The African American human rights activist, Malcolm X, was once said to be the only leader in America who could start and stop a race riot. When probed about this, he played down this media hyped description by saying that he doubted that he had the power to start a riot and that if he ever found himself in a position where he had started one, he didn’t think he would want to stop it.
The April 12 Swazi Uprising committee finds itself in a similar, yet more urgent, situation. The Swazi press reported yesterday that Swazi Senators were worried about the calls for an uprising in the country. So worried were they that they gave a mandate to the minister of Labour and Social Security to do everything in his might to stop it from happening.
The minister responded by stating that the government was willing to listen to the people behind the uprising provided they had proof of having a mandate from Swazis, whom he claimed had expressed content with the current system of governance. He also invited those who felt aggrieved to write to the ministry so that their grievances could be heard.
It is imperative that the movement responds to the public invitation by the government especially because they are attempting to portray themselves as being a legitimate government that is committed to dialogue and peaceful resolution of political differences. We cannot fall into the trap of appearing as being indignant and intolerant in the face of their “invitation.”
We have been tolerant for 38 long and painful years. All our peaceful attempts to chart out a new direction for our country have been met with sever repression and brutal violence. Our comrades’ spirits are speaking from beyond the grave urging us on to the quest they died fighting for.
We therefore have to be extremely cautious about public invitations to meet and discuss with such a regime under the prevailing circumstances. We are aware that the intelligence divisions of the country’s security forces are searching under every rock for the people behind this movement with the aim of arresting them and charging them with high treason.
So obsessed are police with finding us that innocent people have been arbitrarily abducted and taken in for questioning. Street posers are no longer ignored; they are arrested and taken in for questioning, as happened on Sunday to a group of unfortunate young people working for PSI Swaziland.
This is the Swaziland that we know, and the Swaziland that the April 12 uprising hopes to end once and for all.
All that we can say as a committee organizing this historic peaceful mission is that the government of Swaziland knows what to do to avoid this uprising from occurring. We outlined our demands to them clearly. They must end this facade of a government once and for all and hand over power to a transition government elected by the Swazi people.
This transition government will oversee the drafting of a new constitution that will represent the true views of the country’s population. We do not need any cattle byre constitutional review commissions that are a window dressing exercise funded by external donors and used as fattening ranches by the royal family.
Moreover, all political prisoners currently held by the regime must be released unconditionally and all exiles must be granted the freedom to return to their country of birth without being harassed by the police. Most importantly, the king must vacate office immediately and go on vacation pending the finalization of the future role of the monarchy by the Swazi people.
All other urgent needs by Swazi workers, students and the rest of society will be fulfilled by them when they are in power. The resources currently used for the upkeep of the royal family will go a long way towards fulfilling those needs. These are very basic and reasonable demands and we hope that the government of Swaziland will be reasonable enough to meet them.
Our purpose is crystal clear. As the script writer William M. Finkelstein once wrote, “It’s amazing how much you can get done when you’ve got a simple purpose guiding you through life.”
In the past few weeks we have been able to get international media to focus on the Swazi issue once again. We have also created what is arguably the busiest facebook group ever. All this we were able to do because of that simple purpose: “Giving power to all Swazis by creating a democratic state and ending the Tinkhundla regime”. We say to all Swazis:”Forward to April 12.”