The following is a statement from the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) on the march that took place today (16 April 2009) in Manzini, Swaziland, to demand that the Swazi Government honours its constitutional obligation and implements free primary schooling.
Between 1000 and 2000 people responded to the call to go to the streets in the city of Manzini to force the government of Swaziland to implement the court ruling that beginning this year, free primary education must be offered in public schools. This is an action that as PUDEMO we came out clearly to say we are in support of!
The leadership of the church under the Council of Swaziland Churches has been in the forefront of the campaign together with labour unions including the Swaziland Federation of Labour, Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, Swaziland National Association of Teachers; political organizations including the Peoples United Democratic Front and the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress; and basically all the membership of the Swaziland United Democratic Front.
At the core of the mass action and other battles constantly waged by the people of Swaziland against the regime are the following demands which leaders of organizations present clearly and eloquently expressed:
- The return to multi-party democracy in the country that was overthrown through a quo in 1973 by the minority ruling elite headed by the royal family.
- Getting in place a process to craft the route towards fundamental transformation of Swaziland governance with the free participation of all stakeholders. PUDEMO in its document The Wayforward: Towards a Constituent Assembly has clearly and eloquently been forwarding this process since 1992, but the regime has conveniently rejected.
- The release of PUDEMO President Mario Masuku who is detained under the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008.
- The scrapping of the Suppression of Terrorism Act of 2008 that makes everyone in the country a potential “terrorist.”
- The return of all exiles.
The mass action has been a great success for the ordinary, suppressed and poverty stricken people of Swaziland who are really desperate for liberation from the oppressive Swazi regime that co-incidentally heads the SADC TROIKA on Politics, Peace and Defence. As expected from the undemocratic and hostile regime, the mass action could not be allowed to go on without its security agents and other establishments attempting to sabotage the activity.
In the morning before the march started, three members of PUDEMO Youth League were detained by the state’s security agents preventing them from addressing some students from a nearby school on the free primary education campaign.
There was a confrontation between the organizers of the mass action and the Manzini police who wanted the march to be called off because the Manzini City Council Management (Municipality) did not issue the necessary permit. This is a common strategy that has been used in the past to prevent PUDEMO rallies in the city. This goes to show the extent of the rot within the structures of the Tinkhundla establishment which work in cohesion to suppress the freedom of the people. However, the march went on despite this challenge.
During the march, the state police who have been obviously hostile to the marchers, without provocation pounced, beat-up and detained about five marchers who incidentally are members of PUDEMO. There might be more casualties. This clearly shows the hostile, intolerable and undemocratic conditions that the ordinary people of Swaziland are experiencing everyday while SADC and the world standby and watch!
Clearly more pressure on this undemocratic regime must be applied and as PUDEMO we shall always stand with our people in the fight to liberate ourselves in Swaziland for such a regime has no place in the democratic modern world.