May Day: Solidarity with Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Western Sahara

The international workers’ day is celebrated around the world on May 1, is a national holiday in over eighty countries, and is celebrated unofficially in many others. The celebrations on May 1 are symbolic of solidarity with the underprivileged and the fight for better conditions nationally and, not least, internationally, inspired as they are by the demands for an eight-hour workday in America on May 1 1886, where 400.000 workers went on strike. And there is no shortage of worthy causes for such solidarity.

In Denmark, Africa Contact  used the May 1 celebrations to focus on the politically motivated violence against women in Zimbabwe by holding a so-called ‘solidarity event’ at Blaagaards Plads and Fælledparken in Copenhagen where the largest May 1 celebrations in Denmark take place. The event is part of a larger campaign, initiated by Africa Contact and partner organisation the National Constitutional Assembly, a Zimbabwean NGO that amongst other things campaigns for a democratic and people-driven constitutional process in Zimbabwe.

“A large group of volunteers from Africa Contact will support women in Zimbabwe by collecting pictures and statements from the people in Denmark, who reject the political violence targeting women in Zimbabwe,” as a statement on the website of the ‘Act now against political violence – targeting women in Zimbabwe’-group behind the campaign said.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and regime, who have in effect ruled Zimbabwe single-handily since independence in 1980, uses politically motivated violence with impunity against women in Zimbabwe, especially systematic use of rape by the Zimbabwean police and military, as well as by ZANU-PF’s youth league, on members of political rivals the Movement for Democratic Change.

A little further South, the small absolute monarchy of Swaziland, where Africa Contact works with the democratic movement, is also in dire need of a both international solidarity and the continuation of the recent April 12 uprising. The North African-inspired uprising marked the anniversary of the state of emergency that has been in place since 1973, and sought to bring about Democracy, rule of law, and tolerable social and financial conditions for the two thirds of the population that live in desperate poverty.

All political parties are banned in Swaziland, but the main political movement or party, the People’s United Democratic Front (PUDEMO), have tried for nearly twenty years to bring about democratisation and socio-economic justice in the almost non-existent political space that exists in Swaziland. And as April 12 showed, the more the regime is pressurized, the more brutally it will clamp down on any challenges to its absolute power.

In a statement to mark May 1, PUDEMO spoke of the importance of May 1 and the unity and international support needed to succeed in democratising Swaziland.

“This is a day that was gained through the struggles and sacrifices of workers past and present. It must therefore be cherished by all workers … Unity shall give [the workers] the necessary strength and resilience in their common mandate of fighting for social justice and fundamental transformation of the country’s political environment … May the workers take courage knowing that your struggles for the liberation of the people of Swaziland has the full support of the international community that has over the years unreservedly provided solidarity.”

PUDEMO’s youth congress, SWAYOCO echoed these sentiments in their May 1 press release.

“We welcome the international journalists who have constantly had an interest in our struggle for democracy and have continued to expose the brutality of Mswati’s Regime. They should continue profile our struggle and remember that we remain committed to the total destruction of Tinkhundla [a system that allows the King to control government and land allocation]. On the same vein we also welcome the undying and continued support from international allies … and all other solidarity formations we say to you your support is our strength of resistance … Our people will demand their liberation and indeed they will defend themselves if the need arises.”

Africa Contact also has a “Free Western Sahara”-campaign that focuses on the abysmal human rights situation in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, the plundering of its resources, and the over 150.000 Saharawi refugees that have lived in the Algerian dessert for over 35 years.

Western Sahara’s Saharawi people also need and ask for the international solidarity that May 1 stands for to rid themselves of the brutal and exploitative Moroccan colonisation that has lasted for over 35 years.

“Workers’ Day originates from the historical struggles of workers and their trade unions internationally for solidarity between working people in their struggles to win fair employment standards, and more importantly, establish a culture of human and worker rights,” Western Saharan liberation movement Polisario’s representative in Denmark, Abba Malainin told me.

The Western Saharan General Union of the Saharawi Workers (UGTSARIO) also spoke of and applauded the “solidarity and contribution of international movement of workers in supporting the legitimate rights of the Saharawi people” in a statement today, May 1.

So even though we in Europe have by no means exhausted our need or demands for justice and true democracy in our own countries, we surely owe it to the brave people of Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Western Sahara, who at great personal risk demand autonomy, democracy and socio-economic justice, to stand up and demand justice for them too – not least on a day like May 1, not least because they ask for our help.

Read about Africa Contact’s projects and campaigns in Zimbabwe (Stop political violence against women campaign and National Constitutional Assembly project), Swaziland (Foundation for Socio-Economic Justice project and Swaziland United Democratic Front project) and Western Sahara (Free Western Sahara campaign).

Read about, and contact, Africa Contact’s project groups here (in English here).

Links:

1. maj: Vil stoppe vold mod kvinder i Zimbabwe, Modkraft, 1 May 2011

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