediments towards that end. International multilateral instruments to safeguard it from the regime’s attack and diversion must leverage this process.
- The creation of a legitimate, popular and progressive constitution with the full participation of all stakeholders, in conditions conducive to the process, which could be a product of the above process of broad engagement
However, we need to make it clear in no uncertain terms that we do believe the EU can do more to assist the people of Swaziland than it has been so far willing to do. The most immediate task that we would like to put forward to you in firmer terms is the issue of smart sanctions against the Mswati regime, particularly the royal family as clearly articulated in our 6th National Congress document, entitled, “Targeted sanctions against the ruling regime of Swaziland”. Towards this end, we specifically call upon you to ensure that in the coming EU-AU summit in Portugal in October, the Swazi regime is not invited, as is the case with other non-complying states where you have openly pronounced yourselves. We shall be glad to work with you, as well as measure your renewed commitment and determination to take Swaziland on a new road to sustainable change through this very small and humble quest on our side.
In all these, the international community shall be expected to support in all possible ways, the efforts of the Swazi people to create a new society. This requires more than just political and moral support, but essentially, material and financial support too. If political parties are the key elements of any democratic society, then they must be prepared and supported to play their part effectively. They must be capacitated to fully undertake their historic assignments of mobilising the people to act as their own liberators and custodians of their own destiny. We are alive to the reality that not all political parties represent the future of the country, some represent the past and the very essence of the current system in crisis, which indicates the fact that even the political parties themselves will not necessarily have a smooth sailing, but will have their own challenges to address about the kind of society we are struggling to build.
However, we do believe that the Swazi regime has been let off the international human rights radar for far too long and the international community is guilty for that. It has pretended not to see what is happening in this country and has remained silent in the midst of conspicuous degeneration and royal shame. We cannot allow that any more, we commit to play our own part, but also call upon the world community of democracy loving people to play theirs fully.
ConclusionWe take this opportunity to appreciate the opportunity to reflect on the challenges we face with yourselves and would be glad to count on you as our partners in the winding, yet determined march to democracy in Swaziland.
We also take this opportunity to warn that patience is desirable, but patience has a limit and would not want to be accused of having not warned that time is not on our side, our people’s suffering is daily becoming a threat to national security, if we seek to use the words of the regime. But in our own view, it is a threat to the selfish desires of the royal family.
Swaziland is the only country we have and would like to see the best come out of it, however, we are worried by the attitude displayed by the regime and the lack of urgency in attending to matters of national interest.
We have always affirmed that we are ready and willing to enter into serious dialogue with the regime, but only once the proper conditions are created and that is the challenge we are putting on the doorstep of the regime. It is not too late to save our country, but it is too late to entertain delaying tactics.