One of Swaziland’s foremost pro-democracy groups has called on governments and activists across Africa to support the campaign for freedom in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III.
The Swaziland Solidarity Network (SSN) made the call ahead of a Mobilising International Solidarity for the Democratisation of Swaziland conference in Johannesburg on Saturday (29 July 2017).
SSN spokesperson Lucky Lukhele told News 24 Africa needed to be leading the fight for democracy in Swaziland where King Mswati rules as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.
Lukhele told the news station, ‘Before we go to Europe, Africa must take its part in liberating the people of Swaziland. We are dealing with a monarch system in Swaziland, therefore, democracy is not going to be given on a silver platter. It’s not going to be easy to achieve democracy in that country we need solidarity.’
Swaziland has been condemned for many years by international freedom watchdogs. Political parties cannot contest elections and all groups, including SSN, that advocate for democracy are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act (STA).
In 2014 the United States withdrew trading privileges from Swaziland under the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) because the kingdom had not fulfilled all the requirements of the programme, including respect for human rights.
The US wanted Swaziland to implement the full passage of amendments to the Industrial Relations Act; full passage of amendments to the STA; full passage of amendments to the Public Order Act; full passage of amendments to sections 40 and 97 of the Industrial Relations Act relating to civil and criminal liability to union leaders during protest actions; and establishing a code of conduct for the police during public protests.
Amnesty International in April 2015 renewed its criticism of Swaziland for the ‘continued persecution of peaceful political opponents and critics’ by the King and his authorities.
The human rights organisation called for both the STA and the Sedition and Subversive Activities Act (SSAA) to be scrapped or drastically rewritten.
It said the Swazi authorities were using the Acts, ‘to intimidate activists, further entrench political exclusion and to restrict the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.’
The one-day conference is hosted by the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), probably the best-known of the pro-democracy organisations in Swaziland. It is also banned under the STA. PUDEMO invited a number of organizations based in South Africa and internationally, among others the South Africa Communist Party, the trade union federation, COSATU, and the African National Congress (ANC).
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