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April 12th marks the anniversary of a shameful event in Africa’s history. It is the date that democracy activists all over the world, and especially here in Africa remember as the date when, 39 years ago, the Royal Elite of Swaziland dispelled with any semblance of democratic rule, banned political parties and all ‘normal’ political activity, and installed a draconian State of Emergency to suppress all dissent. A date when the Royal Elite began building a ruthless security apparatus to protect its opulent lifestyle and the wealth it had stolen to sustain it. Today, nearly four decades later Swaziland remains, as an embarrassment to the rest of the Continent, the last absolute monarchy in Africa. An absolutist regime that reigns over one of the poorest populations in the world!
The Swazi Royal Regime have boasted for decades of the stability their so-called unique form of governance has brought to Swaziland. They have attempted to show, through countless stage managed ‘cultural’ events, how the people of Swaziland have remained loyal and satisfied with rule by Royal decree. Through a controlled media, and often with the passive acceptance of other African governments, the Swazi regime have endlessly propagandised about the supremacy of their form of governance. But the truth refuses to be hidden.
Fortunately for those prepared to look beyond the flimsy veil of propaganda, there are courageous democratic forces inside Swaziland who have been ready to tell the truth, and expose the lies and deception, and the brutal nature of this regime. A regime that rules not by assent, but by coercion, corruption and by systematically undermining democracy and human rights.
For many years, the Royal Elite have felt confident enough to pillage and steal the wealth of Swaziland to live obscene lifestyles, with all the palatial trappings, and pay off their lackeys in the so-called government and security cluster and ignore the privations suffered by the Swazi people. But this is no longer the case. It is impossible to hide the fact that more than 70% of the population live on less than 8 Rands a day, that services are woefully inadequate to meet even the most basic of needs, that unemployment, abject poverty, sickness and ill health compounded by one of the worlds worst HIV/Aids epidemics, has had a devastating impact on the population. But all this is about to change!
Over the last five years in particular, there have been concerted efforts by democratic forces in the country to meld together a new, vibrant and inclusive democracy movement. A democracy movement that is prepared to mobilise, to reach out to poverty stricken communities in the urban and rural areas, to engage with progressive political formations, to make common cause with faith based organisations, women’s organisations, students and young unemployed people. And it has not been easy. Some like Comrade Sipho Jele, paid the ultimate price and lost their lives in the struggle for democracy. Others have been incarcerated, and some still suffer years of harsh imprisonment on trumped up charges and dubious evidence denying them access to their families and proper legal representation.
But despite all this, the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) has survived, has grown in stature, and against all the best efforts of the regime, has established itself as a credible force for change. Today the SUDF contains the new unified trade union federation, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), and many other democratic structures to openly campaign for democratic change, and against the misrule of the regime.
This is a remarkable achievement, and it has given hope and encouragement to a new generation of democracy activists from all walks of life, both in Swaziland, and in the Diaspora. The Royal Regime can no longer claim legitimacy, or the support of the people of Swaziland. In all corners of the country, it has been exposed as a self-centred self serving clique. By the selfless actions of democracy activists, the world has been told the truth of the realities of life within the Kingdom, and why democratic rule offers the only hope for survival and for building a Swaziland free of poverty.
Last year on April 12th, solidarity actions with the people of Swaziland took place in no less than 29 countries, including throughout Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people became aware of the shocking state of affairs in Swaziland. So much so that governments everywhere were challenged to review their relationship with the regime, and to address the denial of basic human rights that characterises life in Swaziland.
On April 12th this year, democratic forces under the banner of the SUDF will once again defy the regime, and march for freedom and democracy inside Swaziland. Comrades and friends from all over Africa and beyond will join them to demand that a democratic dispensation be established without delay. Under the theme “A CALL FOR A PEOPLE’S GOVERNMENT”, they will be adding to the pressure to reject the quasi government elections that are scheduled for 2013, and which represent nothing more than a sham of democracy to maintain the privileges and corruption for the existing regime. They are demanding the unbanning of political parties, for the release of all prisoners, for the lifting of the State of Emergency, and for the repealing of all draconian legislation that maintains dictatorial rule. They will be calling for an agreed timetable for the beginnings of a new democratic process, free of the vested self-interests of the Royal Elite.
The SDC as the campaigning wing of the SUDF calls upon all democracy loving people inside and outside Swaziland to link arms on April 12th, and mobilise for democratic change in Swaziland. Organise pickets, marches, protests at Swazi consulates everywhere. Sign petitions, lobby governments, organise campaign workshops, show films, pass resolutions in your union, community organisation, be part of this unstoppable movement!
The opportunities for change have never been more promising. The regime is on the defensive. It has been exposed, its propaganda and its divine right to rule have been completely discredited. The people of Swaziland themselves are taking the lead. They will not be intimidated. It is the duty of all of us to lend whatever support we can to make sure that the demands of the democracy movement hold sway. There is no turning back. The time for a democratic Swaziland has come!
Contact the SDC for details of actions planned inside Swaziland or for a democracy activity near you. To paraphrase a great historical rallying call, let us remember that for as long as one nation enslaves its own people, we ourselves will never be free!
And if you can, join us on Wednesday 4th April at from 11.00am to 1.00pm , on the 2nd floor at the new COSATU Offices in Braamfontein, where we will hear speakers from the SUDF, TUCOSWA and the student movement of Swaziland outline the current state of the struggle in Swaziland, and continue mobilising support for the April 12th Global Day of Action on Swaziland.
Forward with the SUDF forward!
Long live TUCOSWA and a united working class!
Long live all democratic forces in Swaziland!
Unban political parties, democracy now!
Make April 12th the end of dictatorship day!
For more information contact the following SDC conveners:
Mary Pais Da Silva: +268 7603 0076, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Faulkner: +27 82 817 5455, email@example.com
Philani Ndebele: +27 76 942 3565, firstname.lastname@example.org