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By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact's Swaziland group
Swaziland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Lutfo Dlamini, called the brutally crushed peaceful protest or uprising against Swaziland’s absolute monarchy, that lets a small elite live in luxury while two thirds of the population live below the poverty line, a “failure” yesterday.
I beg to differ. In fact, the so-called “victory” of the regime against the demonstrators, whose call for democracy and rule of law in the absolute monarchy that is Swaziland, may turn out to be a pyrrhic one, making Swazi’s less likely to accept reformist measures once the inevitable change that most people want comes.
Because while the demonstrators didn’t manage to amass the numbers they had hoped for, this was mainly due to the intimidation, blocking tactics and violence of the police and security forces that did everything they could to stop people from assembling in Manzini.
And while the regime might thus claim a victory in terms of numbers – there were an unprecedented amount of police and armed forces patrolling the width and breadth of Swaziland – their “success” was something of a public relations disaster, both within and outside Swaziland.
Now all ordinary Swazi’s, who don’t normally associate with the democratic movement that the regime brands “terrorists” for simply calling peacefully for democratisation, have seen the true face of the regime, if they hadn’t seen it already.
Ordinary people were stopped at road-blocks, denied access to Manzini, beaten up for no apparent reason, or driven to far-flung areas of Swaziland and left to walk home, simply for going about their daily business.
And with the unparalleled amount of press coverage of the brutal clamp-down on both demonstrators and the press, newspaper readers all over the world have also been alerted to the true nature of a Swaziland normally seen as a peaceful tourist retreat.
“Workers have exposed the undemocratic nature of Swaziland's government, and clearly sent a message to our people and the entire world that the time for multiparty democracy in Swaziland is now,” said Secretary General of the Labour Coordinating Council, one of the organisers of the protest, Mduduzi Gina today.
Who would disagree? The Swazi regime might have won the battle in the streets, preliminarily at least, as the unions have called of what would have been a third day of protest today, fearing for the lives of their members. But the regime is losing the war of the hearts and minds of the Swazi people and the international community.