By Zwelethu Dlamini
Uncompromising eSwatini political parties under the banner of Political Parties Assembly (PPA) have unanimously resolved that the Friday mass protest scheduled to take place in Manzini will continue.
This is despite that it coincided with King Mswati III’s call of the nation to Sibaya at Ludzidzini Royal Residence on the same day.
The PPA said since they announced the mass protest march before the king called Sibaya and preparations were at an advanced stage, they could not cancel or postpone the protest. Instead, they called on the nation to come in their numbers to attend the ‘peaceful mass protest for freedom’ to be held in Manzini on Friday from 9 am.
They also made a host of reasons why people should not go to Sibaya and opt for the protest. People’s Democratic Movement (Pudemo) President, Mlungisi Makhanya, said the assembly met on Tuesday and on Wednesday where the parties took note of the announcement of Sibaya but resolved that there was no reason for calling off the planned march.
He said they remained resolute to the proposed transition which they made with the broad stakeholders.
The march was called by the PPA after the massacre which cost the lives of over 60 people and hundreds hospitalised and injured by the armed security forces.
He then invited emaSwati to come in their numbers to the march to call for political reforms and also honour those who have been killed.
“We call upon students, workers, the church and the elderly, those who lost their relatives and those whose relatives were injured to honour them by calling for justice and freedom,” he said.
Makhanya said Sibaya forum had proven futile in the past as none of the issues raised by emaSwati there were addressed. He made an example of the one held in 2012.
“People issued a vote of no confidence in the then prime minister and his cabinet calling that it should be dissolved but that fell on deaf ears.
Furthermore, those who made submissions which were against the government and the monarchy were later victimised by the police. One such is an elderly Mkhaliphi man from Vuvulane, we all know what happened to him after his critical submissions,” he said.
Makhanya said the fact that the Sibaya was called on a day when the ongoing fact-finding mission by the SADC Troika is scheduled to take place was meant to sabotage the Troika team’s intervention which is aimed at bringing a lasting solution.
“After the massacre the king did not send condolences to the bereaved families and yet it is believed that he was the one who issued the order to shoot to kill the protestors and now he is calling people to Sibaya. The dialogue that we seek is one that will be facilitated by a neutral external body,” he said.
He also stated that they were against going to the Sibaya because of the current COVID-19 pandemic’s third wave.
He noted that the cases were growing exponentially and thus they view the Sibaya as one of the super-spreader events.
He also recalled that several emaSwati who attended the Incwala ceremony are believed to have contracted the coronavirus at the event and later died during the second wave between December 2020 and January this year.
“Calling people to assembly in the cattle byre is irresponsible and would spread the virus. On the other hand, the march will be held observing the COVID-19 regulations. Protestors will be wearing masks and social distance will be observed,” he added.
Makhanya said they were not expecting the police and the army to provoke the peaceful protestors who will not vandalize property, not looting and unarmed.
Echoing the Pudemo chief’s words, Ngwane National Liberation Congress (NNLC) Secretary General, Moses Ndlela, said they support the protest and are against Sibaya.
“We don’t understand why the king can call Sibaya while we’re awaiting SADC facilitation and the fact-finding mission. We’ve been there in the past and people called for the unbanning of political parties but that proved futile as none of the issues were addressed nor the submissions acted upon. Instead, the system promoted corruption and dictatorship. We’ll never again allow a dictator and/or a Goliath,” he said.
The Economic Freedom Fighters of Swaziland (EEFS) President, Nombulelo Motsa said according to the tradition a bereaved person is not allowed to go near the king hence it was not clear why emaSwati who are grieving following the massacre are expected to assembly at Sibaya with the king.
Swaziland People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General Themba Dlamini said summoning the people on a day that they are set to go on a protest march was an indication that the PPA was undermined. He said the people did not want to go to Sibaya, rather wanted answers to their petitions and wanted to know when those who killed the unarmed protestors would be arrested.
“The protests of June 28 were an indication of anger among the people if the issues they raised in the petitions are not addressed. We’re likely to see more property vandalised,” he said.
Similar sentiments were shared by Communist Party of Swaziland (CPS) national chairperson Dumisani Fakudze and Swaziland Democratic Party (Swadepa)’s Elliott Mkhatshwa.
The PPA’s boycott of Sibaya is going to be an acid test of King Mswati III’s power and popularity among emaSwati.