THE PERILS OF OUR STRUGGLE: ‘Too many chiefs and not enough Indians’

When the South African Communist Party came up with the phrase ‘Colonisation of a special type’ it was to distinguish the peculiarity of the South African struggle as not being the conventional colonisation but a case of having both the colonised and coloniser coexisting in the same place. 

It was, in some way, an acknowledgement of the complexity of their case when juxtaposed with other fights for liberations and/or independence in other countries. Unlike in South Africa, elsewhere in the continent the national question, and subsequent paths to solutions, were sort of made easy by the clear fault lines of a white community with no long term interests to settle permanently in the colonised country. In fact, in various parts of the continent, the colonial government would grant independence and then leave whereas in South Africa the settler white community was permanently going to be stationed in the country even after independence.

Absent of all the above, and compounded by the independent status, it means the eSwatini struggle is even more complicated and understandably difficult to prosecute and will be susceptible to a lot of ‘trial and errors’. 

Even with this in mind, there are still virtues that ought to be fundamental for the successful prosecution of any struggle. These virtues must be sacrosanct and indispensable even to our own (struggle). One such virtue is unity. Unity is strength and lifeblood to our case. It entails effective leadership and being amenable to be led from time to time or every time. 

It is the lack of unity and the demonstrable refusal to be led that we must tackle head on at some point, even at the risk of being misconstrued to be throwing the proverbial spanner in the apparently 'well oiled' wheel of the revolution. But it should be a risk worth taking than to possibly deal with the daunting consequences when the façade, if it is one, finally explodes in the future. By the way, the perils of disunity are as old as the struggle itself and predate many activists, but for a much clearer perspective it is the contemporary we ought to examine.

When the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) was formed in early 2012, it was in part a response to unnecessary fragmentation in the workers' movement in the country. To date, it is one of the most mature and noble initiatives by the progressive forces since it not only brought together workers from different industries and political affiliations but also meant collapsing already existing federations into one. Even with the nobility and advantages of the projects glaringly clear, it was not smooth sailing to ending up with a unified workers' voice. 

During the honeymoon period of the federation, one affiliate unofficially withheld its subscriptions for unclear reasons. It would later emerge that a very senior and influential leader was suspicious of the true agenda of the federation owing to the fact that it was a brainchild of worker leaders who were known PUDEMO members! After protracted discussions, a consensus of sorts was reached. Sadly, this was not to be the only attempt aimed at scuppering efforts to build and consolidate unity most ironically within the labour movement. 

In spite of making everything to ensure that the founding structures of the federation were as ‘representative’ and accommodative of the broader unions to be amalgamated, the Amalgamated Trade Union of Swaziland’s (ATUSWA) attempts were not without its fair share of drama. A few unions eventually pulled out of the amalgamation ostensibly for some unintelligible concerns.

Perhaps the most glaring sign of ambivalence towards consolidation of and subsequent unification of progressive forces was during the consultation process running up to the formation of the Swaziland United Democratic Front (SUDF) in 2008. The SUDF was meant to be as a coalition for pro-democracy groups including students, workers and the church. 

 In one of the consultative meetings in Lydenburg, South Africa, a representative of Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations (SCCCO) couldn’t commit his organisation citing a necessary consultation with their leadership of fearing a possible duplication of mandates between his organisation and then to-be-formed SUDF. 

It came to pass that when the SUDF was eventually founded in 2008, SCCCO was not part it. The current status of SCCCO is unclear as is the relationship and fraternity between the Swaziland United Democratic Front and the Swaziland Crisis Multi - Stakeholder Forum and the Political Party Assembly.