PUDEMO outlines road to democracy in Swaziland during visit to Denmark
May 9, 2013 Leave a comment
“Swaziland is a dictatorship where the king rules by decree. You should go there to see for yourselves how PUDEMO-members and those who are associated with them are treated. Conditions are worsening and the youth are becoming increasingly impatient,” Linus Mavimbela told members of Danish party the Red Green Alliance.
Linus Mavimbela, International Secretary of the banned Swazi party the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), visited Denmark between the April 25 and May 2 2013. He was meant to have been accompanied by PUDEMO’s Organising Secretary, Wonder Mkhonza, but Wonder was symptomatically arrested by just prior to the visit, charged with sedition for allegedly being in possession of 5000 political pamphlets.
The visit was part of the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD) project between PUDEMO and the Red Green Alliance and centered on the Annual Conference of the Red Green Alliance. “The conference was very interesting, especially the open and frank debates where ordinary members took an active part, and the fact that the Red Green Alliance had succeeded in forming a cohesive political alliance out of several political parties,” said Mavimbela.
“In Swaziland we also need open and honest debates and to make the various organisations of the democratic movement come together and fight for democracy so that we can push the regime to a point where it is willing to talk. PUDEMO has always believed in honest dialogue and we have seen the value of this in the fact that people are beginning to question the way they are governed.”
After the conference, Linus Mavimbela met with several stakeholders, including DIPD Director Bjørn Førde, representatives of the Danish Social Democrats, members of the Red Green Alliance international department and Red Green Alliance MP Christian Juhl.
”We can learn a lot from the Red Green Alliance,” Mavimbela told Christian Juhl. “For instance it is important to understand the people when you are a party official or politician. You shouldn’t become a career politician, and the Red Green Alliance has a rotation system and wage cap for this reason.”
PUDEMO has good programmes and the will to implement them, insists Mavimbela. “But we haven’t been able to implement them properly because we don’t have the resources and because the regime has clamped down heavily on us for many years.”
“What PUDEMO has done well,” he says, “is that we have succeeded in making our people understand that another Swaziland is possible – a Swaziland where political parties are legal and where two thirds of the population do not have to live in absolute poverty. But to succeed in bringing about multi-party democracy in Swaziland we need to show ordinary Swazis that democracy is an option worth fighting for and worth risking your livelihood for. And we need a combination of mass mobilization and outside pressure.”
Applying this pressure has been difficult, however, both because of the dangers of being associated with PUDEMO – being arrested, tortured, beaten up or killed – and because the regime rewards those faithful to it with better job opportunities and other fringe benefits.
“This means that many people are not focusing on how to achieve democracy but on how to be recognized by the regime so as to be co-opted and rewarded. Many of these people are not really loyal to the regime but want the benefits that come with being associated with the regime,” says Linus Mavimbela. “It is therefore necessary for all the sectors of the ruling elite – including traditional leaders and big business – to feel the heat.”