19 October 2011
Pressure Mounts on Mswati Regime
Special Meeting on Sanctions
At a special meeting today (19 October 2011) in Witbank representatives from both Swazi Trade Union Federations and affiliated Unions, the Swaziland United Democratic Front, the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations, the Swaziland Democracy Campaign and Swaziland Solidarity Network and others gathered to work out how an accelerated boycott and sanctions campaign could be applied to put further pressure on the failing Mswati regime.
The meeting noted that there is a long and honourable tradition of democratic forces utilising boycott and sanctions campaigns to assert the democratic agenda, and the gathering analysed the tactics that had been used by democratic forces in South Africa, Palestine, Zimbabwe, and in many other parts of the world.
The meeting noted that PUDEMO (which remains a banned political party) had developed policies of applying targeted sanctions in pursuit of the democratic agenda from the early 90’s as part of an intensified programme of mass mobilisation inside Swaziland.
Repressive Nature of the Regime Exposed Again
The repressive nature of the regime was blatantly exposed during the Global Week of Action initiated by the Swaziland Democracy Campaign which led to protest actions in 27 locations across the world. In Swaziland, unprecedented levels of mobilisation put the security forces on the defensive, but that did not stop them from viciously attacking peaceful demonstrators in both urban and rural areas. Many comrades were injured, but the movement remains completely unbowed!
The nature of the regime has been further exposed by the sustained campaign by almost the entire legal profession who have boycotted the courts in protest at the manipulation by the regime of what is supposed to be an independent judicial system. On November 1st a mass protest will take in Swaziland to support the legal profession and to raise critical democratic demands.
As we have noted before, the Swazi regime is becoming desperate. It cannot tolerate any moves towards democratisation that threaten its opulent lifestyle, and the Tinkhudla system of patronage that underpins it. Desperate attempts are underway to undermine the democracy movement, and to try and maintain the loyalty of the security apparatus, and the sycophantic circles gathered around the absolute monarch. The regime is staggering from one crisis to another!
The Democracy Campaign Moves Up a Gear
It was recognised that in the light of the continued and deepening economic crisis in Swaziland, and the complete inability of the regime to democratise, that our campaign must open up another front to exert pressure on the regime. This would not replace the magnificent levels of mobilisation achieved during and after the Global Week of Action, but would be complementary to it.
Levels of disillusionment in the Royal Elite are at an all-time low. Levels of impoverishment are at an all-time high. The regime is paralysed, and is only capable of thinking of its own selfish interests. The representative meeting agreed that the time was right to launch a strategic sanctions and boycott campaign as part of an unfolding action plan for a democratic Swaziland.
No More Support for Repressive Reaction
When discussing sanctions and boycotts, special attention has been given to the question of arms and repressive equipment used by the regime to attack the democracy movement and maintain order in the face of growing popular unrest. The Swazi regime has been exposed internationally as a brutal and repressive entity. It continues to unleash its firepower on peaceful democracy activists. The use of rubber bullets and tear gas by the security forces is now a commonplace. Live rounds have been used to disperse perfectly legal gatherings, and democratic activists have been wounded and worse as a result.
Furthermore, behind the heavy doors of Swaziland’s notoriously inhumane prisons, there is irrefutable evidence of the systematic torture of detainees using equipment and torture techniques provided by a range of government agencies in the region and beyond. A worrying development that has been noted is the increased interaction of Swazi state security personnel with their counterparts in South Africa and elsewhere.
It was also noted that the repressive regime in Swaziland seeks to benefit from any bailout that is arranged, whether from government or private sources, adding urgently to the need to further pressurise all those who wrongly believe that providing a bailout without reference to tangible democratic reforms is mistaken. Along with demands for tangible democratisation, must be conditions that expenditure on instruments of repression will not be permissible.
The Swazi people have spoken and said clearly, nothing for us without us! The South African government must use the current bailout interlude to ensure that these types of conditions are incorporated into any agreement, and also consult with civil society to ensure that any bailout is aimed at relieving the terrible burden of the poor. The South African government is to be commended for re-thinking the terms of the bailout it is facilitating, and it would gain even more credibility with the people of Swaziland if it took the vital step of siding with civil society by unambiguously attaching democratic and peaceful conditionalities to any assistance that it offers.
Towards a Sanctions and Boycott Plan of Action
With these considerations in mind, and after very careful consideration the gathering agreed the following:
» To coordinate the actions of all those present to maximise the effect of an accelerated sanctions and boycott campaign to maximise impact, and provide opportunities to draw in others towards complementary mass action.
» To develop a special sanctions unit to research a number of strategic economic targets and to work with Unions and others in Swaziland and across the world to impose sanctions on those who trade with the repressive Mswati regime.
» To launch a specific arms sanctions campaign to prevent the Mswati regime from obtaining the equipment and training to further repress the people of Swaziland.
» To work towards the political and social isolation of the Royal Regime including rapid actions to expose their wasteful private and public expenditure including the purchase of luxury goods and further, to engage governmental and other institutions on the need to exclude Swaziland from all forums where they garner legitimacy.
» To lend on-going support to the boycott of the legal system of the country, and to contribute positively to expanding the cultural and sports boycott and to the considerable work that has been undertaken by friends of the SSN and others.
These matters will be enthusiastically taken back to all participating organisations with a view towards confirming agreements within the next few days, and for work to begin in earnest to realise the sanctions and boycott campaign at the earliest opportunity. Meetings will be taking place over the coming weeks to popularise the Boycott and Sanctions Campaign, and will include meetings to popularise the campaign.
It would be fair to say that the meeting reported above represented a new phase in the struggle for democracy in Swaziland. The level of commitment shown by all parties to the campaign and the discussion on how to accelerate it were deeply reassuring. There is a new chapter opening up before us, and we urge all those who care about democracy on our Continent to participate. Keep up the pressure! Don’t give space for dictators! Isolate the torturers! Solidarise with the democratic forces!