During an official visit to Denmark in mid-June, President of the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) in Swaziland, Mario Masuku, met with the speaker of the Danish parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mogens Lykketoft, and several other Danish MP’s, whom he urged to increase the pressure on Swaziland’s undemocratic regime.
Mogens Lykketoft referred to PUDEMO as the “leading democratic movement in Swaziland” in a press release, where he also spoke of “possibilities of stronger pressure coming from especially South Africa and the EU regarding freedom of speech and organisation, and a process that would allow the poverty stricken country a democratic constitution.”
“I was very pleased to be able to meet Mogens Lykketoft and the other Danish MP’s, and have discussions with several political parties in Denmark,” Masuku told me. “Swaziland is famous for all the wrong things. For having the highest aids-prevalence in the world, for nearly 70% of the population having to live on under 1$ a day, and for being the country in the world that spends most on the military per capita, even though we have no external enemies.”
The support for absolute monarch King Mswati III’s repressive and undemocratic regime is dwindling, says Mario Masuku, who pointed to the campaign for boycotting elections led by PUDEMO as one of the ways to reveal the lack of support for Swaziland’s absolute monarchy amongst the population.
“The national elections in Swaziland are not free and fair,” Mario Masuku says “We have therefore decided not to participate in them, but to instead educate civic society and individuals on what democratic and non-democratic elections are and on the fundamental rights of the population.”
The registering process for Swaziland’s general elections in September are underway and there is immense pressure on those eligible to vote to register. People have been offered bribes to register twice according to the Elections and Boundaries Commission, cabinet ministers and the sole mobile phone company in Swaziland, MTN, which has Swaziland’s absolute monarch as a major shareholder, is giving presents to those who register, and many people who fail to register are threatened with eviction by their local chief.
Nevertheless, only half of the electorate are expected to register and even less to actually come out and vote on election day. Only half of the population eligible to vote did so at the last election in 2008, and the proportion of the population who vote in elections has been falling steadily since independence.
Instead of the present undemocratic and corrupt Tinkundla election system, where absolute monarch king Mswati III chooses the cabinet and Prime Minister, as well as a large proportion of the Senate, and has full control over Swaziland’s coffers and armed forces, PUDEMO are fighting for a truly democratic society for Swaziland, says Mario Masuku.
“PUDEMO envisages a united country that has a transparent, accountable, culturally vibrant and economically sustainable government, and a country where all political parties work together with civil society for a prosperous and free democratic Swaziland”, Masuku says.
“We believe that our liberation will be done by ourselves. But in order to pressurize the present undemocratic regime into a democratising process, PUDEMO and the democratic movement in Swaziland need the support of the European Union,” he insists..
“The EU has a role to play in insuring that all partnership agreements between Swaziland and the EU are respected, such as the Cotonou agreement. And we are also calling on the EU to observe the elections now, not in September, because pressure is being put on people now, the rights of the people are being violated now”.
Asked what he believed the time-frame is for the democratisation of Swaziland, Masuku said he was cautiously optimistic. “I believe we will see the breakthrough in our lifetime. I and PUDEMO have laid a brick in the building of a multistory structure. Others will continue, we are all in there together.”
By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact / Red Green Alliance
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