THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN.
SYSTEMATIC DEGENERATION FROM
CRISIS TO SOCIAL CONFLICT
A presentation to The European Union Embassadors
In Mbabane on the 4th June 2008.
The Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) views this moment of consultation with the European Union Embassadors in this region as a great opportunity in which experiences and views will be shared between us on the socio economic and political landscape of our country, Swaziland . It is not only a great opportunity for us, but it is the only means available for us to express ourselves to the current government in Swaziland – an opportunity and right not availed us.
We realise, however, that we live in an abnormal society where we, in such a small country, as stake holders, are dismally far apart and are failing to solve our socio political and economic challenges in a conference situation as this ourselves. This, then, must be an indication to you as to what kind of environment we, the partners of the people of Europe and the member states live in.
The consultations have come at a time when we needed them most, when the country is undergoing various national expriences and functions which we will deal with at later stage of this presentation. It comes at a time when Swaziland, under the SADC is faced with a challenge to take more responsibilities that will reflect more of its internal operative character and be permeated in her discharge of the duties given her.
PUDEMO wish to give honor to the European Union, and in particular, the Head of Delegation, Mr. Peter Beck Christiansen for the unequivocal statement delivered on the occasion of the commemoration of European Union Day at the Mountain Inn, Mbabane on Monday the 2nd June 2008. Indeed, lack of good governance and constructive dialogue is certain brew for enxiety, mistrust and distabilization and unnecessary conflict within citizens and nations of this world.
Swaziland at this Conjuncture.
PUDEMO firmly associates and believe in the Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights as an international guide and convention for human equity and satisfaction. We also believe in the pledge by member states, including Swaziland, towards the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), whose broader objective is to protect the peoples' fundamental human rights and to promote social and economic progress and better living standards within the larger freedoms of human kind
This pledge is a promisory note to each citizen of our countries, signed by those in authority, and we will not accept any 'bad cheques' as part of delivery or none of it under the promise. None of the MDGs is lesser important than the other, but the eradication of poverty and hunger, achievement of universal primary education, combatting HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases and the reduction of child mortality determines the level of commitment, will and delivery by any member state on these goals.
The Swaziland government is failing to meet these demands as stated in their report in 2006. But the major reason for this failure is the lack of setting and planning on national priorities.
The central challenge, however, in the hardship is the role that is played or not played by the monarchy institution. PUDEMO identifies the root of the crisis in the main 'national question' – what and where is the problem in Swaziland? Any attempt towards resolving the crisis without adressing the national question would merely be attempting cosmetic reformism, dealing with the symptoms (so to speak) and not the root causes. In Swaziland we must identify as to who wields the power in decision making, despensing expenditure and on what – here the monarch is in total control and neither the legislative, cabinet nor the masses of our people.
The welfare of the people rests on the honesty or otherwise of those in authority in any country. National assets, wealth and executive authority is vested in those in authority which gives them the ability to divert or use same for their personal benefit.
That, in Swaziland, the Tibiyo TakaNgwane is controlled in the royallty and that ordinary Swazis are made to compete with the monarchy in the economic market rubs salt into the wound and places all aspiring small entrepreneurs and citizens in an unfair economic play field. The level of corruption has reached alarming proportions with the Minister of Finance announcing that there are millionaire cabinet ministers; that the country loses over E40million a month to corruption and cases involving corruption remaining unprocessed. The wanton expenditure by those in authority; the recruitment and expansion of the security forces and uncontrolled royal trips continue to drain the national coffers and push the majority poor Swazi citizen deeper into poverty and certain death, and on the other side fatten the minority even more.
All this happens at the backdrop of a shrinking economy; abject poverty, poor health policy, drought, high education and soaring food costs.
"The Swazi citizens are further given a flogging by higher service charges and more expensive public and private goods given that prices are not set by open market economy. A people centered economy demands that this 'evil hand' be removed from the market in order to allow both the costs of doing business and prices to converge at the optima".
Economic Justice Network Swaziland
World Social Forum, Nairobi, Kenya 20 – 25th January 2007.
The crisis facing the country are also remnants of a national constitution whose establishing process, contents and implications we have made known in the past consultations with yourselves. PUDEMO maintains her position that the constitutional making process was royally managed, and eventually produced a royal desired product, which is a document that 'constitutionally embraced' the 1973 King's Proclamation, and thus 'constitutionally' gave the monarch all executive powers that he exercises absolutely or through bodies appointed by him.
That the constitution is now supreme law in Swaziland does not render it a people driven and owned document, and we will do all means possible to make our justifiable reasons heard by those in power. In spite of these shortcomings, we are prepared to engage in constructive dialogue towards a true democratically established national constitution.
In 2007, the High Court ordered that the Prime Minister set in place a Commission of Inquiry into the tortures and illtreatment of our members in prisons in the country. These are PUDEMO members who were suspects in the bombing incidents way back in 2005. Firstly, it took the Prime Minister some six months to announce the commission, and by that time, of course, any physical evidence of torture would have naturally healed. Secondly, the Commissioners finished their investigations late in 2007 and delivered their findings to the Prime Minister but over six months later the report is gathering dust in his office.
We call on the Prime Minister to release this report immediately without without any further delay.
PUDEMO, in association with other members of the civic movement, challenged the authenticity of the constitutional process, seeking for the courts to rule for a democratic process. It is history now that the Supreme Court of Apeal ruled against our prayer for various reasons. This does not mean, we wish to mention, that all is lost, the major battles are 'faught on the battle field' and not at conference rooms.
There is also a court case pending before the High Court on the interpretation of the constitution as regards the position on political parties. The Supreme Court of Apeal ruled that the High Court must hear this case before the end of June 2008 to allow for any apeals before the forth coming national elections are held.
We would have opted for an immediate hearing of this matter, but the regime has opted to proceed with the registration of voters in disregard of the possibility of the ruling.
The process towards national elections has already begun, as said ealier, under abnormal environment in that:-
- The process is based and underpinned by a constitution denying people their right to associate as espoused by the Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights, the Harare Declaration, the African Charter on Human and Peoples's Rights and the SADC Principles and Procedures on national elections. This is endorsed by a constitution that (firstly) acknowledges a Bill of Rights and (then), in Section 79, prohibits the same rights.
- The Pre-elections era is clouded in acute doubts and ill-preparedness as the expected voters still have basic questions on what they are voting for. There is supposed to have been an independent civic education to inform the public on what elections are for, what choices they have and what rights they have before putting their crosses. The appointment of the Elections and Border Commission has caused enxiety due to their legal standing, and their supposed independence.
- The process is managed from the throne as it is the king who issues orders through the traditional and other structures, and culturally, people do not question him.
- The media in the country is partisan and only stae aligned information is permitted time on the state electric media, in particular.
This Commission was allowed to execute its duties before an Act of Parliament was tabled, debated and approved. The Minister of Justice, when queried on this, said that bringing the Act to parliament was a mere formality, and this is why we have always said that a legislative under the tinkhundla government is only a 'rubber-stamping' institution without its own independence and enjoys no power.
The regime has already invited the international community to bring in observers during the election process, and we believe that agreeing to this invitation means legitimizing an undemocratic and illigetimate process. We fully agree with what the Commonwealth Expert Team said of the 2003 similar elections, that:
"We do not regard the credibility of these National Elections as an issue: no elections can be credible when they are for a parliament which does not have power and when political parties are banned…"
The Team also observed that:
"The ban on political parties has damaged Swaziland. It denies the right to freedom of association and prevents the formulation of national manifestoes, programmes and platforms on which candidates – and a potential government – can be judged by the voters. It also removes the opportunity for the democracy and transparency in candate selection which party process can bring".
We believe, therefore, that before elections are examined as free or fair by any observer, one has to determine if they are, in the first place, democratic as stated above by the Commonwealth Secretariat Expert Team. We humbly urge the European Union Embassadors to make a decisive position of whether you wish to be part of an undemocratic process for the sake of legitimizing it.
Double Celebrations in Swaziland.
In September 2008, the king will be celebrating his 40th birthday, in conjunction with the country's 40th anniversary of 'independence'. PUDEMO has no problem with the king having his private birthday party, but we have reservations when these partys are politicised and put on the tax payers' account to the region of E100milion. These celebrations are held in a country experiencing the worst in poverty, need for primary health care and many other forms of want. Some of the members of the European Union are wtnesses to this as they are donors for a number of NGO's here.
We are aware that some of the world's leaders have been invited and will attend the celebrations with the king and his family members. Our plea to you and other would-be guests is that please note that while dining in those palaces and hotels, hundreds of Swazi people would have had no simple meal for days. Please also note that thousands of Swazi people are dying in unkept drugless health centres, and that many more children are rendered homeless orphans and are destitute.
PUDEMO believes that such occassions are extravagent, costly and unwarranted and, instead, these funds be diverted towards the poorest and disadvantaged our Swazi brothers and sisters.
Early last year, a world wide known commentator publication on the global politics, afrolNews, wrote about Swaziland as follows:
"The relatively small economic growth during the last six years has increasingly gone towards government spending. While in other countries this could have meant improved social services and wealth for the ordinary population, Swaziland is increasingly paralyzed by poor governance, corruption and the private spending of the authoritarian King Mswati 111 and his large royal family. The growing social crisis in the country and the lessening interest of donors to support King Mswati's regime has also created escalating needs for social services beyond the scale of national budgets".
Our Positions on these Issues.
We have brought to the international community's attention these experiences of the people of Swaziland and we are aware and expect that the state will also present their own version of events. It is our belief that time is not on our side, the people get more frustrated by the day, and their patience will one day run out. After the court rulings on the human rights, we are, unfortunately pushed towards the wall with very limited alternatives in the quench for our freedom.
We are, never-the-less, still committed to a constructive national dialogue for the solutions of our problems.
PUDEMO unconditionally believes and respects the Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights and all the other continental and regional covenants aimed at giving people their liberties without repression. What is being done in Swaziland falls far too short of these conventions, though.
We are not about to forsake our principles and allow ourselves to legitimize an illegitimate regime and succumb to undemocratic practices of dictatorship. In this regard, the organization is in the process of mobilizing for protests and education on what democratic, free and fair national elections are in all the registration centres. This, we believe, is our right to express our opinion.
We are also embarking on the campaign against the double celebrations to take place later this year.
Our Broader Programme.
Although we have short term programmes of action towards our goal, we wish to state that the Road Map To A New and Democratic Swaziland charts the way forward on how we will achieve the major objective.
This document highlights the two main important parts as the Strategic Iliberation Plan and the other, the Democratic Governance and Social Transformation Plan. We also have, under this, the Implimentation Plan to guide us on how, when and who is key on the implimentation.
Expectations From The International Community.
We realize and respect the contribution that the European Union has done to the people of Africa, and Swaziland in particular in the economic development sector and other areas. We, however, believe that your contribution towards the socio political empowerment of the members of the civic society would go a long way towards capacitating the proponents of democracy, peace and dailogue in the country.
We also request the European Union to exercise its mutual commitments towards the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement signed in Cotonou, in particular Article 9. Without placing into effect the bounds to the objectives of an agreement, partners will see the other 'not doing good'.
We are aware of the fact that only the people of Swaziland can liberate themselves, with of course the solidarity from same minded friends in the civilised community. PUDEMO is pleased that after a long time, the Swaziland United Democratic Front has taken up and we are all working towards achieving our common goal of a constitutional multiparty government in Swaziland, and believe that this is key to the achievement of a better life, peace economic growth and social stability for our people.
We, finally, wish to congratulate the people and member countries of the European Union for the commemoration of the European Day this past Monday. We agree that no country can or will remain unchanged, countries consist of dynamic people determined to ever move forward and it is our collective responsibility to manage these transitions towards a better world. Indeed, evil will prevail and triump only when good people and organizations do nothing.
We thank you.
[PUDEMO presentation made by President Mario Masuku and General Secretary Sphasha Dlamini.]