This statement from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is a response to Arterial Network, one of the organisers of the Bushfire Festival that is the subject of a cultural boycott. It had said the Bushfire festival ‘advances democratic principles as enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.
Cosatu calls this nonsense, and many other things beside.
10 May 2011
COSATU statement on the Arterial Network attack on Swazi Cultural Boycott
COSATU and the union organising in the music, arts and cultural industry, CWUSA, condemn in the strongest terms the irresponsible and arrogant statement by Arterial Network in relation to the call for cultural boycott of Swaziland.
The claims advanced by Arterial Network that, “it is deplorable and hurtful for activists of democracy to call for a boycott to an event that advances democratic principles as enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” are misleading, dishonest and regrettable. In what way does the festival advance human rights and whose human rights in this case?
We all know that during the struggle against apartheid cultural boycott was one of the key weapons and instruments of struggle against apartheid, hence its application as a critical frontier of the struggle. Swaziland cannot be an exception. When the people of Swaziland and their representative organisations call for a boycott, they know well that they are calling for real support to the cause for democracy and not window-dressing stunts in the name of “advancing human rights”, particularly by people and organisations who have not been seen doing anything for the Swazi people’s cause for democracy, but claim to be “advancing human rights in Swaziland”. All they are pre-occupied about is narrow profit-seeking interests and not the plight of the people and the struggle for democracy.
They went on to say, “It is regrettably ill-advised for the activists to call upon the abuse of a human right in order to solve the abuse of other human rights”. Finally, it said, “Therefore boycotting this festival only achieves gross abuse of artists rights to express themselves freely and has more damaging implications for the organisers of the festival who have already invested a lot of resources and effort putting together such an important event.” Therein lies the real reasons, “more damaging implications for the organisers of the festival who have invested a lot of resources”.
COSATU wishes to indicate the following facts:
· Swaziland’s cultural boycott is the product of the Swazi people and their organisations. It was in 1998 when PUDEMO first made the call for smart sanctions and a cultural boycott against the regime, which was followed up with a document for smart sanctions in 2006 which clearly outlined a cultural boycott as a critical element of it. The Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, in its call for solidarity to COSATU in 2007 produced a document outlining areas where they would want assistance for action and boycott of the Swazi regime. The SDC-Convened Civil society meeting held at Tums George in Swaziland last year resolved on the subject of Smart sanctions against the regime. COSATU has always been vocal in supporting the call, not to earn points, but to assist the Swazi cause. Therefore, any attempt by anyone outside the country to begin to seek glory in by distorting the truth is just outrightly self-serving and opportunistic. The call for a Cultural boycott of the Swazi regime has been and can only be made by representative and constituency- based organisations inside Swaziland and nobody else has that mandate from the people in whose name the struggle is being waged.
· We unreservedly submit ourselves to the interests of the Swazi people and their democratic organisations as the only legitimate representatives of their interests (and constituencies) and shall, at all times, respect their decisions. In this regard, we note the discussions having taken place between SDC Swaziland Chapter and the organisers of the Bushfire event, particularly the fact that the decision was taken after due consultations in the country.
· However, we hope that the call for a cultural boycott of Swaziland in general has not changed, hence our continued engagement with the idea of a Swaziland Boycott Indaba, involving both Swazi and South African organisations to take forward in more concrete terms this important undertaking. This should include more than cultural activities, but particularly the economic boycott and that of members of the royal family and their interests.
· We particularly note that Gospel artists remain the most frequent visitors of the Swazi regime and would be keen to indicate to them the seriousness of the call for a boycott and the risks associated with defying it. They are sometimes used by the regime in activities disguised as charity and national projects, hence our call for their vigilance and refusal to be used against the poor of Swaziland in their name. We shall soon be naming those who break the picket line on this matter.
· We wish to encourage that the proposal for genuine charity projects to be taken to Mpumalanga or Mozambique be discussed for future purposes, so that the boycott is strengthened.
Finally, COSATU and CWUSA salutes all the South African artists who have refused to be associated with anything related to the Swazi regime, in order to further the isolation of this monstrous and oppressive system. We also welcome the efforts of the ANCYL and other components of the MDM in that regard, to encourage artists to dissociate themselves from anything to do with the Swazi regime.