THE SLEEPING GRASS RE-AWAKENS
A SPEECH PRESENTED ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMEMORATION OF THE ORGANIZATION'S FOUNDING DAY ON THE 5th JULY 2008 IN MANZINI
On behalf of the Central Executive Council, I wish to humbly recognise members of the National Executive Committee, all the Regional and Branch Structures, the Swaziland Youth Congress and the Women's Wing, Isibhejane. I also greet our deployees, the invited guests and my fellow beloved citizens of Swaziland. They are in far flung worlds, out of our sight, but we honor our comrades in exile in Europe, the Americas and in the African continent.
We have all gathered here today to mark a very significant step in our quest for the liberation of our country from the yoke of the royalist minority from decades, and even centuries of repression. The Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) is in the centre stage of this process and leads in the democratic revolution of a kind that has boggled the minds of both the oppressed and the ruling classes locally and those in the global community.
Today marks the occasion for us to look back in the past 25 years of our struggle, a time to take stock of who we are, where we come from and where we are heading with the people's mandate to emancipate them from years of economic and class oppression that has relegated our masses to beggers in their own land. This regime has relegated our masses to be less than citizens and be subjects in their land.
2.0. Who is PUDEMO?
Swaziland had been handed independence by the British Empire in September 1968 after she had been a protectorate for years. The handing over was based on the Westminster type of legislature under a multiparty system, but this government, as expected was nonetheless under the 'nose' of the king Sobhuza II, and the ruling party, Imbokodvo National Movement had no opposition after winning all the seats in the 1967 national elections.
When the first term of government expired, the second national elections were again held in 1972 and, this time, there was an upset. The Ngwane National Liberatory Congress win three sits in the East Constituency which meant that there was to be opposition in this parliament for the first time. This did not go down well with the Swazi authorities, and they went to seek advice from one Broederbond legal advisor, a Van Wyk de Vries together with the then Attorney General, a Mr. D. Cohen, who advised the king to dissolve parliament and abrogate the independence constitution.
This was the saddest moment in the lives of the Swazi people as it is on the 12th of April 1973 that the king Sobhuza 'tore' the constitution and usurped all government powers and declared himself an absolute monarch in a speech in the cattle byre that day, saying:
"Now, therefore, I Sobhuza II, king of Swaziland, hereby declare that in collaboration with my cabinet ministers and supported by the whole nation, I have assumed power in the kingdom of Swaziland and that all legislative, executive and judicial power is vested in myself and shall, for the meantime, be exercised in collaboration with a council constituted by my cabinet ministers. I further declare that, to ensure the continued maintance of peace, order and good government, my armed forces in conjunction with the Swaziland Royal Police Force have been posted to all strategic places and have taken charge of all government and public services… All political parties and similar bodies that cultivate and bring about disturbances and ill-feelings within the nation are hereby dissolved and prohibited….no meetings of a political nature and no processions or demonstrations shall be held or take place in any public place…"
But this setup was not going to go unchallenged as people were starting to feel the effects of the repression, corruption, nepotism and misdirection in the country's governance. On top of this, our brothers and sisters who were fleeing racism and color based oppressive regimes in the neighboring states were further humiliated, and some some killed, by the collaboration of the royalist security forces with those of (mainly) the apartheid regime in South Africa. Those from Mocambique were 'gladly' handed over to the Salazar led Portuguese colonial regime and suffered similar fate as that of the South Africans.
The Swazi political pot was also at boiling point when the students and teachers staged county wide protest seeking for more participation in the decision making by the Prince Maphevu and Mabandla led governments. The university students, in particular at the Kwaluseni Campus also sprang up to have their voices heard, and as a result, more tertiary institutions joined in on this band wagon of civil rights.
The death of King Sobhuza II in 1982, in a way, propelled the wishes of the people as immediately after his demise there came blood thirsty wounds within the royal family and hangers-on who exchanged daggers for power. At this point there was the compromise of the rule of law and independence of justice. The executive was controlled by the traditional royalists and the legislature was never an independent organ as it was never representative of the masses. The crisis gave rise to the people's struggles for a voice to their freedom.
Twenty-five years ago this day, a team of daunting and selfless workers, students, intellectuals and politicians came together at the banks of the Mbuluzi River, North-East of Mbabane below the sacred Mantjolo pool to chart the way forward to a better life for all. At this meeting were people of differing ideologies, religious persuation, culture and social class but all with a common objective for the country. It was agreed that this vehicle be called the Peoples United Democratic Movement, *PUDEMO*.
At this meeting, the founding Heroes and Heroenes charted the Peoples Manifesto, a document that today identifies the organization from all others s a people centred and rooted mouth piece of the oppressed masses, and in particular the poorest of the poor. The vision of the Movement is centered around the Peoples Mission Statement, preambing the People's Manifesto, and states that:
"We are a Political Movement committed to the creation, protection and promotion of a Constitutional Multiparty Democracy, a transparent and accountable government, an environment conducive to economic growth, and economic empowerment and to the development of a culturally vibrant and tolerant society based on maximum participation and the respect of the will of the people".
The Peoples Manifesto.
From the onset, *PUDEMO* was never a reformist, but a massed based revolutionery and multiclass in its character. It is our belief that for the liberation of our country to be achieved, we have to eradicate the "tinkhundla" * system of government with all its legacies, and replace it with a people driven multiparty government with the respect of the will of the majority, though not suppressing the voice of the minority. We were, and are still tasked with the challenge of united the oppressed masses of the Swazi society towards one goal, that of transforming our country into a democratic multiparty government.
Immediately following the birth of the organisation, material highlighting the ills and crisis of the regime were seen in both rural and urban areas and this culminated in the protests at institutions of higher learning and strikes at work areas. Comrades were hunted down and some went into hiding or exile, and others lost their employment and places at the institutions of higher learning and elementary schools. The conscientisation program was intensified and the name *PUDEMO* was all over the country.
When the young king, Mswati III was enthroned in 1986, he realised that the country was burning on all corners as a result of dissatisfaction from the governed. He had promised to deal with all the people's demands, but had dismally failed to do so and his security forces intensified their clamp down on *PUDEMO* leaders and members. This move climaxed in 1989 when, later, 10 members of the organisation were rounded up and charged with high reason. All accused were acquitted of the main charge, and two were found guilty of 'organising' illegal meetings and received suspended sentences.
The people's organisation continued with consultation and meetings inside and outside the country until, in 1992, decided to unbann itself and defy all the *tinkhundla* government laws.It was during the 1992 General Congress at Ipelegkeng, Soweto where the organisation crafted the document called *The Way Forward To A Constituent Assembly Through a Negotiated Settlement,*calling for a national constitution.
It is also at this Congress that *PUDEMO* called for Free Education, Social Grants for the Elderly, Land Back to The People and others. At this Congress we also framed the campaign of One Country One Federation, and One Industry One Union.
From the early 1990s the state unleashed its royalist forces against the activists of the organisation, and from 1992 after the formation of our youth league, SWAYOCO more of our members were unsettled and went to exile. At the same time the revolution was intensified on all sectors of society, and the regime began to impliment some reforms like the Constitution Review Commission which were totally rejected by the organisation and other civic society members. The regime has always said free or subsidised education at lower grades was not possible, but there a change direction now.
We are a revolutionary organisation by character but we note that what we have been demanding in the last twenty-five years, the regime has agreed are deliverable and in some cases, it has used our ideology. That there was consideration on the constitution making process itself cannot be denied that it was due to our campaigns, though the process was flawed. *PUDEMO*called for the social grants for the elderly and lame, and this is now in place though insignificant. Food shortage and poverty have been part of our campaigns, and the government is still fighting a losing battle here.
We pride ourselves for the positive prospect of having the labor movement working closer to themselves, and we believe that our role has been pivotal there. Thee is no doubt that *PUDEMO* and its youth SWAYOCO possess a solid and highly politicised cadre, and this has created some of the most matured activists in the country. In these twenty-five years of struggle, *PUDEMO*can pride herself with high calibre documents and presentations on policy and positions.
We had the vision of a mass broad based democratic movement and lessons were learnt from the collapse of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance. As early as 2005, discussions on the formation of a loose front with a common object was debated within *PUDEMO* structures, and today we all must be proud that we now have the Swaziland United Democratic Front. Not only because it has been launched, but even more so that all members have agreed on the common founding principles of multi-party democracy in Swaziland; declaring the national elections as undemocratic and demanding for a more accountable and transperant economic policy.
In all these years, we have had our comrades imprisoned for their political beliefs and activity, some have skipped into exile in the Americas, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia and the African continent. Some of our members' families are suffering from constant intimidation and threats by the regime. The length of the struggle cannot be determined but this has taken the toil from some of our dedicated comrades, and the struggle goes.
Any struggle, for its success and sustanance, needs various and specific resources from time to time, and without the human, financial and material resources the struggle gets crippled in some way. All the mentioned resource have to be mobilised without priority of one above the others – they are all a priority – and we need them.
The biggest blow that the organisation has experienced in this period is the loss of our members from various reasons, from that of Comrades Domini Lefty Mngometulu our founder General Secretary to that of Comrade Gabriel Mkhumane our founder member and recent Deputy President who was assassinated in March 2008. Besides these stalwarts, numerous high calibre cadres and leaders have gone to the land beyond, robbing us of their capabilities and skills in the struggle.
For the past forty years since attaining its 'independence', Swaziland is facing a deep-seated structural crisis, 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. In Swaziland corruption and moral decay seem 'official' as the disease runs from the highest seat to the lowest, hence to eradicate it would require revolutionary approach.
In all these years it is embarrassing that the government still survives through loans from the Southern African Customs Union to, even, pay monthly wages to the civil servants. The country is in dire straits in as far as economic growth is concerned, and is experiencing less and less direct investment other than the Asian partners surviving on the AGOA facilities to the impoverishment of the already poor Swazi people. International observers have blamed this state of affairs to the extravagent monarchy who holds the keys of the national coffers, competes in the economic game and manipulates the national budget.
The regime not only manipulates the national coffers, but also dictates how much and how the resources are to be spent, and recently we have noted that there is widespread recruitment drive into the security forces and more and more is spent on the armament in the defence force. This is in the backdrop of poverty and want, poor health and welfare facilities for the poor masses, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and high educational costs coupled with soaring unemployment.
The above crisis cannot be addressed without identifying their root political causes. As long as the monarchy plays the role of a 'referee and player' in the political field, the crisis in our country will go deeper and turn more violent, and the pillar to this state of affairs is the current royalist constitution which gives the king absolute powers as an executive.
The constitution was pushed through the back door and never was it approved by the masses, but by royal command. *PUDEMO* is still prepared to engage in a constructive national dialogue as mentioned before. A constitution worth its salt is one that transfers power to the majority from a minority, and our document *The Way Forward*, mentioned before clearly states as to what process has to be agreed towards a constituent assembly.
We are convinced that, currently, the conditions in the country do not facilitate proper national 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 that it should be at any cost to the interests of the 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 cauldron of political confusion and desperate measures in order to divert us from our core mission – to liberate our people and speedy 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 that 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 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 that 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, fair and full participation of all the people and we expect that the international community will be forthright in its condemnation of this abominable act.
We call upon the SADC, African Union and NEPAD and the Commonwealth to stand by their provisions and conventions which they have entered into with the Swaziland government to determine if the forthcoming elections are democratic, even before they are determined as free and fair. We must not only boycott these elections, but do all in our might to make their process
The situation in our country, comrades, will not change unless members within *PUDEMO* and the entire masses of our country rededicate themselves to their liberation from the royal regime. I remind all our cadres that the liberation of the people can only be the act of the people themselves, and nobody can do this for us.
In any struggle it is important to recognize the critical moment, the time when decisive action can propel the struggle into a new phase. We have used all the pillars of our struggle, but it calls on us to determine the strategy and tactic on how and when specific pillars can be used and at what time.
In conclusion, this is the year for our own liberation. We have nothing to lose except our own lives for the liberation, and I call on all our people play their role in the people's program of action.
In the 6th National Congress we boldly proclaimed our profound commitment to the implimentation of the Road Map To A New And Democratic Swaziland and core to the Plan are the following:
- Building *PUDEMO's* political capacity to organise, mobilize and lead the masses.
- Building and sustaining the institutions of democratic governance and social transformation to create a new culture of mass participation in public life and respect for human dignity at all levels of society.
- Building an economy that serves the needs of the people through growth and redistribution to improve the quality of life of our people and promote the ideals of human dignity.
- Democratising traditional leadership and the institution of the monarchy to be compatible with the democratic aspirations of our people and the foundation of the new society we are striving to build.
- Actively participate in building an international solidarity movement for democracy and sovereign development in Swaziland and the whole of Africa and for justice in global governance.
We are called to create an advanced political infrastructure or organisational machinery that is capable of reaching out to all our people and providing credible leadership at all time. This is also a time for us to build cadres who have the political capacity, ideological clarity and dynamic mobility to wage and sustain the struggle, and here, Political Education and development is paramount. We need to build a strong and focused underground structure comprised of well disciplined cadres. Our international mission has to have a well crafted campaign for our cause. The struggle has had knocks, and our finance resources have to be predictable to sustain the struggle. And, lastly, having the above in place, we need technical details of transformation and governance and have in place our policies ready.
Over and above the above tasks, specific Campaigns on Anti Elections, Anti 40/40, Free Education, Land Back To The People, Free Health And Social Services are integral part of our program to the eventual breakthrough.
Long live* PUDEMO*, long live,
I thank you.