The Internal and External Balance of
Forces in SWAZILAND
PUDEMO Annual Conference and Strategic Planning
June 28 –July 02, 2006
By Cde B.Vincent Dlamini
This paper seeks to help delegates and participants in this Annual Conference and Strategic Session to understand who are the forces for change, forces against change and neutral forces that require reorienting. Another aspect is to give a detailed analysis of these forces and their strength, i.e. soldiers and police numbers and capacity; workers union numbers and the camps they belong to, etc.
An assessment of the balance of forces is part of the process that must inform our discussion on Strategy and Tactics in this Conference. Any balance of forces is dynamic and evolving, influenced by changing objective and subjective factors. This understanding of the balance of forces enables the liberation movement (PUDEMO) to make decisive interventions from time to time to propel the struggle forward.
This discussion paper will first give an overview of the balance of forces from 2003 to the present moment. It will examine major developments that have occurred in recent times (particularly since 2003) and the subjective actions of PUDEMO to shift the balance of forces favourably. Finally, it raises some of the challenges- objective and subjective- in critical areas, which face us as we prepare for our 6th National Congress. At the end we must determine whether or not these shifts and challenges in the balance of forces entail any need for amendments to our Strategy and Tactics.
A proper understanding of the given balance of forces is critical in defining the tactics that PUDEMO should adopt at this stage of our struggle. To ignore this would be to fall victim to actions that have nothing to do with the strategic objectives of our revolution and such actions could lead to the defeat of the revolution itself. Historic moments are few and far between, where revolutionaries are called upon to throw caution to the wind.
On the other hand, a fixation with balance of forces as an unchangeable phenomenon results in dangerous stagnation and can lead to indecision and even reaction. Objective circumstances are not carved in stone. We must not preach caution where bold action is required. Any balance of forces is dynamic, influenced by changing internal and external factors.
Our strategy and tactics must be informed by the obtaining political conditions in our country; the strength of the Tinkhundla system; the economic conditions; the balance of forces between PUDEMO and her allies on the one side, and the Tinkhundla regime and its allies on the other side.
An Overview of the Situation in Swaziland
The 2003 PUDEMO Annual Conference made the following observations on the general assessment of both the Royal Regime’s strategy and existing conditions in Swaziland:
§The Tinkhundla system is facing a deep seated and permanent crisis forcing the royal regime to attempt to overhaul the system.
§The crisis of the system gives rise to on-going struggle.
§The Tinkhundla regime has a well oiled machinery in financial and political terms, owing to their control of the state apparatus, particularly the security forces, civil service, key sectors of the economy and a traditional social base of loyalists.
§The forces of democracy, political and otherwise, are not yet in a position to challenge for and usurp power although large sections of our people clearly see the Tinkhundla regime as having no legitimacy. We are therefore, near and yet so far from our goal of democracy.
§Major forces internationally and regionally are seeking a way with which to effect a compromise between the contending forces, which might not necessarily be favourable to the struggling masses.
Swaziland is amongst the most economically unequal (skewed) and poverty stricken countries of the world as shown by the following indicators:
- 69% of the population lives below the poverty line of E128 per month. This situation is further worsened by the neo-liberal restructuring of the economy through the government’s Public Sector Management Programme (PSMP), the Economic and Social Reform Agenda (ESRA) and the current SPEED. These policies combine to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, whilst worsening the living conditions for the majority of our people, working and rural masses in particular.
- 48% of the population lives under extreme poverty; 76% of the poor are found in rural areas and more than 40% of households have never had enough to eat (SHIES 2001).
- An estimated 300 000 people depend on food aid to survive.
- 56.4% of the wealth is held by the richest 20% whilst the poorest 20% hold only 4.3% (SHIES 2001).
- Unemployment is estimated at around 40% (2005 est.) Youth unemployment is around 40% and it is estimated at 70% for women.
- 54% of the population are children below 19 years of age and 3.1% are adults above 64 years. Women make up 54% of the total population.
- HIV/ AIDS prevalence rate is estimated at around 42% making Swaziland a country with the highest infection rate in the world. Meanwhile the 2006/2007 budget allocated a paltry E30M to NERCHA for anti-HIV/AIDS programmes and a whopping E200M for Royal expenditure!
- There is no meaningful social security scheme to provide for the elderly, orphans, the unemployed, children, the disabled, etc., except for the chaotic OVC Fund run by the Ministry of Education and the token E80 per month given some elderly people.
- About 70% of the population lives in the rural areas and derive their livelihood mainly from subsistence agriculture on Swazi Nation Land (SNL).
- Population density is approximately 69 persons per square km. Only 11% of the country’s land area of 17,360 square kilometers is arable. 56% of this is SNL, communal land held by the King in trust for the nation and administered by chiefs; 43% is TDL, privately owned by government, companies and individuals (including royalty) and less than 1% is for urban development.
- Real GDP is estimated at 1.8% per annum (Central Bank Report 31/03/06).
- Total population of disadvantaged people was estimated at 756,000 in 2001 (SHIES 2001).
The Motive Forces for ChangeThe motive forces for change in Swaziland comprise the unemployed, workers, women, progressive intellectuals, small business people, the youth, students and the rural and peasant masses. Of course the core of the motive forces for change is the working class and the peasants, who by virtue of their class position and social existence are placed in the leadership of the struggle for freedom. By its heroic activism and strong organization, the working class has won the respect of other motive forces as the leader of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Along with the poor rural masses, the working class stands to gain most from the success of the liberation struggle. Because of its organization and role, and objectively because of its numbers and position in the production process, the working class is critical to the process of liberation.
Let us analyze some of these motive forces one by one:
- Trade Unions and Organized Workers
The trade union movement is the single most organized sector of the working class. This coupled with its strategic placement at the production process, bestows upon it the task of being the most frontline detachment in the struggle for freedom. This is very true for Swaziland where political movements are barred by legislation and hence trade unions remain key in the providing a forum for mass mobilization and organization.
The state of the trade union movement at present is one characterized, at least at leadership level, by serious lack of internal democracy (transparency, accountability and worker control); an unclear ideological orientation; poor service delivery to membership in most unions; corruption; careerism and opportunism, etc. However, there are also efforts initiated by lower structures of national federations and unions to change this situation around and this has been met with resistance resulting in suspensions, marginalization, threats and even blackmail.
The two federations (SFTU and SFL) are characterized by different traditions, approaches, philosophies and general orientations towards issues affecting workers both in the workplace and in their communities. One of them is rooted in the traditions of militant social movement type of activism, while the other one is rooted in traditions of compliance activism or narrow corporate activism. Outside of these two federations, exists an independent and non-affiliated national teachers’ union, SNAT, which is rooted in traditions of craft trade unionism and blends traditions of the two federations, to varying extents.
There are SFTU affiliates that were suspended by the federation, i.e., SNACS, SNA and STAWU which issue still remains unresolved at present. One of them, STAWU, is reported to support for the formation of a third federation to represent workers. SNACS is reported to be studying her options on this matter. Another affiliate of SFTU, the Swaziland Amalgamated Trade Unions (SATU), has accused the federation of dispatching saboteurs to destroy it by recruiting its members wherever they exist. This is another indication of the problems faced by the trade union movement in Swaziland. PUDEMO must provide political leadership and guidance on these and other similar problems existing with the labour movement, SFTU in particular.
PUDEMO noted (2003) that our relationship with the trade union movement is characterized by contradictions, mutual understanding, mistrust and skepticism. There is no space for open and honest debates on the fundamental questions and strategic tasks of our struggle. Debates usually revolve around spontaneous campaigns, without honestly reflecting on the broad thrust and long-term programme of transformation in Swaziland. The behaviour of leadership of SFTU and SNAT around the April 12, 2006 border blockade, which they publicly denounced, is one clear-cut example of how deep the contradictions can run. On the one hand, the same SFTU invited PUDEMO to address the ILO high-level mission to Swaziland on June 22, 2006. It is a fundamental reality that the trade union movement is heavily contested by various forces some of which are hostile to PUDEMO.
Trade Union MembershipSwaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT)
SNAT membership is estimated at 8,371 out of a total teacher population of 9,291. These figures only reflect the public sector, i.e., teachers employed by the Swaziland Government.
Swaziland National Association of Civil Servants (SNACS)SNACS membership is estimated at 4,897 out of total employees numbering 19,773.
Swaziland Nurses Association (SNA)
SNA total membership is estimated at 1,552 comprising 720 members in the public sector and 832 members in the private sector.
Swaziland Transport & Allied Workers Union (STAWU)
STAWU membership is estimated at around 1500 members.
Swaziland Amalgamated Trade Unions (SATU)
SATU organizes the construction, engineering, mining & quarrying sectors. Its membership is estimated at around 2000 members.
Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL)
SFL is composed of 11 affiliates totaling an estimated 10,900 members broken down as follows:
Allied Workers Union (SUFIAWU) 1,100
Allied Workers Union (SWAPPMAWU) 400
Allied Workers Union (SNALIAWU) 260
Union (IAUWU) 150
Union (SPRESAWU) 100
Union (SHIAWU) 60
Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU)
The membership of SFTU is estimated at around 12,000. SFTU affiliates are estimated at around 15 and their individual membership breakdown could not be ascertained.
Total Membership 12,000
Swazi Migrant Workers Employed In RSA Mines
Paid Employment by Sector and Industry for 2002
The decline in the numbers of employed people, or rather the increase in job losses, over the years a result of the neo-liberal policies of globalization and privatization, has led to the fragmentation of the working class (particulalry organized workers in gainful employment) into three categories:
1.Unionized workers in formal employment enjoying, in comparison, better jobs and working conditions;
2.Casual and temporary labour, including those involved in survivalist activities and;
3.An army of the unemployed and marginalized dependent on food aid and remittances from extended families in the other two categories.
The challenges faced by the labour movement require that PUDEMO and SWAYOCO cadres, particularly those in trade unions, participate fully in building and strengthening trade unions as part of their commitment towards achieving the goals of our struggle. PUDEMO encourages all workers who members of the movement to participate in various forums, particularly the Workers’ Forum, where they debate and sharpen their skills in trade union organizing and mobilization.
Women constitute approximately 52% of the Swazi population. PUDEMO must prioritize gender issues in order to effectively challenge gender oppression and advance the cause of women’s emancipation. In 1997, there were approximately 507,202 females in the country compared to 473, 520 males (Swaziland Census Report 1997).
It is in this regard that efforts to build a strong and revolutionary national women’s movement under the umbrella of PUDEMO Women’s League should be supported in all respects. We must consciously prioritize issues affecting working class and rural women since they are the motive forces of our revolution. At the same time we should cautiously engage all NGOs that work with women in order to pursue our goals.
- Rural and Peasant Masses
The organization of the rural masses requires mastery of their lifestyle and values and the most importantly the use of their language, siSwati, to express our viewpoints. Total literacy rose from 70% in 1986 to 81.3% in 1997. In 1997 rural literacy rate was estimated at 78.3% compared to 90% in urban areas and it was higher amongst men (82.6%) than amongst women (80.2%).
Creative forms of propaganda are required to breakdown the barriers of ignorance, royal values, mystified ideas and backwardness amongst the rural people in Swaziland. We should avoid falling victim to either of two extremes:
- Upholding backward cultural values and practices of the past in an attempt to appease the masses and win influence;
- Rejecting even the cultural values and practices that do not hinder the progress of our struggle in an effort to demonstrate radicalism.
Another important statistics for mobilizing rural communities are:
- In Shiselweni only 3.5% of households travel less than 30 minutes to the nearest health facility and in Lubombo, the figure is 7.6%.
- In rural areas 50% of households don’t have access to safe water sources and in dry winter they are forced to share water with animals.
- According to the 1997 SPHC, there were 395,385 housing units throughout Swaziland; 317,480 (80%) were in rural areas where most of the poor live. Of these, 163,905 were grass-thatched and 213,314 constructed with mud, poles and grass.
- The poverty prevalence in grass-thatched houses was 79% compared to 18% in tiled roofs. It was 73% poverty in mud and poles compared to 44% in brick-walled houses.
- Youth and Students
In Swaziland 23% of children never go to school and a further 17% dropout of school before they finish primary school. Those children are deprived of a basic need to read and write and their chances of breaking the poverty cycle are very slim. In 2001 there were 547 primary schools in the country, mainly constructed by communities, with a total enrolment of 230,000 pupils.
Of the total enrolment 82% of the children are in rural areas. In 1999, there were 51 junior secondary schools admitting 4,943 students and 126 senior secondary schools admitting 25,798 students. In the 2003/04 academic year there were approximately 5000 students at UNISWA.
SWAYOCO, SNUS and SAS should combine their political foresightedness and vision, commitment and dedication, as well as focus and disciplined engagement on the ground to mobilize students and the youth on the ground around issues of free education for all.
- The SDA
- Religious Organizations
According to the CIA World Fact book (2006), religious organization in Swaziland is distributed as follows:
Zionist -- 40% (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship);
Roman Catholic -- 20%
Muslim -- 10%
Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish and other -- 20%
The above broadly fall under one of the following organizations:
--- The League of Swaziland Churches
--- The Swaziland Conference of Churches
--- The Council of Swaziland Churches
From the opening quote by Vilakati, it is clear that we need to mobilize the church around practical programmes and win them over to our struggle for a more just and humane world.
- Business Community
Business people are broadly organized under:
---Federation of Swaziland Employers/ Chamber of Commerce & Industry
--- Federation of the Swazi Business Community
Forces that Resist Change
- The Monarchy: King, Queen, Princes and Princesses, SNC, Cabinet, Parliament, Chiefs, Tindvuna at all levels, etc.
- There are about 340 Chiefdoms in Swaziland under 55 Tinkhundla Centers.
The 2006 Constitution
§It has the potential of dividing the progressive movement in general and Pudemo in particular. In 2003, even some of PUDEMO members contested the elections and lost in areas like Piggs-Peak, Siphofaneni, Zombodze Emuva, and Lavumisa. This was against the movement’s Esikhawini Congress Resolution on this matter.
§The constitution and the euphoria around it may blind us into a political cul-de sac flashing reforms that are far from the objectives of our struggle.
§Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF) consists of an estimated 4300 members. However, it may it is known that some civilians with royal connections are paid under the defence budget as soldiers even if they are not active combatants. This figure should be assumed at not more than 5% of the estimate.
§Royal Swaziland Police Force (RSP) members are estimated around 3211 as at 01/04/06 but will increase to 3384 by 01/04/07
§His Majesty’s Correctional Services members are estimated at 1,222** as at 01/04/06.
The External Balance of Forces
- The world is currently under the dominance of the capitalist system, with a growing divide between the rich North and the predominantly poor South, which includes our country Swaziland. Despite this we must continue in our efforts to bring freedom and democracy in our country. Globalisation in its structure and manifestations provide both opportunities and threats to our quest to build a more equitable and just society.
- Africa has taken important steps to position herself to achieve her renaissance. The moves towards greater regional integration, the efforts for Africa to resolve her own conflicts, the formation of the African Union and the NEPAD initiative are important steps taken by the continent towards creating a better environment for development. Problems, constraints and challenges still remain around these issues but they should not derail progress.
- The anti-globalization movement has played a big role in putting the issues of a more just world order on the front pages and in the headlines of the world media. We note that social movements cannot become substitutes for an ideologically coherent and cohesive political movement, which is an instrument for the advance of the interests of the poor and working people all over the world.
- A serious challenge to the international progressive forces has been created in the aftermath of September 11th 2001. The global war against terrorism has created the intensification of war rhetoric and the increase of war budgets and resources. This created space for certain countries to take unilateral decisions of the deepest implication for global peace and security and for the war against poverty and underdevelopment. Rather than intensify the war against terrorism, this ahs created ripe conditions for more violence and strife.
- Combined efforts of the international mission of PUDEMO and SSN has created more avenues for the advance of our struggle particularly in Europe and this has come at the most opportune moment.
- The royal regime is beginning to feel the “heat” as evidenced by its attempts to launch propaganda mission in Europe led by the PM and the DPM “to try and clarify Swazi democracy.” The open calls for the King to allow multi-party politics made by the British High Commissioner and subsequently the Dutch ambassador earlier this year are commendable indicators that indeed the winds of change are blowing.
- Of course, there are still reactionary voices like the Italian ambassador but he also must be engaged because “the great valley of Umzimkulu is in darkness but the light will come there. Ndotsheni is in darkness too but the light will come there also.”
ANC Strategy and Tactics: December 1997.
CIA- The World Factbook – Swaziland. http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/wz/html (06/15/2006)
Department of Labour “Annual Labour Report: 2005.” Department of Labour, Mbabane.
Establishment Register: Summary of Posts By Department 2006/2007. Swaziland Government
Machel S. “The Emancipation of Women Is Essential for the Revolution.” 1973
Mutangira J.P.B. “Demographic Transformation In Swaziland: The Role Of Educational And Training.” OSSREA Swaziland 2003
Poverty Reduction Task Force. Draft Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan, Volume 1. MioEPD, March 2005
Umrabulo Number 16 .The Balance of Forces, August 2002.
PUDEMO Political Report: Annual Conference 2003. Piet Retief
Swaziland Population and Housing Census 1997. Central Statistical Office, Mbabane.
The Political Balance of Forces: A COSATU Perspective. http://sacp.org.za/SACP/ac/ac162g.html (06/06/2006)
Vilakati J.N. From Cultural Nationalism To Christian Nationalism: Continuity And Innovation Within Ruling Class Ideology In Swaziland. OSSREA Swaziland Chapter 2003.