The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) fully support the ongoing protests by the people of Eswatini who are demanding an end to King Mswati III’s absolute monarchy.
By late May, and the beginning of June, a wave of revolt brew in Eswatini. This revolt, embodied in the words of Frantz Fanon, is proof that people revolt not because of a particular culture, but “simply because they can no longer breath.”
Since its establishment in 1973, the absolute monarch created this condition whereby “people can no longer breath” by banning political parties and giving birth to monarchical dictatorship. The political, economic, and social ramifications of this dictatorship have been too much on both the professional elite, and ordinary people of Eswatini. Hence its widespread unpopularity.
The King has been in charge of the political machinery. Parliament represent nothing but the conveyor belt of his interests, and a rubberstamp of his desires and decisions. Members of parliament who dare hold a different view, have been subjected to political isolation and intimidation. Testament of this lie with the fact that critical members of parliament have gone into hiding in the course of the ongoing protest.
The extend to which the people of Eswatini have grown tired of the current political system ― absolute monarchy ― is borne witness by their determination to fight against all odds. Faced with two threats; that of Covid-19, and that of brutalization by the king’s military, the ordinary working people have defied curfews in what is clearly a revolutionary decree: ‘we extinguish the system, or it extinguishes us.’
The Eswatini Youth Congress reported by Wednesday (30 June 2021) that about 21 people have already lost their lives in the protest at the hands of police and soldiers. Several other videos have also surfaced showing soldiers beating ordinary people from their houses, and in other instances, protestors.
Perhaps attempts to shutdown internet were motivated by a desire to impede people from broadcasting these acts of violence that are currently meted, without success, at pro-democracy protestors. Like in totalitarian dictatorships, brutality is not just a feature of this protest, but has abound the people of Eswatini for the past 48 years of King’s dictatorship.
The 2018 report on Gross Human Rights Violations in Eswatini, showed that the Eswatini state police have been responsible for “assault of workers” and “suspects dying in police custody” amongst others. Even the current wave of protests for democracy have been sparked by suspected foul play of police in the death of a law student, Thabani Nkomonye.
King Mswati III has also been criticized for monopolising economic opportunities, and using the natural resources of Eswatini to accumulate personal wealth, and live an opulent life at the expense of the ordinary people who are languishing poverty.
In 2014, it was reported that he increased his annual family budget to $64 million, whilst 63% of the population lived on $1 per day. In 2019 when he had household membership of 23 people (wives and children), based on the overall $64 million household budget, it meant each member of the household lived on $7 623 per day. Indeed, the opulence of few explains the poverty of the many!
This whooping average expenditure per person in King Mswati III’s household, is best represented in his extravagant outings, expensive fleet of cars, expensive clothing, etc.
It is therefore within the rights of the people of Eswatini to resist this monarchy for the many untold state violence it has meted against the dissent, and economic impoverishment of the majority. The hypocritical liberal democratic governments across the globe and other international bodies, have turned a blind eye against the King’s human rights abuses, just as they have turned their eyes blind at the atrocities of Israel apartheid in Palestine, and other imperialist advances in Latin America, Middle East, South East Asia and Africa.
Whilst we support these protests unconditionally, and acknowledge the multi-class character of those in revolt, the working class must squeeze maximum concessions out of this struggle. The left radical trade unions, and the socialist/communist organisations, must throw themselves to the head of the movement in order to ensure pro-poor and socialist state machinery emerges out of this struggle for democratization of Eswatini.
Lessons from South Africa have shown that transforming a framework of political administration (government) alone, without changing the fundamental property ownership patterns will trap the previously marginalised in a marginalised condition. In order to ensure that those economic magnates like Maloma Colliery, in which ANC’s Chancellor House co-owns with King Mswati III, benefit the people as whole, the economic policies must change fundamentally. Those commanding heights of the economy must be nationalized under worker control.