26 April 2012
The democratic movement that cried wolf
Messages proclaiming the final days of king Mswati’s absolute monarchy in Swaziland, or the revolutionary uprising of thousands of Swazis, have been conveyed many times by individuals and organisations within Swaziland’s democratic movement.
Here are a few examples from the past year:
“The people of Swaziland are convinced that no muti or ritual will ever stop the tide of the revolution. The year 2012 will be the year that king Mswati’s dictatorship finally ends and a new democratic dispensation takes its place.” (Swaziland Solidarity Network statement, December 2011).
“They should prepare to govern. Tinkundla, or whatever this royal mess is called, is well and truly over. Come April 12 we will be sweeping its remains off our country.” (Swazi April 12 Uprising statement, April 2011).
“PUDEMO proclaims the final days of the Tinkundla supremacists.” (PUDEMO statement, April 2012)
What such messages all have in common is that they turn out to be disappointingly far from the truth, that they therefore create false expectations, both inside and outside Swaziland, and that the discrepancy between the predictions and the outcome of the actual protest action reflects poorly on the democratic movement at large – regardless of the fact that much of the democratic movement has for decades worked vigorously and bravely to try and convince the majority of Swazis to stand up and demand democracy and economic justice.
According to Dumezweni Dlamini from the Swazi NGO, Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice, the more boisterous part of the democratic movement needs to talk less and act more. “Can we spare the talk and let actions speak more. We are making a lot of noise without action so that it’s so noisy that we cannot even hear what we are saying ourselves.”
And all this in turn leads to apathy amongst Swazi’s otherwise willing to demand democratisation and to foreign newspapers not bothering to run stories about the ‘Swazi Uprising.’
“The April 12 Uprising Facebook group led people outside Swaziland to believe that there was a real demand, not only for change, but for revolutionary change in the kingdom,” says Richard Rooney, a journalist and former University of Swaziland associate professor, as well as currently being one of the best sources of continuous and uncensored news about Swaziland through his Swazi Media Commentary.
“I had many contacts from the international media at this time [April 2011] who genuinely believed there was to be a revolution in Swaziland. Many came to Swaziland for the event and were bitterly disappointed that nothing happened. There was no ‘uprising’, nor anything close to it. This year the media by and large stayed away on April 12, I believe because (correctly as it turned out) they didn’t expect much to happen. It will be very difficult to convince them in the future that people Swaziland are serious about protesting for change.”