Supporting the Swaziland Solidarity Network is one thing the ANC Youth League has managed to get right. As the SSN prepares mass demonstrations in Swaziland for 18 March, however, the ANCYL’s violent rhetoric is not doing them any good. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
We aren’t in the habit of praising the actions of the ANC Youth League. They don’t often give us cause to heap them with accolades. But their early support of the Swaziland Solidarity Network is a single bright spark in the organisation’s recent history, as the ANC Youth League is a founding member of the SSN, a coalition of civil society organisations committed to democracy in Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy.
The SSN is supporting a mass uprising on Friday 18 March in Swaziland, where government employees and students will take to the streets to protest against the Swazi government. According to an SSN statement posted on Cosatu’s website, a petition will be delivered to the government demanding an end to the mismanagement of public funds which they say is contributing to the country’s worsening economic situation.
“The main organisers of the march are The Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS), Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Swaziland Nurses Associations (SNA) among others. All workers in the country are expected to stay away from work and all students will not attend classes as the country will ground (sic) to a halt.”
The Youth League published a statement of its own on 16 March, expressing support for the uprising in a rather robust manner. They promised to meet the Swazi government’s violence with violence of their own.
“The ANC Youth League would like to specifically caution the Swaziland monarchy and its security forces that if they unleash violence against their own people which leads to the loss of life, we will intervene with even more radical and militant ways of ensuring that there is democracy, peace and freedom in Swaziland,” the ANCYL said in its statement. “The ANC Youth League will employ whatever mechanism available to make sure that the people of Swaziland are liberated, including active border blockades, radical mass protests inside Swaziland and all sorts of campaigns to ensure that anything that is associated with the Swaziland monarchy is isolated in South Africa and the world.
“The people of Swaziland, like all other people of the oppressed world who have recently liberated themselves, should be allowed the freedom to raise their voices against injustices of the monarchy,” said the ANCYL.
The tension is already in the air. SSN spokesman Lucky Lukhele said media from South Africa would be sneaking into Swaziland on Thursday if they blocked at the Swazi border on Friday. Lukhele said he did not anticipate any support from the Swazi media, as they “are a part of the system”. eNews Channel confirmed it was sending a journalist to cover the protest.
Lukhele said he fully expected the Swazi government to react with violence to the protests. “Isn’t that how dictators act? We will always expect a dictator to be a dictator.”
The Swazi army has been reportedly stockpiling weapons for a while now, with a possible purpose of quelling internal dissent.
The ANCYL was unavailable for comment on what actions the Youth League would take to intervene against the violence of the Swazi government. We’re guessing that “militant intervention” would constitute a sharply-worded press statement.
The Youth League started off fantastically by supporting an organisation fighting for democracy in a country that literally has none of it in any shape or form. Threatening militant action (wouldn’t this sort of thing fall in the realm of international law, anyway?) is something of a return to form after the brief genius moment.
The protest supported by the SSN isn’t the to be supported in Swaziland. Perhaps frightened by the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the Swazi government may revert to an extreme form of violence in this instance, instead of just arresting the organisers, as it did in the past. We sincerely hope not, but anything is possible in a dictatorship. DM
- SSN statement on Swazi uprising on Cosatu website;
- ANCYL statement at ANCYL Media;
- Swaziland: even Zim elections were better in the Mail & Guardian;
- Swaziland: elusive dream of media freedom in Free African Media.
Photo: Julius Malema. (Reuters)