Tuesday, 20 March 2012

PRESS RELEASE: March 20, 2012


The Swaziland Diaspora Platform (SDP) will tomorrow join millions of South Africans all over the country in celebrating Human Rights Day. The SDP identifies with the day as an international symbolism of what a united and determined people can do in the face of injustice and repression.

We Swazis in the Diaspora would like to congratulate the government of the Republic of South Africa by living true to the counsel of former president Nelson Mandela; to build a united, democratic and non-sexist society. We are encouraged and inspired that the post-Apartheid government that some believed and hoped would fail, is now a leading economic giant in Africa and continues to play an important role in global affairs in advancing the cause of Africa.

Human Rights Day is an important day in the South African calendar, as it speaks to the country’s past and the possible future that South Africans must take.
Today, this day is celebrated by all South Africans including those who previously benefitted from the unjust Apartheid system. Indeed, the beautiful country that South Africa has become, post-Apartheid, re-affirms our belief in the centrality of the human rights struggle to defeat all forms of social injustice.

Sadly, as South Africans look back proudly at their heroic struggle against the violations of their human rights by the Apartheid government, we in neighboring Swaziland continue to experience the most backward and non-participatory system of governance ever seen in the 21st century.

As the world in general, and South Africans in particular, reflect on the Sharpeville massacre and the triumphant struggle waged by Africa’s biggest liberation movement, the ANC, we poignantly reflect on our own continued injustice in the face of a hypocritical world that continues to condemn in the most strongest of terms the injustices in Zimbabwe while ignoring the very same injustices just next door.

South Africans at large must ask themselves how it is possible that Swaziland continues to escape the world’s human rights radar and international media attention yet is the only country in Southern Africa, and perhaps even Africa, where the government is not chosen by the people but by the King who is the head of state.

As we convey our fraternal salutations to the people of South Africa we would like to remind the ANC as it goes towards its policy conference that the struggle for justice and human dignity is by its very nature an international one and that Apartheid would not have been defeated had it not been for the international isolation that supporters of the regime were subjected to by ordinary peace loving people of the world.

Swaziland is today at the throes of an economic collapse, not because the country is poor but because of the greedy royal family; a parasitic elite who feed off the plight of the poor.
The economic indicators, as published by the International Monetary Fund, point to a country in imminent collapse and no more shall Africa and the world hide behind ‘sovereignty’ when we Swazis are facing unjustifiable hardships.

Swaziland’s ruling Tinkhundla government is at best a bureaucratic class which uses the poorest of the poor to advance the interest of the royal family and their friends and at worse a latter day version of Adolf Hitler’s Nazism. It uses violence, manipulation and narrow traditional values to whip up social prejudice while perpetuating its own misrule. It has entrenched tribal rule through a system of government that recognizes only the Dlamini clan as God ordained rulers of the country.

Our country Swaziland is today known as the last absolute monarchy in Africa because the King has ultimate authority over the cabinet, legislature, and judiciary. While the country has a Prime
Minister and a partially elected parliament, political power remains largely in the hands of the King and his traditional advisors. We shudder to imagine that all this happens in the 21st century modern world.

Human rights violations Swaziland are so widespread that the most recent *Human Rights Report on Swaziland highlights the most atrocious violation as the inability of citizens to change their own government.
The report notes that other key human rights violations are; extrajudicial killings by security forces; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press; harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and movement; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; discrimination and violence against women; child abuse; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community;  and the harassment of labor leaders plus restrictions on worker rights.
If these were not real facts happening in real time this would read like badly written movie script depicting the life and times of Hitler’s Nazism.

Since the heralding of Swaziland’s Suppression of Terrorism Act (2008), jail has become a fait accompli for most human rights activists and has rendered the country a police state. Even though condemned by credible human rights organizations like Amnesty International, the Suppression of Terrorism Act is being used as a weapon of choice by government against pro-democracy activists and has buried even the smallest visage of hope about real democracy in Swaziland.

IMPORTANT: Swazis picket at national Human Rights Day Celebration

We are prepared as peace and democracy loving people of Swaziland to play our role in fighting for the respect for human rights in Swaziland but all our efforts may be in vain if not supported by the people of the world.

We as the Swazi Diaspora Platform will join throngs of South Africans tomorrow in Kliptown, Soweto, firstly to celebrate with them the milestones achieved in the restoration of human dignity and respect for human rights and most importantly to highlight our plight as Swazis in this regard.

 *2011 Report by the US Department of State

Statement issued by

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Sunday, 18 March 2012

How The Dlamini Hegemony Was Established

The Dlamini family established a hegemony over what is today called Swaziland through conquest much the way Shaka Zulu conquered and incorporated smaller clans into what is now known as the Zulu nation.

Read a lecture that explains how the many came to be ruled by the few.  It's a lecture delivered at a Swazi Diaspora event by Dr. Nhlanhla Dlamini - Lecturer in History at the University of Swaziland at Wits University September 2011.

Swaziland in historical perspective

In this lecture we intend focusing on the evolution of the Swazi monarchy during three distinct periods namely the pre- colonial, colonial and post- colonial.  The monarchy will be considered alongside the Swazi nation and state.  As the subject will be considered from a historical perspective our major focus will be on how the monarchy has developed and adapted itself to various historical processes during the periods under consideration.  It should be however, be pointed out from the onset that it will not be easy to present or represent a history of slightly approximately  two centuries during a short time.  However, we will endeavor to focus on those issues that will allow us to provide a sketchy but comprehensive synopsis to enable our audience to pick up some of the major developments in the history of Swaziland.  Other details and controversies surrounding this history will be ignored for our present purposes.

Early History
The Swazi can be defined as a Bantu – speaking people of the Nguni group.  As a distinct political and social unit they have existed only since the beginning of the nineteenth century.  It generally accepted by scholars however, that the Swazi have occupied their present home for approximately two centuries.  The original nucleus of what later developed to be the Swazi nation consisted of the Dlamini royal clan and their followers.  The Dlamini had been one of the groups of the Bantu – speaking migrants who had moved from Central to the South Eastern Africa during the latter part of the fifteenth century.  They lived in Tembeland in the vicinity of Delagoa Bay in present day Mozambique for over two centuries until a series of clashes with neighboring chiefdoms forced them to move.  In light of this development the Dlamini undertook to expand westwards towards the Lubombo mountains. As herders and farmers the Dlamini wanted to settle on land that could promote both these resources of livelihood. It had by now become common practice for expanding groups to strengthen their military organizations so that any obstructions, like chiefdoms, which lay on their way, could be subdued and incorporated.  The Dlamini began to assert their hegemony in the southern part of Swaziland, at Shiselweni I, present day Lavumisa.  The period under consideration is distinctly characterized by the isolation of chiefdoms in the area.  Most of these chiefdoms were very small to the extent that the population of each is estimated at 40 people.  Such isolated chiefdoms enabled the intruders to conquer them without much ado, because there was lack of cooperation among them.  Under Ngwane II (died c. 1870), the first Swazi king remembered in Swazi ritual, the Swazi (probably known as the Ngwane by this time) eventually settled in the area of modern south eastern Swaziland.  Through conquest, Ngwane II, his son Ndvungunye (1780 – 1815) and grandson Sobhuza I began the process of asserting the Dlamini’s hegemony over other minor clans they encountered in the region. However, the emergence of the Swazi state was very much tied up with the mfecane.  It is in this regard that Manelisi Genge has observed that the modern Swazi state emerged from the socio-economic and political upheavals of the nineteenth century that brought mass migrations, refashioning of nation – states. After these upheavals the Swazi state became identified with an individual king, Mswati II who ruled from 1826 to 1865.  Mswati survived various attempts by his elder brothers and other groups to subvert his power and by the end of his rule in 1868 he had molded his followers into one large political unit that may be described as the ‘Swazi nation’.  Mswati has therefore been deservedly credited for consolidating the Swazi state.

From Sobhuza I’s time onward the Swazi political structure was presided over by the king and queen mother who shared the highest political office in the land.  Then there was the Liqoqo or an Inner Council composed of a small number of the “wisest men” of the nation, the chiefs, tindvuna (headman) and the tindvuna of royal villages and some commoners.  Over the years a Swaziland National Council or Libandla laka Ngwane developed whose members were chiefs, headmen, some men of common rank and some members of the Inner Council, princes and grandsons of the king who were honorary members.  The king communicated with the public through the Swazi National Council which met once or twice a year.  This political structure was the basis of the Swazi patriarchy and its offices were hereditary.

Thus the central government in the nineteenth century Swaziland revolved around the institution of kinship.  The king Ngwenyama   was the focus of the nation and the symbol of its unity.  The nation itself was defined as consisting of all those who paid allegiance to the king.  While the king shared power with his mother, the Queen Mother, Indlovukazi, the latter was expected to exercise a restraining influence over his son; a national council faced with a recalcitrant king could appeal to her to persuade him to change his attitude.  Although she enjoyed no executive powers she was usually informed of events of importance that transpired in her son’s office.  The two lived apart.   The king’s residence was the administrative headquarters while the Queen Mother’s village was the ceremonial and religious centre of the nation.

The land and mineral concessions which led to the influx of Europeans intensified from 1882 to 1889.  In addition to grazing pastures and mineral concessions Swaziland also attracted interests and elicited mutual jealousy for the Transvaal Boer and British governments because of its strategic position next to Delagoa Bay on the Indian Ocean.
During the Anglo – Boer competition over the control of Swaziland the country was under the leadership of king Mbandzeni from 1875 to 1889.  He was Gwamile Labotsibeni Mdluli’s husband.  When Mbandzeni died in 1889 Tibati Madvolofisha Nkambule became Queen Regent and Labotsibeni became Queen Mother.  It was during the leadership of the two women that the Transvaal Boer and British governments attempted to impose their colonial rule upon Swaziland.  Both women resisted the imposition of colonial rule until the death of La Nkambule’s death in 1895.  Thereafter, Labotsibeni became the main voice which led the Swazi resistance against colonial rule until she handed the reins of power to her grandson, Sobhuza II in 1921.

Soon after his installation as Paramount Chief in 1921 Sobhuza protested, among other issues the manner in which British rule interfered with the powers of the traditional rulers and the transfer of land ownership to whites and the state.  This was pursued through a series of delegations to London including a legal case in 1926 through which he sought to regain lost land.  Though Sobhuza finally lost the case, a combination of change in wartime colonial policy and a petition that he presented to the British in 1941 resulted in some considerable amount of crown land being allocated for use by the Swazi between 1930 and 1950. 

Nationalists and Modernizers
Swazi protests from the 1920s were also inspired by the emergence of modern association, and by the example of the ANC in South Africa. The nascent group of educated Swazi, under the auspices of the Swaziland Progressive Association (SPA) formed in 1929, had begun to protest racial discrimination in Swaziland. Though the SPA made its representation directly to the colonial government, it frequently experienced opposition from the Swazi traditional leadership, the “royalties,” who considered themselves as the authentic voice of the Swazi people.

For much of its existence, the SPA confined itself to the submission of petitions to the colonial government. Occasionally the SPA’s struggle had contradictory overtones, and oscillated between themes that addressed discrimination and those that celebrated positive relations between blacks and whites. It also appears that the SPA lacked coordination strategies, as it tended to speak of groups that were not apparently aware of its activities. This may be attributed to its elitist approach, with the SPA perceiving itself as the educated “mouthpiece” of the masses. It lacked a strategy to translate its concerns into a national campaign, and ultimately failed in protesting racial discrimination in Swaziland.

The start of the 1960s saw parties like the Swaziland Progressive Party (SPP) emerge and compete; there was growing protest and increasingly vocal calls for a return of Swazi self-determination. These developments coincided with the labor protests of 1962-3 when rising worker consciousness was manifested in a series of strikes in industrial and urban centers. This long overdue labor unrest was an outlet for deep-seated grievances concerning poor working and living conditions, which were inextricably, linked to the prevalent discriminatory workplace policies. From the point of view of the workers and political activists who rose to articulate these grievances, and to mobilize labor, these conditions were the results of colonial domination; hence the underlying anti-colonial gestures and sentiments during the strike.

The period also saw constitutional negotiations with the colonial power, which served as bargaining forums for a new political order. While the newly formed political parties favored change along the principles of liberal democracy, the royalists advocated a political dispensation in which power was transferred to the Swazi monarchy. One key area of contention was land, which the royalties regarded as the property of the monarchy, administered on behalf of the people by the chiefs. When it became apparent that the British would not hand over power to the monarchy without the evidence of support from the Swazi people, the monarchy formed the Imbokodvo National Movement (INM)to contest the elections.

Ultimately, conditions swung in favor of the Swazi monarchy, as witnessed in its major victories in the Legislative Council elections in 1964 and the pre-independence elections in 1967. The monarchy and its supporters also secured the support of most conservative whites in Swaziland. It was able to present the radical nationalism of groups like Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) – a 1964 split off the SPP, headed by Zwane – as a foreign ideology, contrary to Swazi traditions. The INM formed the first government of independent Swaziland in 1968, with Samuel Thornton Msindazwe Sukati as Speaker.

Soon after the first post-independence elections in 1972, Sobhuza II abrogated the constitution and decreed the banning of political partied in the country, subsequently instituting a system of limited “non-partisan” elections based on Tinkhundla, or local constituencies. The parties had begun showing signs of being a credible threat to the royalist bloc. The NNLC backed the figures like Kwane Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, for instance, had won four seats, mainly in the working-class constituencies of the Mpumalanga sugar plantations. From the banning of political parties, opposition parties operated from under-ground, key figures like Zwane were repeatedly arrested or driven into exile, and trade unions provided a major vehicle for public protest. A new constitution was promulgated in 1978, but not formally presented.

Under the Tinkhundla Regime
Supported by students, teachers staged a general strike in 1977 to protest low wages. The action resulted in serious disturbances in many parts of the country. The period following Sobhuza II’s demise in 1982, just prior to the coronation of Mswati III in 1986, was characterized by political vacuum and serious infighting in the ruling elite, s section of which seems to have favored a republican state. University students took to the streets in 1983 to protest the dethronement of Dzeliwe Shongwe as Queen Regent.

The underground People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), now the main opposition grouping was formed on the University of Swaziland the same year. In 1990 university students at the main university campus, Kwaluseni, engaged in class boycotts to protest, among other issues, the shortage of lecturers and to demand the release from jail of a student detained in connection with political activity. The protest was forcefully terminated through army and police intervention. Throughout the 1990s students’ grievances at the university received the sympathy of the labor movement and political activists. The Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO) was formed in 1991.

Squatter evictions from farms in the different parts of the country since the 1980s inspired protests well into the early 2000s. In an unrelated case, dissident chiefs Mliba Fakudze and Mtfuso Dlamini were evicted from the KaMkhweli and Macetjeni chiefdoms in 2000 in favor of Prince Maguga. This was condemned by some union leaders, as well as by women from these chiefdoms, who showed their naked buttocks in public as a “gift” to the now deceased prince.

Parallel to students’ protests were various strikes, which at times brought the economy of the country to a halt. A small underground Swaziland Communist Party was formed in 1994. In the mid-1990s, Swazi unions were amongst the most rapidly growing in the world. They forged close ties with formations like the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU), which, along with the South African Communist Party (SACP), provides support to Swazi political exiles and had organized several blockades of Swazi border posts. In 1994, the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) held a two-day general strike for political and economic reforms. The strength of the labor movement was again dramatically demonstrated when the SFTU staged a country wide strike in March 1996 that brought the country to a standstill for 28 days, despite the arrest of union leaders. Through this strike the SFTU was applying pressure for the improvement of working conditions as well as demanding certain political reforms and a new constitutional dispensation. Several more general strikes took place in 1997.

Such struggles forced some concessions; most of the political reforms since the start of the 1900s can be traced to protests by pro-democracy groups and labor. An ongoing review of the constitution saw Mswati III announce in 2001 that the existing system would be retained, and even extended. By July 2006, protests had led to a new constitution being put in place (not long after the arrest of a number of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO activists for high treason after a spate of firebomb attacks). The new constitution has, however, generally been heavily criticized by civil society for its disappointing provisions and its strong continuities with the political status quo.

Discontent with the constitution, the repression of political parties, and worker-unfriendly policies led to unions and prominent political formations jointly organizing successful protest marches on July 24 and 25, 2007 in Manzini and Mbabane respectively. At the same time, there have been major protests at the University of Swaziland against curriculum restructuring; political parties saw this as a favorable climate for their activities ahead of the 2008 elections. The protests have involved, inter alia, the burning down of university buildings, leading to the closure of the University in 2007. In 2008, the university administration resolved to postpone examinations indefinitely. Students appealed to the courts, and a final verdict interdicting the university from implementing its new curriculum was issued April 10, 2008. In November 2008 the state promulgated the Act Terrorism Act to suppress open political activity.  With the recent economic challenges faced by the country the possibility for multi – party democracy has become a topical issue.  

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Why And Who Decides On A Cultural Boycott?

Without a doubt the cultural boycott has polarised discussions in Swaziland, questions arise about the effectiveness of this strategy in piling pressure for democratic change in the country.

On the one hand the entertainment starved middle class feels strongly that this strategy is misplaced while the pro-democratic forces believe this is nothing but a non-violent means of putting the issue of change in the public discourse.

What good could it possibly do to discourage artists from around the world from performing in Swaziland as part of a Cultural Boycott? 

This is the question that has been deliberated upon by many Swazis this past week as it came to light that renowned South African musician Ringo Madlingozi pulled out of performing in Swaziland at the last minute in support of the Cultural Boycott started by the Johannesburg-based group Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN).

Many asked who gave SSN the authority to speak ‘on behalf of Swazis?”.
Others asked if the boycott is working and if it is, whom it is working for?
They even asked whom the boycott is targeted at because it seems the ‘ordinary’ Swazi is being affected more than the leaders "who can easily afford to travel to South Africa to see these artists performing," some said.
“What is the purpose of this cultural boycott?” some asked.

Relevance of Boycotts in Political struggles
Cultural, academic and economic boycotts or sanctions have been part of our human rights history for the longest time. They are effective tools for exerting pressure to bring about change –political, economic etc.
They put pressure on the oppressive ruling government to relieve their stranglehold on State power to allow for a democratic system that honours respect of human rights to prevail. 

The cultural boycott on South Africa during Apartheid was effective because it isolated the middle class and elite in that country from the rest of the world. 
When white South Africans couldn't participate in the Olympics and other global social events they started to agitate for change themselves against a white government that advanced white interests.

Who has authority to calls for boycotts?
When are boycotts appropriate? Who decides? And what gives an unelected group or individual the moral legitimacy to demand or ask a party to observe a boycott?

By their nature boycotts should not be an individual personal protest but a considered position with indigenous collective support from within the host country itself.

Sometimes questions asked when deciding on calls for a boycott are; does the planned cultural event receive government funding and if so, what actions are potentially worth protesting? Are there calls for a boycott – or at least a protest – from citizens of the particular country?

Examples of boycotts
Today, the best example of a vigorous cultural and academic boycott movement is that directed at Israel for its ongoing violation of Palestinian human rights.

In 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued a major call endorsed by the vast bulk of Palestinian civil society groups:

“Since Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the above forms of oppression, or have been complicit in them through their silence … We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonisation and system of apartheid.”

In a country like Swaziland where the people feeling the brunt of a host of injustices are lower income earners who have limited access to information because the dominant media in Swaziland is State-controlled, there needs to be different and creative ways to get people active and aware about the injustices they face and the source of that injustice; and to encourage them to take action, they are not that powerless.

So it would seem fair that any group that seeks to highlight the plight of the majority who are voiceless and without means to fight for their rights do so, even at the discomfort of some in the country. 

It seems obvious that for a boycott to work it has to have indigenous support from within the country, even if it is just a small group that is calling for the boycott or sanctions, if their call resonates with the international community because of agreed international human rights, then it is a legitimate call.

Whom does the boycott target?

Another pressing question raised by some Swazis is whether the boycott is fulfilling its objectives and with what impact.

Whilst many will argue that cultural boycotts have minimum effect, in truth what boycotts do, and what the boycott being called for against Swaziland is doing, is to break middle class apathy. 

Apathy allows middle class Swazis to live as if there is no greater injustice occurring in their backyard, to live as if the majority (75%) of Swazis who live in rural Swaziland are not living in hopelessness, poverty and struggling on a daily basis to survive - a situation which shouldn't exist in a country of 1.2 million people.

Politics shouldn’t affect social life?

Others will argue that politics shouldn't be mixed with entertainment/sport/business because largely these are in some instances operated by ‘ordinary’ citizens trying to earn a living income. 

Popular musician Sir Elton John played at a concert in South Africa at the height of Apartheid and the cultural boycott.

He also played at a concert in Israel in 2010 even though there's an ongoing cultural boycott against Israel. 

He is quoted as saying "musicians spread love and peace. And bring people together. That's what we do.  We don't cherry pick our conscience."  

That is the truth about most artists; they resent moral pressure and will say "we're doing it for our fans!" The truth is they don't care about human rights, they're getting paid. 

But the counter-argument is that if entertainment/sport/business promote injustice by allowing the status quo to continue, then pressure should be exerted on those that promote continued existence (including artists) under the guise that all is normal whilst many go hungry and can't access minimum health care.

The existence of any government that doesn't allow it's people to make key decisions about the country or input on the budget, a government system that sees itself as more important than the people it is meant to serve should not be allowed to persist. 

The evolution of the values espoused in the International Human Rights Charter took time as people around the world came to agree that there are common threads that should exist in a society for each individual to experience freedom to pursue a life of their choosing. 

Even though ANC Spokesperson Keith Khoza, in an interview with Metrofm radio station this week, distanced the organization from the current cultural boycott  on Swaziland, the  ANC supports the democratisation of Swaziland as captured in its 51st Conference Resolution:

1.   There are a number of crises, some of an intra-national nature and others imposed on countries by external forces.
2.   The right of Palestinians to self-determination, recognized in numerous Resolutions of the United Nations, is constantly subverted including by the wanton genocidal activities of the Israeli government.
3.   The decades-long economic blockade against Cuba continues even today.
4.   The struggle for the democratisation of Swaziland is legitimate and in accordance with the principles of the African Union on the promotion of democratic institutions, popular participation and good governance,
5.   The impertinence of the USA to unleash war against the people of Iraq and to remove its President and government is in fundamental breach of International Law and the UN Charter.
6.   Progress is being made to resolve the civil strife ensuing in Sri Lanka.
7.   The struggles of oppressed peoples in the South continue
8.   Right-wing governments are on the rise internationally.
1.   Conflicts should be resolved through multilateralism, rather than by unilateral action.
2.   The people of Palestine, like the Israelis, have the right to self-determination and a national territory within secure and defined borders
3.   The US economic blockade against Cuba violates the right to peaceful development of the people of Cuba and that Cuba has the right to defend itself.
1.   The ANC continues to support the struggle of the Palestinian people for self -determination and the creation of a Palestinian state,
2.   The ANC reaffirms its solidarity with Cuba and continues to campaign for the lifting of the US embargo, and the release of five Cuban nationals convicted of espionage.
3.   The ANC shall endeavor to promote dialogue amongst all the stakeholders in Swaziland to promote the process of democratisation.
4.   The ANC shall continue to oppose any unilateral military and other action while requiring that Iraq complies with United Nations Security Council decisions.
5.   The peace process in Sri Lanka should be supported.
6.   The ANC reaffirms its solidarity with progressive forces in Burma in the struggle for peace and democracy against the military regime.
7.   The NEC will have to assess from time to time whether to support and pledge solidarity with progressive forces in their struggles for peace, democracy and justice.