SDC and COSATU statement : The Struggle for a Democratic Swaziland Now!

The Struggle for a Democratic Swaziland Now!

09. 9.2011

We have just returned from Swaziland, where I was part of a COSATU delegation that was invited to join in a number of legal protest actions that have made up the Global Week of Action on Swaziland and organised by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign. The SDC works as the campaigning arm of the Swaziland United Democratic Front, which is an inclusive and representative body comprising trade unions, faith based organisations, students and civil society organisations.

Along with other COSATU comrades, we were honoured to have been invited by our trade union friends in Swaziland. International worker solidarity is a fundamental guiding principle of COSATU and to be able to join hands with our comrades, to give them moral and organisational support, was a very humbling and endearing experience.

This second Global Week of Action will require careful evaluation over the next few days, and we will be exchanging views with our Swazi counterparts about how to maintain the momentum and ensure that Swaziland does not fall off the agenda. What we can say, is that this week has seen an unprecedented degree of mobilisation both in Swaziland and in many other parts of the world.

Working through the international trade union networks associated with the International Confederation of Trade Unions in Africa (ITUC-Africa) there have been more than twenty mobilisations taking place in different African countries this week, and no less than 12 chapters of the SDC have been formed as a result.

There are also protests taking place in five European capitals, and in Canada and the US. This is a wonderful show of international worker solidarity.

In Swaziland itself, literally tens of thousands of workers, students, members of the legal fraternity, women’s groups, church congregations and unemployed people have taken to the streets in numbers that have not been seen for decades.

We do not want to fall into the trap of exaggerating the numbers who were mobilised because that does a disservice to those who participated, but to be able to gather more than four thousand people in both Manzini and Mbabane is an astonishing achievement, and especially so when one considers the brutal state repression that was used on protesters and COSATU comrades last year, and is part of everyday life for Swazi democracy activists.

What was also remarkable about this Global Week of Action was the breadth and depth of the mobilisations. In rural areas, where loyalty towards the Royal Regime is presumed to be at its highest, the democracy movement was able to make really significant in roads.

Thousands of very poor people, many of whom had been bullied and silenced by the regime through a combination of impoverishment, and the corrupting influence of the Tinkhundla system, greeted the democracy movement with open arms, and have laid bare the Regimes claims that they have substantial support in the rural communities.

In the urban areas, the dynamic combination of workers, students, faith based and civil society organisations was able to mobilise to such an extent that they actually paralysed the repressive forces of the state.

Despite the state mobilising road blocks, and putting water cannon, armed personal carriers, tear gas appliances and of course thousands of uniformed officers on the streets, they were unable to quell the enthusiasm of the protest marchers, or indeed stop them from marching through all of the streets unhindered.

The reaction from ordinary people is also noteworthy. Literally hundreds spontaneously joined the marches, and many gave food and drinks to the protesters. During the first two days not a single arrest took place of a protester!

The fact that the banned liberation movement PUDEMO, who we are very happy to share this platform with, was able to make public statements, and its Youth Wing Swayoco extensively and openly organise, is indicative of the growth of the democracy movement, and this was all met with great enthusiasm by people on the ground.

The speech given by PUDEMO President Mario Masuku in Manzini was one of the highlights of our visit, and we are proud to have been a part of this protest.

On Monday and Tuesday, the repressive apparatus of the Royal Regime was clearly frustrated at not being able to unleash its firepower on the masses who had gathered. They were clearly constrained by a number of factors.

Firstly the size of the mobilisations themselves, and the confidence of those on the streets.

Secondly, because the eyes of the world have been turned towards Swazil


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