Statement to mark its 28th anniversary.
PUDEMO Celebrates 28 years of unbroken struggle
July 6th marks a very significant day in the political history and struggle of Swaziland. This is the day when the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) was formed.
Born of the genuine desire of the ordinary people of Swaziland to return the country to democratic rule, guided by the courageous and visionary pioneers of this glorious movement of the people, PUDEMO emerged as the lone voice to challenge the regime when it was unfashionable, dangerous and treasonous to question the authority of the ruling elite. It was therefore no surprise that in 1990 the leadership of PUDEMO was arrested by the regime and charged with treason for “conspiring to overthrow the government”; with cde Mario Masuku being accused number 1.
Over the years the movement has inspired thousands of our people to stand up and challenge the regime. The workers, the students, the churches, women and many other organisations are today able to face the tinkhundla regime because of the role that has been played by PUDEMO in demonstrating that the future of the country belongs to those who are prepared to fight for it. In this regard, PUDEMO salutes all those who have heeded the call for multiparty democracy and have taken to the streets to demand freedom.
This has not been easy: in the process many of our members have been arrested, tortured, exiled and even killed. Some have been evicted from their communities and displaced. But this has not deterred the movement from its historic task of uniting the people of Swaziland in the struggle for democracy. Today, despite the many attempt by the undemocratic state’s machinery to create a picture of a movement whose culture is embedded in terrorists tendencies and influenced by foreign elements; many people in our country believe and agree with us that the ideas we have propagated since July 6 1983 are correct and must be embraced. Our people have embraced the general principles for which the movement stands. In their own constituencies and in their own programmes they espouse the values, goals and objectives contained in the People’s Manifesto.
Without the courageous and resilient leaders who have led this movement in difficult times we would not be celebrating this day. Its time to celebrate yes; but the struggle is not yet over. The regime has plunged the country into deeper economic crisis, poverty continues to ravage our people, the education and health systems have collapsed, unemployment soaring and HIV AIDS eating up our beloved nation.
As an immediate response to this crisis, PUDEMO is putting in place Policy Alternatives for a Democratic Swaziland, as a new platform to rally our people towards a practical alternative that will guarantee the majority a better life. These policies will focus on clarifying our positions on key priority areas: economic planning and development, education and training, health and social welfare, rural development and agriculture, international relations and cooperation; and traditional affairs.
Without the support of our international friends, our movement would not be known today as it is in many countries of the world. We salute those internationalists who while they could have chosen to indulge in the enjoyment of their freedoms in their different countries; have taken it upon themselves to be with us in the trenches as we seek freedom for our people.
PUDEMO recommits itself to fighting side by side with all progressive forces of our country until our liberation is achieved. In this regard, PUDEMO calls for more unity in the trade union movement, civic organisations, the youth, church formations, business, the women and all strata of our society for all of us to be able to chart a common way forward to rescue our country out of the messy socio-political crisis that the tinkhundla regime has plunged the country into. In doing so we must always be guided by the core demands of our struggle underlined by the unbanning of political parties.
With the regime in the current crisis the international community must play its part in assisting the democratisation process by putting strict conditions to any assistance and bailout that is given to the regime. These conditions may include but not be limited to:
· Unbanning of political parties
· Convening of an all-inclusive and genuine National dialogue forum to discuss the modalities towards the ultimate drafting of the country’s democratic constitution
· Creation of an environment conducive to effective genuine negotiations through the removal of all laws that militate against free political activity, the rights to organise and associate on the basis of political views and interests. In this regard, the removal of the Suppression of terrorism Act and other such laws remain a major condition
· Independent judiciary and media
· End to royal extravagance, patronage and corruption, as well as the general abuse of state resources
· Unconditional return of all exiles and the full and effective participation of all the people in the process leading towards the putting in place of a new and democratic system in the country
These 28 years that have gone by have allowed the movement to learn, falter and grow. Through harsh experiences, painful and sometimes bleak moments the people’s movement has survived. All of us owe it to our heroes who have sacrificed their all to shape the movement we now call PUDEMO. All of us, all who love freedom and democracy, all who are genuine friends and allies of the people, must protect this movement from attacks aimed at destabilising it for it is only this movement that is the hope for our people. We have a duty to do this in honour of those on whose footsteps we walk; men and women who so loved our country so much so that they withstood all the harassment and laying down their lives for the cause.
In their honour we dip our banners…
Dominic Mngomezulu, David Mngomezulu, Dumsani “Shosholoza” Khoza, Malcolm Dlamini, Bonginhlanhla BG Gama, Africa Magongo, Mboniswa Simelane, Dr Gabriel Mkhumane, Percy Malinga, Benedict Tsabedze, Jerry Tsabedze, Bhutana Nkonde, Khanyisile Dlamini, Mandla Dlamini, Musa MJ Dlamini, Ncane Skhondze, Alex Nkambule, Pat Sigwane, Sipho ka-Gumede, Thobile Dlamini, Sipho Jele and many other sons and daughters of our country, gallant fighters of our people; heroes and heroines of the nation.
Through the years PUDEMO has learnt that the liberation struggle is not an event but a long journey that needs careful, patient engagements. Like a camel crossing the desert, PUDEMO is ready and willing to go all the distance. Emerging out of the 7th General Congress, this phase has been characterised as the time
“To build a national momentum in our advance to democracy”
And indeed this momentum is taking shape and in marching together in unity on this last mile to freedom, victory is certain and it wont be long-our country will be free!
Issued on behalf of PUDEMO NEC: