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PUDEMO held their 7th General Congress on 25-27 February 2011 in Nelspruit, South Africa. The congress theme was, “Building a national momentum as we advance towards multiparty democracy.” The congress addressed several pressing issues, including the role of the Swaziland Monarchy in a democracy; how to build a strong mass democratic movement for change; and what type of movement PUDEMO should be under the present political situation in Swaziland.
The congress, amongst many other things, pointed specifically to the developments in North Africa and the Middle East, and the momentum for democracy that they have brought about, as inspiration for the Swazi struggle.
Message of solidarity from Africa Contact to PUDEMO at PUDEMO’s 7th General Congress.
Dear comrades at PUDEMO’s 7th General Congress.
Africa Contact in Denmark greets you in solidarity with you and your ultimate goal: a truly and fully democratic Swaziland where human rights and the rule of law are respected, and where no one will have to go hungry.
The financial failure and careless and lavish spending of the present regime has left Swaziland’s population at a crossroads: The only two options left are to either bow your head and continue down the present trajectory that will only lead to further financial and political difficulties, or join together and demand a complete change of system – a system that is democratic, participatory and which ensures that no one is left to languish in poverty and disillusionment.
The financial chaos that Swaziland increasingly finds itself in might be self-inflicted, but as we can see, the king and his small elite seemingly have no intentions of sharing the burden of the budget cuts that their failed policies have brought about. All this leaves Swaziland in a dire situation, but this situation is also an opportunity.
Financial crises that brought poverty and unemployment with them have historically brought both popular uprisings and changes in their wake. Especially when the middle classes feel the crunch, as they are starting to do now in Swaziland. Just think of what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East as we speak - countries in situations and with regimes not unlike those of Swaziland. Here changes have seemingly happened out of the blue, but if you study them a little closer, you can see that the dissatisfaction with the regimes in these countries were there all along, lying dormant. It just took a spark to light them.
What you and the other progressive forces in Swaziland have to ensure is that your future uprising and subsequent changes are made to benefit all Swazis – not just a new parasitical elite. This, amongst other things, requires a unified, focused and strong democratic movement that has a coherent policy on concrete matters such as job creation and poverty eradication. It also requires the lifting out of apathy of Swaziland’s poverty-stricken masses. And it requires pressure on the present regime from outside Swaziland.
The fact that people outside Swaziland are finally beginning to hear your calls is a good starting point. An example of this is COSATU and parts of the ANC now criticising the regime with increasing openness, and we will certainly continue to do our part in drawing attention to your cause in Denmark and Europe. The founding of the SUDF and the ongoing civil education programmes undertaken by the Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice and others is another good starting point.
Real democracy and democratic consciousness is after all not something that can be conjured up overnight, and it has indeed taken decades, sometimes centuries, for other countries to democratise properly. And even in the most democratic of democracies, each generation has to reinvent and reinforce their democracy to ensure its longevity.
We are well aware of the troubles that you face in your struggle. The more you and the whole of the democratic movement push for democracy, the more brutal and unforgiving the regime has become. But we also know the resolve and endurance of your leadership and members – and that you and your membership, official or unofficial, speaks for the majority of Swazis in demanding the right to choose your own leaders and a decent living.
We at Africa Contact wish you a fruitful and successful congress – may it become the spark that lights the fire of a peaceful, but speedy, transition towards true democracy.