THE OUTCOME OF THE ANC´S 55TH NATIONAL CONFERENCE LEADERS REPRESENTS RENEWED HOPE FOR THE SWAZI STRUGGLE
The recent election of ANC top seven spells disaster for the Swazi regime and provides renewed hope for the liberation forces in the country. It is a known fact that within SADC Cyril Ramaphosa has been the most decisive leader demanding and pushing Mswati to give in to reforms.
Now that Ramaphosa is guaranteed a second term as South African President this automatically means Ludzidzini has a new problem. To use the cyber lingo, unenkinga lensha sha King Mswati III! Ramaphosa sees his legacy as being providing regional stability as seen by how he successfully handled the Lesotho crisis and now wants to use his second term to force the Swazi monarch into a transition to democracy through dialogue. Ramaphosa is known as the brain trust of the negotiated settlement in South Africa.
He led the transition from apartheid to democracy and was for a long term considered a negotiator par excellence. He has been using that experience to end the political crisis in Lesotho while being forceful in demanding the Swazi monarch to agree on political reforms. In the last SADC meeting, he held the monarch´s feet on top of the fire and managed to get the backing of the regional body to be firm on the Swazi crisis.
This led to the subsequent trip of Namibian President Hage Geingob to the country to follow up on the anticipated dialogue. But Ramaphosa also has a personal axe to grind with King Mswati. He holds the monarch responsible for funding the putsch surreptitiously orchestrated by Zuma to dethrone him. This putsch was allegedly launched with the failed KZN uprising last year, then the leaking of the Phalaphala scandal by Zuma´s acolytes and now the attempt at voting him out using Zweli Mkhize as a pawn.
The view is that the undermining of Ramaphosa´s Presidency is funded by the Gaddafi Billions allegedly shelled into the country by former President Zuma while he wasstill President of South Africa. It is a known fact that Billions of money that belonged to the late Libyan leader were shelled out of the country first to South Africa then Swaziland shortly after the Libyan leader was deposed.
According to several investigative reports, the hope was that the money could be used by Gaddafi to plot a comeback from exile especially after it became clear that he was on his way out of power. Given the financial controls in South Africa, the money was allegedly sent to Swaziland because the country is considered a fiefdom where Mswati has absolute authority and cannot be held accountable. In the final analysis, this country is a safe haven for top level criminality as long as the king has a piece of the cake. Zuma and Gadaffi therefore had a shared enemy in former President Thabo Mbeki.
Newly elected ANC National Chairperson
Mbeki had been a pain in the neck of Gadaffi when he vehemently opposed Gadaffi´s attempt to be the King of Africa after buying a majority of African leaders. Mbeki also opposed Gadaffi´s Pan Arabic agenda and believed in that the African renaissance project must be underpinned by democratic rule as opposed to the individual authoritarian leadership espoused by Gadaffi. For this, the two had a bitter fallout.
When the chance presented itself to remove Mbeki, Zuma became a useful cog in the machine given the shared interest with Gadaffi in new leadership in South Africa. Meanwhile, Gadaffi had a solid relationship with King Mswati dating back to his visit to the country decades ago and the fact that some of King Mswati´s children were living in Libya training in the military.
Zuma´s relationship with King Mswati, on the other hand, was forged and sealed about a decade ago when Zuma tried to marry a Swazi Princess, Sebentile Dlamini. It grew during his Presidency hence the many trips he made to the country, ending decades of isolation the monarch faced under Thabo Mbeki. Thabo Mbeki had little regard for King Mswati and saw him as some small tinpot dictatorship hence for a Pan Africanist man like him it was notable that he had never set foot in the country during his entire Presidency.
Therefore when Zuma was contesting Mbeki back in the runup to the 2007 ANC Polokwane conference King Mswati gave support to Zuma not just financially but also given their shared belief in muti he made sure to ´cleanse´ him in order to fight his rape trial and win his political contest for the ANC Presidency. For this reason, the shelling of Gadaffi monies to Zuma and then Swaziland made sense. King Mswati was to later reap the dividends of his support for Zuma who managed to stifle the noise about Swazi freedom in the ANCYL of Julius Malema and COSATU of Zwelinzima Vavi.
Both Vavi and Malema were very vocal about the need for democracy in the country but by the time Zuma went for his second term both these organisations were paralysed by internal division. Even pressure to lend the country money in 2011 after the financial collapse came with loose, mostly economic and fiscal reforms, as opposed to political reforms many in the progressive camp lobbied for. Attempts by the alliance to put pressure on giving the Swazi state money with political conditions fizzled out given the political support Zuma gave to King Mswati. In the subsequent years spirited attempts were made by Ramaphosa to get the Libyan Billions back to Libya.
All indications are that Zuma had a hand in the disappearance of the money and that King Mswati hid it in the country. Several missions have been sent by Ramaphosa to the country to try to get the Billions back with little success. Ramaphosa felt strongly that it was such money that was funding his detractors. Therein lies the beef between the King and the newly elected ANC President. Meanwhile, Gwede Mantashe, the newly elected national Chairperson, is a long supporter of the Swazi struggle from his time in the trade union movement to his own experience in the country when he was literally frog marched out of a press conference by Swazi police IN 2014.
Mantashe had attempted to hold a press conference two days before Valentine´s day in 214 when police reportedly 'frog-marched' him out of the venue at Lugogo Sun, Ezulwini. Matashe later had an interview with the Sowetan where he came down hard on the Swazi state and called for Swazi freedom. Even though Mantashe is very vocal in support of the liberation project in Swaziland, except sources say, in recent time he has been particularly upset with the political posturing of the leading players in the country who seem to favour their political nemesis in the Economic Freedom Fighters plus the tactical naivety of the leading players of the struggle. Back in 2011 he criticised the Swaziland Solidarity Network for openly attacking the ANC instead of having private engagements.
After the SSN had called Jacob Zuma King Mswati´s sugar daddy for giving the country a loan, Mantashe had harsh words for the SSN. "I don’t have a letter from SSN asking for a bilateral with the ANC ... which means you don’t have SSN wanting to engage the ANC," he said at the time. "It (the SSN) has a belief that says it can go out and insult the president of the ANC, they will get results ... it’s a terrible tactic on their part. That’s not how you win allies," he reportedly said at the time.
Newly elected Secretary General Fikile Mbalula
Mantashe has conducted several interviews where he has minced no words about the need for reform in the country but those at the conference in Nasrec told The Bridge that it will take a lot of diplomacy for the ANC to support individual political parties in the country.
"Mantashe thinks the Swazi struggle lacks maturity. For example, he wondered out loud recently how difficult it was for the ANC to win the west over but never stopped lobbying and persuading them to abandon the nationalist government in favour of sanctions. Diplomacy, he said, means patience, lobbying, private engagement until you win what you want not insulting people you need," a source said.
There is also a view within the ANC that Swazi comrades do not appreciate that the ANC is the only party that has embraced the Swazi struggle and supported many activists when it was not fashionable to do so especially as many in the region do not even know the Swazi struggle for lack of aggressive international lobbying. Yet, the view goes, the ANC, and by extension the South African government, takes the biggest insults from Swazi comrades.
"What is this entitlement Swazis have that we must liberate them or come with guns to remove Mswati.? It seems to me that the expectations is more to the ANC and not any other SADC government. How can South Africa be expected to act like a regional bully like apartheid did? Which other government from SADC is insulted as we are by Swazi comrades? Where is the aggressive regional lobbying by Swazi comrades except so that South Africa is not isolated when it raises the Swazi question in the region," wondered a delegate on the sidelines of the ongoing ANC conference.
On the other hand, Fikile Mbalula, a minister and also newly elected ANC Secretary General, has a long relationship with the Swazi struggle dating back to his youth league days under the Malusi Gigaba Presidency of the ANCYL. Over the years Mbalula ensured that the ANCYL supports the Swaziland Youth Congress financially, organizationally and politically. In fact, he has personal relations with some leaders of PUDEMO having held joint events with SWAYOCO while he was President of the ANCYL.
Notably among them was how the ANCYL paid for international trips for SWAYOCO to attend such trips as the International Socialists Youth conferences in Europe. During the uprising last year Mbalula was among the few that supported the withdrawal of Mafikizolo from performing in the country. Meanwhile, the Jacob Zuma lobby, represents fraternal relations with the Swazi monarch as seen by the recent visit by Duduzane Zuma to the Swazi Monarch. Meanwhile, Paul Mashatile, the newly elected Deputy President of the ANC, is known to support the Swazi struggle but has not been invested that much on the Swazi liberation project.
As the ANC wraps up its conference what is now left is to see what resolutions they will adopt on Swaziland. Even though in the past the ANC would take radical resolutions on Swaziland, an unwilling leadership has not been able to implement them leading to many dismissing the party as just mere posturing. With pro change leaders in firm control of the levers of the party machinery it remains to be seen if the ANC will walk its talk.
On the other hand the liberation movement in Swaziland needs to learn the ABC´s of international diplomacy by choosing who exactly is their ally to control their language when engaging a regional powerhouse like the ANC, and deciding once and for all who is their ally and who is just a friend of the liberation project. Because in truth it would leave a bitter taste to any self-respecting party to see their ally fraternising with their nemesis and denigrating the historical support they have given to a struggle hardly noticeable in the region and one that had historically been ignored. After all, in the topsy-turvy world of international politics, there is no space for hunting with the hounds and running with the hares.