Swaziland: New political front formed to push for multi-parties

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Feb 4 2008 15:32
Swaziland: New political front formed to push for multi-parties

3. BY MAKHOSI MAGONGO

MANZINI—A resolution to kick-start another tentative move towards political change in Swaziland was taken by political and labour organisations yesterday.

The resolution to form a political front was taken at a meeting organised by the National Constitutional Assembly at Tum's George Hotel. Over 200 participants drawn from diverse pressure groups had attended.

The ultimate mandate of the Front would be the reawakening of multi party democracy, which was banned through the 1973 Decree.

Some of the attendants of the meeting suggested that the launch of the Front could be simultaneously held with the commemoration of the 1973 Decree, on April 12. The organisations that were represented in yesterday's meeting include the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), Student organisations, the National Constitutional Assembly, Ngwane National Liberatory Congress and the African United Democratic Party (AUDP) to name but a few.

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) was also represented, but could only confirm its involvement in the front prior to a formal briefing to its membership.

As a way forward, the meeting resolved the current leaders of the NCA should proceed with the necessary groundwork required for the operationalisation of the Front. It was resolved that the current Interim committee, which includes the likes of NAPSAWU President Vincent Dlamini and attorney Thulani Maseko, would prepare the necessary paperwork and for a conference to be held in two months time. It is during the proposed conference that certain resolutions and a new executive committee of the front would be elected.

Choice

The question of the choice of people to be elected to the executive was also discussed. Part of those who made submissions felt that fresh faces could be elected, as the inclusion of some known faces could be a hindrance to successfully negotiating for meaningful change. However, the overwhelming view was that people who have been tried and tested should be considered, regardless of their affiliation.

Prior to the decision to form the front, there were a lot of views from critics as well as proponents of the political vehicle. They also examined the advantages and shortcomings of choosing a Front as opposed to an Alliance, including their relations to individual members in each political vehicle. The meeting also discussed the reasons for the failure of the Swaziland Democratic Alliance, which was formed in 1996.

Two facilitators from the Dennis Healy Peace Institute, an organisation founded by the Southern Africa Catholic Bishop's Conference, had been co-opted to assist during the meeting.

Vincent Dlamini, who is PUDEMO's National Commissar and a member of the steering committee, said they would start holding meetings this week to fine-tune the views expressed by yesterday's meeting.

"The steering committee consists of members from all the affiliated organisations. However, we were happy to see that new organisations such as the AUDP and some NGOs were represented in the meeting. We are still waiting for names of people that will represent them in the steering committee," he said.

The Swaziland Federation of Labour's Vincent Ncongwane said the main focus of the United Front is multi party democracy in Swaziland.

boycott

"Whether or not to boycott the Tinkhundla elections will be decided by the individual organisations and the conference to be held soon. What we are all in agreement on is the need for multi party democracy.

"The conference we are organising will come out with the major resolutions," he said.

Ncongwane further explained that statements made by those in leadership to the effect that Swazis are comfortable with the current system of government should be substantiated with figures, not utopian conclusions.

"Once organisations have finished discussions, we will inform government of the demand for multi party democracy," he added.

The last time a political vehicle of this nature was formed was in 1996.

Its formation was followed by the announcement of the Constitutional Review Commission. Among its first appointed members was Themba Msibi, then an executive member of the Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions, and now minister of Education.

Another was PUDEMO president Mario Masuku (declined appointment) and Dr Jerry Gule of the Institute for Democracy and leadership (Ideal).

Parliamentary elections are expected to be held this year, despite that the Elections and Boundaries Commission has not yet been appointed.