Solidarity with Swaziland Youth Day and the Sixteen Pro-Democracy Activists Facing the Death Sentence
A woman is dead as a result of the injuries incurred from her torture, by the Swazi police, for being married to a member of the Peoples’ United Democratic Movement, PUDEMO. Another 16 pro-democracy activists, arrested in December after a spate of firebomb attacks, whose charges have now been upgraded to High Treason, await their sentences of possible death or life imprisonment. And dozens of pro-democracy leaders and activists are fleeing the country in fear of their lives.
We don’t endorse the bombings, as the ZACF has consistently been against terrorism in favour of mass mobilisation; and we don’t assume that the 16 PUDEMO and SWAYOCO members did it; but we defend them and demand their release whether they did it or not. The fact that people have resorted to violence to make themselves heard when they speak or act out against this brutal monarchy only goes to show the gravity of the reality of life for the majority of Swazis under this agonising dictatorship, and the lengths a desperate people are prepared to go in their struggle for democracy and against the injustice of the Tinkhundla regime.
We radicals and revolutionaries in South Africa and worldwide must remember that the people of Swaziland aided South African freedom fighters during the anti-apartheid struggle and now it is time to repay the favor.
We must also remember that a very similar struggle is being waged in another of our neighboring countries, Zimbabwe, against an equally authoritarian and corrupt system. In so doing we need to recognize that we cannot divorce these struggles from one another as, if either are to be successful, we need to put into practical application the regional solidarity talked about at the Southern African Social Forum and Uhuru Youth Camp in Harare in December.
Saturday the 21st of January is Swaziland Youth Day, traditionally marked by violent repression of peaceful youth gatherings. On this day we are calling for anyone who is serious about international solidarity against capitalism and in favour of democracy over dictatorship to organise activities, actions and events in solidarity not only with the Swazi youth and those struggling against the monarchy, but also in solidarity with the struggling people of Zimbabwe.
On this day we are certain that the police will repress the youth demonstrations, probably make arrests, and beat and torture activists. Any form of solidarity is needed. We need to let the Swazi regime know that they are being watched. It is unacceptable that 16 of our comrades are already in jail and awaiting their possible death sentence or life imprisonment, let this day also be a day of action demanding their immediate release. Let it also be a warning to the Tinkhundla regime that our conscience will not let us sit idly by while they torture, imprison and kill people whose only crime is to fight for social justice and for freedom.
We realize that it may be difficult to organise activities for the 21st on such late notice and so appeal to the international community to make an effort at showing their solidarity with the people of Swaziland over the coming weeks and even months. The 16 treason trialists will appear in court on Friday 20th January when the date for their trial will be set, and so we ask that anyone who can stage demonstrations, pickets, send letters of protest and petitions etc. to the respective Kingdom of Swaziland High Commission in their countries please do so. For as long and as often as it takes until they, and indeed all Swazi political prisoner s are released. Bearing in mind the imperial interests of British and South African capital in Swaziland, if there is not a Swaziland High Commission in your country, actions at these embassies could be considered instead.
We know that whatever the public face of South African and British imperialism in Swaziland, be it absolute monarchy or constitutional democracy, the same dogs will be calling the shots and running the country (into the ground). Let this warning therefore extend to them.
Recognizing that the oppressed people of Swaziland have demands of their own, which we endorse, provided they are progressive and democratic in nature, we demand the following:
1. A general amnesty for all political prisoners
2. Freedom of association, assembly and speech, and full trade union rights
3. Abolition of the pseudo-democratic Thikundla, Liqoqo, royal and state power structures and their replacement by directly-democratic,decentralised popular assemblies of the working class, poor and peasantry.
4. Equal rights for women
5. Abolition of all chiefly privileges – especially the power to steal land from the poor
6. Land redistribution in both commercial and traditional sectors
7. Free and democratic education, with student representative councils at schools
8. A living wage campaign in the plantations, factories and farms
9. Ban on retrenchments, and well-paid decent jobs for all