Contribution of the Communist Party of Swaziland to the
Extraordinary teleconference of the IMCWP
10,11,12 December 2021
We welcome this chance to bring some points to your attention concerning the new phase of struggle in our country, Swaziland. The country was renamed Eswatini by the absolute monarch, but we retain the customary name of Swaziland.
This year saw a resurgence of demands for an end to the autocracy and the installation of a democratically elected dispensation. Swaziland is ruled by a royal autocracy. It is a dictatorship. Political parties calling for democratic change are banned. Those parties that are allowed are toothless show-pieces that are allowed to sit in parliament. And even if they call for any changes, as happened with a call by two MPs for the Prime Minister to be elected, they are immediately imprisoned.
There is no free media in Swaziland, no freedom of association. Cultural tradition centred on the absolute monarch is used to intimidate the people into abject compliance with royal diktat. Women especially suffer from this heavily repressive patriarchal system.
The resurgence of demands for democracy have largely come from the youth. Their protests have been heavily and bloodily suppressed with well over a hundred people shot dead by the army and police since June this year. Over 700 people are imprisoned without trial.
The political consciousness mobilising the protests is largely rooted in a simple desire for democratic rights. We, as the Communist party, have given much content to the campaign for democracy by placing it in the wider context of the struggle for socialism. Our slogan for the current campaign, Democracy Now!, has been widely adopted.
This is the basic overview of the situation. Time does not allow for a longer description.
But the situation is very directly related to imperialist machinations on the future of Swaziland. The United States, the European Union and even to some extent the regional organisations of governments in Africa (SADC, the AU) are trying to shape the situation in Swaziland to suit their own interests. They are not particularly interested in democracy, if it upsets their economic interests in the country. And that is a massive brake on the efforts to get rid of the dictatorship and begin a process of democratic change of progressive empowerment for our people. This is the current nature of imperialist interference in Swaziland.
So I want to use the remainder of my intervention to urge us all to take a fresh look at the idea of ‘solidarity’. We talk about it a lot, and it is the substance of very many statements and speeches. But it is largely rhetorical.
We are a long way away from the days when the Soviet Union and other socialist countries could offer tangible, substantive and ideologically useful solidarity. Organisations like the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO) were invaluable for the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle. AAPSO still exists, of course, but the difference between what it can do today and what it could do when there was the Soviet Union and other socialist countries is big.
And it was not just a matter of liberation organisations receiving material resources. It was about creating a culture of meaningful solidarity, where solidarity actions could result in moral and political pressure on reactionary governments.
As a small CP in a vanguard role amidst an intense and difficult struggle in a small country of no great strategic importance, we feel particularly the need for resurgent international solidarity. We alone are unable to put sufficient pressure on the countries of the Southern African region to take the need for democracy in Swaziland seriously. This is the case with SADC, the regional forum in Southern Africa, the African Union and individual countries. Our voice is not strong enough on it’s own to be heard, and there is much sub-textual chauvinism that downplays the importance of the struggle in Swaziland.
Our call is that the parties that take part in the IMCWP forums could usefully take a more practical stand on how international solidarity can best be developed. There are obvious constraints on what can be achieved, but we need to re-position international solidarity as a tangible and meaningful part of our common activity.
We feel, as the CPS, a particular need for this due to our own situation. But this is not a self-regarding standpoint. We see the need for it in many other contexts, across Africa and beyond. We would deeply appreciate more practical debate on how to do this, to raise the level of international solidarity into a more useful and definite tool of struggle. And we hope that this and other special meetings of the IMCWP could flesh out this very basic idea into a workable form.
When we look at the current state of imperialist aggression in very key sites: Palestine, Cuba, across North Africa, in particular. We see that the interests at play are not dissimilar to the more low key sites of interference we experience in our part of Africa. The struggle is one, though the components of it take different forms of intensity.
Our hope is that a resurgent idea of more coordinated solidarity within a CWP framework could give more substance to our work. We need to be more proactive, rather than simply responding and reacting to imperialist harm. How that can and should be done is something we need to debate fully with a view to taking this work forward.
Thokozane Kenneth Kunene
CPS General Secretary