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COSATU ‘INVADES’ SD

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By Musa Ndlangamandla - SWAZI OBSERVER-22-Mar-2010

GOVERNMENT has reacted with surprise to reports that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its partners have resolved to invade the Kingdom of Swaziland in July, ostensibly to push for democracy.

n its meeting in Mpumalanga with some ‘progressives from Swaziland’ over the weekend, COSATU also threatened to stage a blockade on the country’s borders with South Africa in September.

The group also resolved to paint a ‘bad picture’ of the country’s political system to the world and tarnish the name of the leadership, arguing that there was no democracy in Swaziland. Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku said as government they were surprised that such attitudes could be adopted against the Kingdom, blaming the whole situation on a trail of deceit that is perpetrated by forces with their own selfish intentions about the political set-up in Swaziland. “If people are ignorant, they must ask for information instead of acting on hearsay from elements with unclear political motives and ambitions. Swaziland is a Sovereign State and we are first and foremost responsible for the Swazi nation on whose mandate government is acting,” Masuku said.

He added that as government they cared about the interests of the Swazi nation and would rather be pre-occupied with looking after the welfare of the Swazi people than ‘dance’ to the tune of outside elements, who were acting on misinformation.

“Right now our people are concerned about the recent storm which wreaked havoc on their homes, property and way of life. As government, we are pre-occupied with trying to assist them. We worry about our own. There is also the issue of providing free education and as government we would rather occupy ourselves with the logistics to fulfill this objective rather than entertain forces whose interests do not rest with the Swazi nation,” he said.

Warrant

Minister of Foreign Affairs Lutfo Dlamini said government had not been formally informed of the resolution, wondering who among the Swazi people had complained to COSATU to warrant such action.

He stressed that government was ready, willing, able and committed to explaining the political system and direction of Swaziland to anyone who may have queries. The minister said as part of government’s activities, this year would be to go around explaining the system and activities in the country to interested parties and dispel the acrid misinformation that is peddled to the world about the goings-on in Swaziland.

Dlamini said the diplomatic relations and cooperation between the Kingdom and Republic of South Africa were stronger than ever, adding that such ties date back to the time when the former assisted the latter in the fight against apartheid. “Even the rules of natural justice dictate that before action is taken, the party that is a subject should be properly given a chance to state their side of the story. That is the basic tenet of the rules of natural justice, which we would expect COSATU to be aware of and uphold as well as protect,” Dlamini said. He added that it would come as a surprise if today there would be elements who sought to undermine the cordial ties between the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Republic of South Africa, which the leadership of Swaziland has nurtured and strengthened over the decades.

Sacrifice

“The Tinkhundla Government played a crucial role in the fight for peace in the region. King Sobhuza for instance, made personal and national sacrifice to assist the people of South Africa as they fought against apartheid. His Majesty King Mswati III, through various fora has ably demonstrated his commitment to foster and strengthen good neighbourliness in the region. It is unfornate now that there are people who are speaking a language of disrupting progress and peace in the country,” Dlamini said.

He stressed that the majority of the people of Swaziland support the current system of governance, have several avenues to express their views on how to modify it and will be the ones to decide if, when and how to do away with it. “Do not cry on our behalf because we have deliberately and carefully made a decision as a nation, and not pockets of individuals to embrace the tinkhundla system of government,” he said.

Dlamini said the report of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC), which will be released shortly will attest to this fact as it will show that an overwhelming majority of people [over 80% of the electorate] endorsed the system. “I would expect that COSATU, being a body that seeks to build and protect job opportunities would not act in such a manner that would destroy the very jobs. We shall, through the available diplomatic channels, seek clarity on this matter and take appropriate action,” he said.

Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Jabulile Mashwama expressed concern about the negative effects such an action would have on the economy, particularly jobs. “As government we have not been formally briefed about the matter, but it would be unfortunate for any organisation or individual to engage in any action that would disrupt efforts to create, grow and protect jobs in the country. His Majesty’s government has opened several avenues for dialogue and we have several fora, where we engage in social dialogue as a nation and as stakeholders. We are also collectively involved in efforts to share information and discuss ways to carry the overall interests of our people forward,” she said.

Mashwama added that as members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the countries continue to engage on trade issues of concern.

Support

“We have not been notified through this fora or any other, of any issue that would warrant the proposed blockade,” she said. Political activist and President of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC) Women’s Wing Ntombi Nkosi said personally I would support the move by COSATU, arguing that for a longtime in the country they were crying like a voice in the wilderness with the leadership ignoring to listen to them. “We are not satisfied with the whole system and have no voice, so if someone from outside comes and says they can help us be heard, we are eager to work with that person. There are so many things that we are complaining about. We are concerned about the way things are done in our country but no one listens. We are labelled and dismissed just like that. As an organisation, we subscribe to the notion of dialogue and non-violence, but we want to be heard,” she said.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF)Vincent Ncongwane confirmed that his organisation was part of the meeting that resolved such action against Swaziland.

“We are still awaiting update from the people we sent to attend the meeting. I do not have the details of the resolution now. I am aware that there will be a lot happening between July and September regarding the issues you are talking about, but I am yet to get the modalities,” he said.

He said it would be folly for government to question COSATU’s involvement in marches in the country, saying even in the G20 Summit it is not only people from the host country that march. Ncongwane said for 30 years political parties had been banned in Swaziland, adding that the argument that Swazis did not want them is false. “What we are asking for from government is for it to be more concerned about starting talks with us about our views regarding the direction of the country. I do not believe that the majority of the Swazi people do not want political parties,” he said.

Political activist Jan Sithole told The Swazi Observer that there was nothing wrong with COSATU’s intervention in Swaziland’s affairs, saying this is not interference but a response to appeals by the progressive movements in the country.

Views

“The leadership is refusing to talk to those of us with dissenting views. If the leadership can open dialogue tomorrow, I tell you there would be no need for such action. We call for dialogue and for everyone to be heard, be they progressives or conservatives. We are all speaking for one Swaziland and no one wants our Swaziland to be worse off. But sometimes such pressure is needed in order to be listened to,” he said.

Sithole said Swaziland had a great potential to ease the current political tensions, saying this was displayed by the leadership’s championing of peace efforts in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Lesotho. “All these are sovereign states and Swaziland’s involvement has not been labelled as interference. We have a chance to do the same for Swaziland,” he said. Sithole added that by virtue of being a member of the United Nations, African Union and SADC, Swaziland opened itself up to scrutiny and be ing called to order when there were things that may not be correct.

“Tinkhundla has been an experiment for two decades and it is time we all engage in dialogue and take a SWOT analysis of the system. We believe that it has failed the people of Swaziland. A referendum is the only way that can determine the overall views of the people of Swaziland on the question of political parties,” he said.


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