Greed delaying democracy
IN 2008 a group of researchers from Idasa and Phadimisa Bokamoso ba Africa (Brighten the future of Africa)
started a qualitative research process on the political problems of the country.
Focus groups were selected from both the government and civil society. The study revealed that dialogue was the
preferred option to deal with the political problems.
It also revealed a concern from the government summarized by my good friend former Minister of Justice Mr.
Ndumiso Mamba as follows: “We have been approached by many different organizations; trade unions, churches,
students, political groups; individuals etc wanting to talk about different issues”.
The government has been telling the world that it is willing to talk but needs to know the following:
1 What are the issues to dialogue about?
2. Who to dialogue with?
A draft report was produced outlining the issues of dialogue as suggested by the focus groups. This report was
discussed at a workshop on 19-20 December 2009 in Ezulwini.
This workshop was opened by the Executive Secretary of the African Forum of Former Heads of State and Government
who stated very clearly that the Forum would support an initiative for political dialogue in Swaziland.
The report was then given to international constitutional experts to review. The next step was to validate this
report with civil society.
The best way to validate the report was to invite civil society organisations to make submissions.
A total of 14 organisations including political parties and trade unions representing over 100 organs of civil
society participated in this process.
Hearings were scheduled to start on 8 to 22 March 2011 at Lugogo Sun. Unfortunately on the third day, the police
intervened and stopped the process.
Numerous meetings were held with the government to resolve this matter to no avail.
The hearings were moved to Badplaas in South Africa where the process was completed. All participating entities
supported the process.
Suggestions from the submissions were finalized and included in a final document to be discussed and adopted at
a bigger meeting of civil society.
PUDEMO has laid preconditions for negotiations. But these preconditions need to be unpacked and spoken to.
Conversation must begin on how these pre-conditions must be met.
For example, the return of exiles; who are these exiles, where are they, how will they come back, who will pay
for their flights, where will they stay when they arrive here, what will they eat? etc. etc.
This is what we call Talks about Talks. The naïve approach says fold your arms and stand on top of the mountain
and say unconditional return of exiles, unban political parties without talking about the hows.
Mandela started talks about talks with the apartheid regime long before it became fashionable.
He was sneaked out of prison at night and spoken to in an attempt to unblock processes leading to
Mandela’s release had to be discussed with the regime to agree on the time, date, place, the setting etc.
This is called talks about talks. It’s not a magic wand.
We have had numerous meetings with the PUDEMO leadership on this issue. In fact the first person to be consulted
on this project was Mario Masuku and he welcomed and encouraged the initiative.
I have a lot of respect for Masuku but I am aware of the challenges that he currently faces.
Negotiations are the current political flavor in politics the world over and any political player who opposes
negotiations runs the risk of disappearing into political obscurity.
You either swim with the tidal wave or get washed under if you swim against it. Negotiations are part of the
original PUDEMO programme and anyone who opposes negotiations must seek a new mandate from PUDEMO.
We demanded a constitution and what did we get? We have reached a stage in our struggle where we say “don’t do
anything, let us do it together so that we can do it right the first time”.
In 2002 I presented a paper titled “The Conundrum” at a PUDEMO conference in Esikhawini in KwaZulu-Natal.
In this paper I argued that there is a political stalemate in Swaziland and that the government can never win
the battle to suppress the desire for democracy and that the democratic forces on the other hand will not be able
to outrightly topple the regime through military action because the world has moved away from supporting military
insurgency and guerrilla warfare.
Southern Africa and Africa as a whole would not support any initiative of war against the regime.
I suggested what I termed “constructive engagement” to erode the powers of the regime by taking over some of the
key institutions so that the democracy movement can tilt the balance of power in its favour.
This was rejected and I was termed a sellout. Ten years later nothing if at all has happened to tilt the balance
of power in favour of the democracy movement and it is for this reason that Pudemo is opposed to negotiations.
The question is what have we done in the ten years to tilt the power balance and how long should we wait for the
power balance to be in our favour to begin negotiations? Hindsight is a perfect science isn’t it?
Opponents of negotiations have argued that “what you cannot win in the streets you cannot win at the table”. The
reverse is also true.
What you take to the table is what you could not win in the streets because if you won it in the streets then
why take it to the table?
It’s a chicken and egg situation; do you “dek die tafel” (prepare the table) whilst you march in the street or
do you march in the street and then dek die tafel? Talks about Talks deals with the conditions necessary for
successful dialogue and nine issues have been identified.
The truth is that everyone in this country, in power or not, knows that there is a political problem and they
all know that dialogue is the preferred solution.
The question is when and how? If you were in power, you would not voluntarily offer to dialogue until there was
pressure to do so.
Talks about Talks is saying “ dek die tafel” (Prepare the Table) and when the guests are ready to eat they
must sit around the table and eat.
Talks about Talks is a form of pressure for the government and a source of hope for the people.
It is a form of pressure because because the government can no longer tell the world that “we are willing
to talk but we don’t know what to talk about and who to talk to”.
It creates hope for the people because they can see that the table is set and they can stand up to force the
government to come to the party.
Right now many people cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and this makes it difficult to mobilize the
masses for support.
Talks about Talks is not a Pudemo programme; it is for Swaziland. PUDEMO is not against Talks about Talks, it is
just a few individuals who have a different agenda and are bent to discrediting the organization. History will soon
judge them though.
I am happy that the majority of civil society organizations have embraced the initiative.
As stated above, there are people opposed to the Talks about Talks and there are people who support the
initiative even within the current leadership of PUDEMO .
The majority of the founding members of Pudemo, including Masuku support Talks about Talks.
Pudemo was formed with the intention of restoring national democracy and once that is done, Pudemo would have
achieved its goal and the people of Swaziland will decide what they desire after that.
If they want socialism, communism, a republic or a federal state; they will have the liberty to decide under
conditions where they have full rights and responsibilities.
This is not the time and place to confuse our people about all the myriad of possible solutions but it is time
to focus on resolving the national democracy question.
In its founding documents Pudemo stated that Swaziland needed a constitutional non-executive monarch and that
politics be the preserve of an elected body that is accountable to the electorate.
I don’t believe that Pudemo has moved from this position.
It is however true that the voices calling for the monarchy to be abolished are becoming louder and louder, not
only within Pudemo but also without.
This, I believe is as a result of the view that the monarchy is intransigent and insensitive to the call for
democratization and the longer it takes for monarchy to heed this call the more difficult it will become for Pudemo
to ignore these voices and to sustain its position for a constitutional non-executive monarch.
The political environment is becoming more complex. For example, Mario’s call for a constitutional monarch on
May Day 2011 was received with mixed feelings from some quarters and anyone in his shoes would have to think twice
before making such a public call again unless the monarchy begins to play ball.
The government is actually making it more difficult for Pudemo to sustain this call by resisting even the most
noble of initiatives as Talks about Talks.
That said, it is natural for other political parties to mushroom and this is the spirit of multiparty
Lesotho boasts of over 20 political parties and we celebrate this. The important factor is that people choose the
party that they believe in. Briefcase parties will also mushroom and we should also celebrate their existence.
The parties that will survive are those that appeal to the people.
The law of natural attrition will take its course and weaker parties will be eliminated.
In terms of bargaining strength, parties can always come together on certain principles to increase their
bargaining strength. For example the SUDF is such a formation.
A body like the Constituent Assembly of Civil Society that brings together all parties and non-governmental
organizations also provides a power house in terms of bargaining strength.
At the heart of the political question in Swaziland is the position of the monarchy in a democracy.
It is internationally accepted that the only way that a monarchy can be made to co-exist with a democracy is if the
monarchy becomes non-executive as is the case in the United Kingdom.
The current constitution of the Kingdom does little if at all to minimize the executive powers of the monarchy
and it is largely for this reason that it is rejected.
The constitution was crafted such that the executive powers of the monarchy are reaffirmed and protected.
Some people have argued that the existence of a constitution makes the monarch constitutional. Yes, that may be
true but the issue is about a constitutional non-executive monarch.
Compromises can be made for the monarch to co-exist with a democracy. The constitution must distinguish the role
of the monarch as Ingwenyama and Head of State but not head of government.
Ideally, Ingwemyama would play the guardianship role where it would provide guidance and opinion to the
The role to govern must be given to an elected body that bears full representivity and accountability to the
Ingwenyama would act on the advice of the elected body to appoint a Prime Minister who in turn would appoint
his/her cabinet and govern as mandated by the elected House of Parliament.
Ingwenyama would receive reports on how the country is governed through the Senate which would be a house
established to advise the elected House on matters of tradition but will not vote on Bills.
Ingwenyama would open Parliament as a ceremonial gesture, would preside over all cultural events such as
Incwala, Umhlanga, Lusekwane etc.; would receive dignitaries and ambassadors to the country and many other roles as
will be resolved during the negotiations.
Progressives must take over Parliament and other Strategic Institution
There is no doubt that Swaziland has to democratize. His Majesty knows it, the Prime Minister knows it and all
advisors to His Majesty know it.
The strategy is brinkmanship and to buy time whilst they continue to accumulate.
The case of Swaziland is exactly like what happened in Tsarist Russia in early 1900.
The progressives asked for a constitution and the Tsar introduced one that was not acceptable and the
progressives boycotted the elections of the first parliament (Duma May-July 1906) but some defied the boycott and
participated winning a significant number of seats.
The Tsar was no longer having a free reign and promptly dissolved the First Duma after 73 days.
The Czar called another election for the Second Duma and intimidated the progressives to give up their seats but
this did not help The Second Duma only lasted 3 months (March-June 1907) and was also dissolved. This planted the
seeds of the revolution.
The Czar tightened the rules and made sure that no progressives could be elected into the Duma.
This seemed to work for the Third Duma ((1907-1912) and Fourth Duma (1912-1917) until the Fourth Duma defied him
and passed a vote no confidence at the beginning of 1917.
In a nutshell, one can argue that the Duma played a crucial role in shifting the balance of power in Russia.
For Swaziland to change something similar must take place. The progressives must take over that parliament and all
institutions of power to tilt the balance of power to their advantage.
The politics of boycott is taking this country nowhere. Instead it gives the regime a free reign over the people
The year 2013 must be a turning point; progressives must take over that parliament and make the country
They must also take over all the local councils and use them to advance people’s power at local level.
This government does not have a mandate from the populace to govern. Individuals have different mandates to take to
parliament and they cannot implement these mandates as individuals.
If I come from KaShewula, I will promise a road but when I get to parliament I will not receive support from
representatives of KaBhudla because they also need a road.
The Tinkhundla form of democracy represents thinking of 17th century in Europe and it is embarrassing that we
still think like Europeans 300 years ago.
It is for this reason that democracy has evolved to multiparty democracy because political parties have a
programme for the whole country whilst individuals have a programme for their own little places without
understanding the bigger picture.
The pamphlets written in the 80s have done a lot to develop this country.
They called for better roads, free primary education, pension for the elderly etc. These are some of the
benefits of political parties even though they are banned.
A Borderless Southern Africa
Swaziland is lucky because of its proximity to Africa’s largest economy i.e. South Africa.
Swaziland must stop competing with South Africa e.g. the Sikhuphe airport but must look at its own strengths and
how to position itself such that it can benefit from South Africa’s growth.
The simplest solution is to seek closer political and economic integration with South Africa by removing the
borders. Europe has no borders and states still exist as sovereign states and there is a free movement of people
Swaziland and Lesotho must do the same with South Africa.
The political economy of this question is bigger than I would find time and space to prosecute in here and
Right now we have the loan issue with South Africa. Nobody can give a loan without conditions.
If you go to the bank for a loan they would check your history and if they do not think you have the capability
to repay the loan they will not give it to you or they will ask you to change the way you manage your affairs.
This is what is happening to Swaziland. South Africa and the IMF are saying there is something wrong with the
way you manage your finances and before we can give you a loan you must change.
South Africa is more precise, to manage the public purse you must be accountable and therefore Swaziland must
show some element of accountability in the manner in which the funds are managed.
This can only happen if governance is transparent and democratic. Any lender must worry about whether if there
is regime change the next regime will honour the loan agreement with this current regime.