In November 2021, the Eswatini government committed to a “National Dialogue” to SADC. Since then nothing has happened. The press release below, by the Multi-Stakeholder Forum sheds light on the latest developments and current situation:

Press Release

August 31, 2022

We, the leaders of the Swaziland Mass Democratic Movement (SMDM), under the umbrella of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum [MSF] have noted the briefing by King Mswati III on his return from the SADC meeting held in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC].

We note that the King has reported that he informed the leadership of the Southern African Development Community [SADC] in the DRC that the problem facing the nation is only a security issue. The issue affecting the nation is more than just a security concern; it is fundamentally a political question. The security issue arises from the political problem, which is the lack of and absence of democratic governance in the country. The security issue can and will never be resolved without addressing the political question. The security instability is but a symptom of a sickness of our politics. SADC cannot resolve the Swaziland crisis by addressing symptoms and not the crux of the crisis.

The King should stop misleading his peers in SADC by avoiding to face the real issue and to find a lasting solution to the political question. It is troubling that the King continues to reduce the political and socio-economic crisis facing the country to only the narrow issue of security concerns. We are deeply concerned that the King continues to be in denial that the challenges facing the country are political and require a committed, and structured political solution.

We also note that the posture that the King has adopted is a complete departure from the commitment he made in November 2021 in his meeting with the then Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, His Excellency President Ramaphosa, that as a people we “will embark on a process that will work towards the establishment of a national dialogue forum.” The conditions as they existed in November last year in relation to the political impasse, still exist today. The commitment that was made between the King and President Ramaphosa is still effective despite the change in the leadership of the Organ.

Panel of Elders

While we welcome the initiative of the Panel of Elders and the decision to send yet another a fact-finding mission of the Elders, we will impress on the SADC not to re-invent the wheel. The process has to proceed along the lines set out in the “DRAFT FRAMEWORK FOR INCLUSIVE MULTI-STAKEHOLDER NATIONAL DIALOGUE IN THE KINGDOM OF ESWATINI.” It is our view that the Draft Framework provides a good foundation for the discussions on the national dialogue to start. The delay has no justification; except that the King is buying time to delay the inevitable.

Despite the dilly-dallying by the King, we at the MSF are resolved that we will continue with community dialogues to prepare the nation for the all-inclusive political national dialogue, and NOT the monologue of Sibaya. We will continue to empower, galvanise, and mobilise the people to rise and continue to demand the democratisation of Swaziland through a negotiated settlement. We will impress on the SADC leaders and the globe to be in solidarity with our struggle for democracy. We will continue to demand that the King and Government must stop lamenting the insecurity in the country and create an environment conducive to dialogue and negotiation.

We will not stop insisting that:

1. A climate of peace that is conducive to dialogue, negotiation and engagement be immediately created without undue delay, including the unconditional release of the arrested Members of Parliament, Honourable Mduduzi Bacede MABUZA & Mthandeni DUBE, and all other political prisoners as well as a safe passage and return home of all exiles.

2. That the King and government immediately starts the process of dialogue without unnecessary delay.

3. That the SADC impress on the King to make an unequivocal commitment to the peaceful resolution of the political crisis.

We will continue with our programme of action on:

– Mass mobilisation

– Organising and coordinating

– Community civic education and empowerment

– Engaging in community dialogues on the future of Swaziland by integrating the MSF Founding Principles, Values and Objectives, the Boksburg Declaration and the Terms of Reference for the Swaziland/Eswatini National Dialogue.

The people have crossed the Rubicon

We, at the MSF have noted that the large number of the young Swazi girls and their parents have taken the conscientious decision to stay away from the annual royal reed dance activities. Similar to the June 29 holiday, this is yet another clear indication that we, the people have indeed crossed the Rubicon. The people have reached the point of no return. The people are claiming back their dignity. This is a decisive vote of no-confidence on the tinkhundla regime and the leadership of the King. The abuse of culture, tradition and custom to sustain the oppressive royal tinkhundla regime has again been exposed. The King and his regime must accept that the people have lost faith in his leadership. We have long said that the King and the tinkhundla have lost all legitimacy and credibility in the eyes and minds of the Swazi nation.

While as a people we love our culture, time and again it has long become clear that culture has been abused and used as a tool of oppression. The refusal by the young maidens and their parents to participate in the reed dance is an indication that the tinkhundla royal regime and the King have lost the confidence of the nation. They have lost all manner of legitimacy.

Gender-based violence

We also note that the young maidens were summoned to participate in the reed dance activities at a time when the king faces serious allegations of domestic violence and physical abuse against Inkhosikati LaMbikiza. We recall that this is not the first time that allegations of abuse have surfaced against the King. Such allegations emerged around the abuse by the King against Inkhosiati La-Dube [may her soul rest in peace].

It is deeply concerning that the Head of State should be accused of such a heinous crime of gender-based violence at a time when the country is faced with a scourge of sexual, domestic and gender-based violence. The King has long failed to lead by a good example.

No doubt the political impasse has seen an increase in violence generally, thus creating a fertile ground for violence against women and girls. The King as Head of State should be on the frontline of the fight against gender-based violence, and not be a perpetrator and purveyor of violence. In a situation of conflict and political impasse violence against women increases, and the King’s actions could possibly influence such increase.

We support the call by the women’s movement and civil society organisations in general that gender-based violence is declared a national disaster. This call has fallen on the deaf ears of the Tinkhundla regime.

We as the Swaziland Mass Democratic Movement condemn in the strongest possible terms that the King is associated with being abusive against women. This is not only an affront to the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act but also an attack on the regional and international standards and human rights instruments against gender-based and domestic violence, that the country is a party to. The behaviour of the King is a frontal attack on the country’s commitment and efforts to address gender-based violence.

_____________________________

THULANI RUDOLF MASEKO

Co-Chairperson

MULTI-STAKEHOLDER FORUM [MSF]

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