Swazi democracy activists are calling for artists and fans to boycott Swaziland’s world-renowned Bushfire Festival later this month - they say that performing in the crisis-stricken country would send out the wrong message, the Mail and Guardian, South Africa reports today (6 May 2011).
The annual music, poetry, dance and art event, planned for 27 – 29 May, attracts people from around the world and is seen as a highlight of Swaziland’s social calendar, second only to the Reed Dance.
Top acts this year include South Africa’s Goldfish and Black Coffee, Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi from Zimbabwe, Habib Koité from Mali, the Yale Concert Band from the United States and France's Mime Decol.
Mary Pais da Silva, co-ordinator of the Swaziland Democracy Campaign, said, ‘The point is to raise as much awareness as possible. We can’t just continue going on as if Swaziland is a normal place. We want to send a strong message to the government and the rest of the country. There are some people who appear to not be bothered by what is happening in our country, but we hope this will make them sit up and listen.’
Last month trade unions, students and pro-democracy campaigners tried to hold a mass protest to call for change, but they were dispersed by the police, who fired teargas and water cannons and detained more than 100 people. Two youth leaders still in custody have been charged with possession of explosives. Last week police staged a dawn raid on the home of high-profile union member Simon Mvubu and questioned him about his connections to a Facebook group promoting an uprising.
Last week a delegation of advocates from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Lawyers’ Association went to the country on a fact-finding mission to prepare a report for the next regional bloc meeting.
Last month, pro-democracy activists successfully campaigned for a boycott of a festival organised for Prince Lindani, the eldest son of King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. South Africa’s ANC Youth League (ANCYL) called on artists and others to boycott the event.