Now that Swaziland is on the verge of far-reaching change, with the Tinkhundla system teetering on the brink of collapse, we are seeing a scramble by reactionary forces to try to take the initiative in the name of the pro-democracy movement and set the agenda for Swaziland’s future.
These forces, which have received backing from the US, via the Freedom House programmes, and from elements in South Africa’s elite circles, are attempting to manipulate certain sections of the pro-democracy movement by inviting a select few of their members to consultations. They then pretend that the main pro-democracy organisations and parties backed the outcomes of these consultations.
This was the case with the statement of the “Swaziland Mass Democratic Movement” issued on 24 June, which was not openly decided upon or given a mandate by most of the organisations that appear as signatories to the statement.
When we look at the content of the statement, we see that though it is dripping with worthy sentiment, and while it contains echoes of the demands that the CPS and others on the left in Swaziland have promoted, the purpose is to water down the call for revolutionary change in Swaziland.
The CPS has set out ideas on the basic content of this revolutionary transition. It envisages the convening of a Conference for a Democratic Swaziland at which all representatives of all pro-democracy forces are present, and that this includes strong representation of our urban and rural grassroots communities.
It also envisages the start of a nationwide dialogue to stimulate and nurture the involvement of the people — the majority of whom are the workers and the poor — in designing and participating in a new democratic path for our country. Unless there is the deep involvement of our communities in this process, the transition we seek will fall into the hands of party and movement gatekeepers and careerists and will have no real popular mandate. The people must govern!
We also envisage that this process, of which the Conference for a Democratic Swaziland would be the main engine, will result in the creation of an Interim Government. We have made clear that the work of this government, as set out by the Conference, must be first and foremost to address the economic catastrophe that faces our country and, in doing so, must prioritise emergency action on the worst aspects of the plight of our people — particularly in the areas of health, food and water security and livelihoods.
It is the view of the CPS that major steps must be taken to expropriate the resources currently wasted ruinously on and by the monarchy. All the wealth of enterprises wholly or part-owned by the monarchy must be used for the Emergency National Economic Plan that the Interim Government will have to implement. The state of crisis in Swaziland and the severe suffering of our people necessitate both wealth redistribution and cooperative building and state planning of a fundamental nature.
The democratic transition must be that of a republic and the current monarch and his household must become private citizens accountable to society and the republic in the same way that all other citizens will be. This is similar to the position of the Zulu King within South Africa’s republican constitution.
It is our view that these steps constitute the basic necessary framework for our country to move beyond the oppression and ruin imposed by the Mswati autocracy. These steps are not necessary because the CPS says they are. They are necessary because without them, or if they are not implemented fully, Swaziland’s transition will fail to be truly democratic and will fail to tackle the crisis affecting our people. Half measures will betray our people!
We should therefore be very wary of initiatives that embrace and support the feel-good and superficial aspects of democratic freedom but which carefully sidestep the imperatives of people’s hegemony over all aspects of governance and economic power.
The agenda of capitalist interests in Swaziland, South Africa and further away in the US and Europe is to rid Swaziland of its more embarrassing autocratic features while keeping the country safe for sweatshop labour exploitation, and private land use, mineral prospecting and tourism.
We must be under no illusions concerning the lengths capitalist/imperialist interests will go to in order to keep business as usual behind the mask of skin-deep democracy. We have only to look at the vicious assaults by capital on South Africa’s socialist-oriented efforts to see how such programmes are targeted, often under the guise of liberal democratic handwringing.
And so we now see that with Swaziland these same forces are flattering aspects of the pro-democracy movement (or are brazenly pretending to have the outright support of the movement) in order to set an agenda of transformation that does not seriously address the issues facing our people. The point is to eliminate Swaziland’s socialist forces (which are spread widely throughout the pro-democracy movement) and any hint of a socialist path — the only just and fair path — for our country.
We call on all in the pro-democracy movement to be acutely aware of both subtle and not so subtle attempts to derail Swaziland’s potential to create true democracy and true freedom for its people. We call for immediate steps within the movement to set the modalities and start to generate the content of the Conference for a Democratic Swaziland. This Conference must be a process that reaches every corner of our country and involves all our citizens as fully as possible. We need to act in unity to create the strongest possible surge toward democracy. And we need to isolate all attempts to water down our revolutionary goals.
Yes to Swaziland’s National Democratic Revolution!
No to pretend democracy to keep capitalism happy at the expense of the working class and poor!
Yes to people’s power and socialism!
Forward to the Conference for a Democratic Swaziland Forward!