Swaziland democracy campaign

Keywords : Eswatini Democracy Eswatini

Swaziland Democracy Campaign

On April 12 this year, the struggle by progressive forces in Swaziland to attain genuine participatory popular democracy, gained ascendancy with the international media.

Swaziland democracy campaign - The struggle continues

Swaziland Democracy Campaign: the struggle continues
On April 12 this year, the struggle by progressive forces in Swaziland to attain genuine participatory popular democracy, gained ascendancy with the international media, who had in the past conveniently ignored the plethora of human rights abuses perpetrated by the King and the government of Swaziland on innocent and defenseless citizens. It was a pleasant surprise to see BBC, CNN and other big international and regional media outfits reporting on the activities of citizens of Swaziland demanding freedom and justice. The worries amongst trade unionists and their allies within and without Swaziland had been that international media attention on Swaziland, the atrocious and profligate life-style of King Mswati and the arbitrary draconian regime has gone largely unnoticed compared to Mugabe’s activities in Zimbabwe.

Perhaps, one can attribute this needed positive change on the part of the international media to push-effect from the Jasmine revolution sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East. The world needs to see, hear and know that Swaziland remains the only absolute Monarch in the world. The world needs to be informed that while over 26% of the citizens of Swaziland are infected with HIV and AIDS, the King, rather than channeling meager state resources to providing medicine and care for patients, is mindlessly spending luxuriously on himself, family and privileged cronies. The world needs to know that voices of dissent and demand for pro-people changes are met by hard and harsh state repression executed by the Swaziland Royal Police and, at times, by the Military. It is therefore considered as signs of gains of the struggle to begin to witness increased international media attention, though a long and sustained reporting is desired and needed.

So much about international media coverage of the Swaziland democracy campaign, attention of this piece is on the contributions and activities of workers and progressive allies inside and outside Swaziland that have continued to demand for genuine democratic transition under the platform of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign (SDC). The SDC, formed in February 2010, is an all progressive platform for the actualization of the restoration of participatory constitutional democracy in Swaziland under a multi-party arrangement. It is made up non-exclusively of members and affiliates of Swaziland Federation of Trade Union (SFTU), Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) - the two centers are currently in a merger talk that should materialize before the year, and, Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) together with the broad forces for democracy organized under the auspices of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF).

From Manzini, to Mbabane, from Gaborone (where the SADC seat of administration is), to the conference halls of the ILO in Geneva; the demands for change have remained strong, loud and relentless.
These demands include amongst others:

• The call for genuine democratic transition
• An end to the emergency decree enacted by the King since 1973, which introduced the wasteful Tinkhundla system that has locked the democratic space and criminalized political activities and popular dissent
• Unbanning of political parties and the opening of the political space for multiparty democracy
• The appropriation of the Swazi common wealth to address the issues of citizens welfare and tackling poverty as against the misappropriation as well as extravagant and ostentatious life style of the King
• The institution of the true practice of separation of power; protection and promotion of free speech and press and academic freedom
• Institution of genuine consultation and citizen participation in the governance process.
In spite of increasing and continuous Police and state brutality, intimidation and repression, the workers, citizens and progressive allied organizations have continued to march on. It must be noted that the cost of the struggle continues to be high, growing and increasing in severity. This is signposted by the suspicious death of comrade Siphon Jele in May 2010 in Swaziland Royal Police custody. Sipho Jele was arrested during the May Day workers celebration on May 1st, 2010.

His crime? - Wearing a t-shirt with the inscription “PUDEMO”!
Several others have been forced into exile, some forced into self-censorship, while others are regular guests of the Police. Families of activists have not been spared either, nor neighbors allowed to co-habit as Police and security agents continue to use tactics reminiscent of the Gestapo Police to threaten and intimidate leaders and supporters, disrupt and destroy pro-democracy activities and materials. In the past three years, over 20 protest and appeals letters relating and connected to various rights infractions by the Swazi government and Police have been written by the ITUC-Africa and the Human and Trade Union Rights Network to various organizations, such as the ILO, SADC, AU, etc for interventions.

For Swazi workers, ‘democracy is the only game in town’ and should be played and enjoyed in Swaziland too. Therefore, in the words of comrade Comfort Gina, General Secretary of SFTU, “a relentless struggle to enthrone genuine and true democracy under the rule of law mantra that will ensure the protection of civil liberties will be waged until victory is secured”. September 6th of every year has been set aside as the international Day of Action for Swaziland Workers as parts of the activities to continue to pressure King Mswati to commit to constitutional reform as a process to a just, free and credible transition. This year’s event was prosecuted actively by the ITUC-Africa HTUR Network. Already, preparations have begun in earnest to ensure a strong campaign for this year, which will come up from 5-7 September, 2011.

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