Ordinary Swazis spoke their mind based on their personal daily experiences at Swaziland’s first People’s Dialogue.
Rural farmers spoke on the need for security of tenure of the land they occupy and farm; people spoke against the unchecked powers of the chiefs and other traditional structures, whose arbitrary actions can infringe on the rights of the citizens.
Musa Hlophe, of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisation (SCCCO), one of the groups that organised the People’s Dialogue last Saturday (18 July 2009) said that as well as farmers Swaziland’s youth took the opportunity to set out their needs in the modern Swaziland.
Writing in the Times Sunday today, Holphe says, ‘The youth demanded to be given space in the affairs of their motherland. They decried the fact that, at the moment, national resources were being spent propping up a group of young conservatives, who are not in touch with issues confronting young people in the country.
‘Young people called for political spaces in shaping their country’s destiny. Young people also spoke about those things that threaten the future, i.e. drug abuse, HIV / AIDS, and other social ills.’
The People’s Dialogue covered a number of issues of importance in Swaziland today including gender equality, child sexual abuse, and human rights generally.
‘There was a clear understanding that human rights are God given and that no one has the right to withhold them from citizens, who rightly deserved to enjoy them,’ Hlophe said.
In Swaziland basic freedoms are severely threatened including of assembly, association and free expression.
To underline this fact, two people were arrested at the People’s Dialogue itself and charged with offences under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. One was alleged to have chanted political slogans and the other wore a T-shirt supporting the banned People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).
Hlophe said, ‘It is obvious that they [the police who made the arrests] were acting on behalf of their political masters in government.’
To read Hlophe’s full report on the People’s Dialogue click here.