UP AND CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH SFDF PRESIDENT AND FORMER SWALIMO CHAIRPERSON BUSIE MAYISELA
A few days ago former Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) Chairperson Busie Mayisela launched her political party in Mpumalanga where she unveiled what looked like a slice of her former party's membership and leadership. This followed a public fall out with former Siphofaneni Member of Parliament and SWALIMO President Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane. The Bridge caught up with Mayisela for this question and answer interview.
The Bridge (TB): Thank you for making time to speak to us Ms Mayisela. First let us introduce Busi to many people who may not know her. Who is she and how did she end up in politics?
Busie Mayisela (BM): I am originally from Mahlalini where my family home is located. I went to Franson Christian High School where I got my Christian ethics. As the firstborn girl in my family, I am referred to as uLaMpentshisi because that is my father's name--Mpentshisi. I am naturally an empathetic person. Where I see a need reach out and this is mainly because of the way I was brought up. Other notable things that people might be interested to know are that I am the recipient of the 44th Kings Birthday Honorary award and the 2012 Woman Business of the year finalist.
TB: While you were in the country you seemed not much keen on politics despite being married to a political activist. What changed?
BM: It depends on one's definition of politics. I have always been keen to participate or be involved in governance. Swazis will remember that I was involved in local government politics as the Mayor of Zulwini. In essence, Zulwini has a somewhat "first world status" location because we laid the foundation. Nationally, I was close to those in government and at that time when comrades like President Mario Masuku of PUDEMO, President Jan Sithole of SWADEPA and President AT Dlamini of NNLC (sadly all late) tried their best to open our eyes to the concept of a multiparty government it was to me just that; a concept. At the time there was no drastic thing that had occurred to consider changes in our body politics. Yes, I saw the challenges with the Tinkhundla government but remained hopeful that they could be reformed. However, one has done a 360°. I now know for a fact Tinkhundla needs a total dismantling. We need to start afresh. On a personal level my political career could be viewed from the following: I was a shop steward at SUFIAW representing FNB employees and when I was at the Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) I was a member of the SRC. Then of course the fact that I was a Mayor of Zulwini City council.
TB: Wow! That is interesting. I did not know all this. Seemed you are indeed not some Jimmy come lately. Tell us, having now realised Tinkhundla needs dismantling as you say how did you end up in South Africa?
Remember that I was professionally and socially close to people in influential positions in Swaziland. Just reference an article published by the Times SUNDAY in November 13, 2021. This meant my life was at risk and I mean life threatening risk. It was advised to leave Swaziland and find a safe place. I left the country the same day the article was out so I could be safe. Swazis will further understand that I had actually assisted an alleged fugitive in Magawugawu who had received a warrant of arrest. That alone necessitated my reason for leaving Swaziland and finding myself where I am now.
TB: So does this mean you were exiled or just in South Africa as an economic migrant?
BM: I may not confirm if I am indeed in South Africa for obvious reasons. One thing I can confirm though I am not in Swaziland and my life is not 100% safe so I need to be cautious. In addition, my status is that of an immigrant who has run away from a hostile regime. There is an algorithm to follow for me to consider myself an exile. Loosely understood, I left Swaziland for political reasons so yes I am in exile. I was doing well as a business person. So my involvement in politics made me leave the country not economic hardships.
TB: How did you come into contact with SWALIMO and Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane in particular?
BM: I first met Magawugawu in Phuzumoya, Siphofaneni, where I had gone to do charity work there assisting a destitute family after heavy rains. The second time is when he came to my office and I facilitated his escape to South Africa. The rest is history. I am aware that Gawzela has presented a different version when it comes to the extent of the role I played in his escape. I am sharing a video clip of what he himself at the SADTU House in Durban, the intention is to clarify not to blow one's own trumpet.
TB: Some say you left Swaziland because you had financial challenges not for political reasons hence reports that subsequently emerged of some of your property being auctioned by the bank. How is that? Can you help clarify.
BM: This is politics people say what they want to say and believe what they want to believe. But really now how genius would it be for to make Mswati III order the killing of about a hundred Swazis so I can then use that to help pay for Gawzela's escape and later spend thousands in making sure we are all safe. Some things just do not make sense at all but what can we say. I guess it is freedom of speech. Yes, like in all businesses COVID 19 had affected my business but I was doing fairly well. The auction of my property was not as a result of bad business but the political decision I had taken.
TB: Where did the wheels come off between you and Simelane?
BM: I wouldn't say it was fallout as if it is personal. I prefer referring to it as "we outgrew each other" and that is normal in life. I think ideologically we are miles apart and there is nothing wrong with that after all that is what we are all fighting for; freedom of conscience, speech and association. To respond to your question directly, the moment I felt he was not representing what I signed up for I had to make up my mind. However, I wouldn't want to be preoccupied with what happened and start a debate around that. I am now a President of SFDF and my focus is on that political party now. What happened has happened and I am quite happy with the direction we are taking with the leaders and members of SFDF.
TB: What was your contribution to the growth of SWALIMO?
BM: I would think it was a collective contribution. How can I count the grains of rice? In a political office, nothing should be claimed as an individual though others could easly pinpoint what I have contributed. It was a collective effort to make sure SWALIMO is present in all corners of Swaziland. The brand and machinery of SWALIMO is today up there thanks to collective brains including people like Dr Siphetfo, comrade Gift (and others) supported ofcourse by the President. We came up with a brand that is hard to ignore.
TB: Take us through the events that followed following the leaking of the audio leading to you leaving SWALIMO?
BM: That unfortunate audio is an issue that will always haunt us with Dr Siphetfo. Shortly after the audio was leaked a general meeting was called to discuss a way forward. That meeting recommended a Task Team that we were prepared to submit ourselves to even though it was not necessary. Gawzela wanted a particular chairperson but could not get him. He tried another one after the General Meeting had lapsed. Somehow it was blamed on us that the Task Team could not sit. But I am trying to avoid dwelling o the past and the emotional abuse that came with it. need to be put in the past, where they belong.
TB: There has been a strong association of PUDEMO´s Bonginkhosi IB Dlamini in the operations of SWALIMO and now with your new party how is your relationship with him?
BM: Cde. IB is interested in the liberation of Swazis and we are comrades. I consider IB a brother and a confidant.
TB: You have been the subject of slander by some of your old comrades in SWALIMO how have you reacted to that?
BM: When you are clear with what you are doing you do not get bothered by meaningless things. I just ignore and move on with life.
TB: Where is the core base of SDSF?
TB: It is in Swaziland, of course because this is a Swazi based political party. I must nonetheless hasten to add that SFDF has projections of a structure that will accommodate the diaspora. But the core remains the Swaziland branches where politics will take place.
TB: Given how quickly you were able to form your new party would it be fair that it was long in the making?
I will be honest, Dr Siphetfo and I had thought about that and started working on it for a good three weeks. The others joined us later and took us by surprise. Our initial plan was to leave alone and have no NEC leader come with us. Those who joined us later I can say they were perhaps literally pushed our way. So in short I can say it was fate. Gift and Phephile were only aware that there is SFDF on the cards soon after they resigned from SWALIMO. Me and Dr Siphetfo never wished to drag even a single member with us because we believe our new political party´s ideology and policy will attract people without much effort.
What is your position on the monarchy and traditional leadership more generally?
BM: Swazis First Democratic Front subscribes to the one centre of power in the MDM. So, the position of the MSF is the position of the SFDF. Should we have challenges with it, we will debate it in the MSF and try convince the MDM to follow what we think. If we fail that would be ok because politics is about that, engaging and alignment. In short, it will not be proper to have our individual position.
The two founders of SFDF Busie Mayisela and Dr Siphetfo Dlamini
How would you describe the ideology of your party?
BM: SFDF is a socialist democratic political party. It shouldn't be confused with democratic socialists, who are far left extremists. As social democrats, SFDF is advocating for social justice and economic emancipation using community strengthening mechanisms. At present we are interested in regime change so we can have a free all inclusive education, free universal health care system, pro-poor budget and policies, as well as an economy that has nationalised the key sectors for the benefit of all citizens.
TB: You have already declared you won't participate in the elections what informs that position?
BM: We at the SFDF have studied the participation theory since 1972 from NNLC to present. We have come to the conclusion that it doesn't work because the government is not just parliament but a system. In addition, joining the elections doesn't make common sense portrays being double minded. On the one hand we are telling the world tinkhundla does not work and does not allow political parties while on the other we say we can work within them. That is not being smart. On another note, if we are to win the struggle, we should move away from the "Messiah" kind of thinking and have a massed based centre of power. If the majority say #asiyi, we should all rally behind that call. That is the meaning of democracy.
TB: How do you envisage the economic policies that would take the country out of the doldrums to prosperity?
BM: For now we are busy with the regime change, but I will not hesitate to share with you the SFDF policy statements. SFDF is for a mixed economy, I will elaborate on this next time.
TB: Are you prepared for alliances and which party would you be willing to be in alliance with if it ever came to that?
BM: That would be a collective decision depending on the political dynamics of that particular time.
TB: Who is funding your new outfit?
BM: SFDF does not have a funder yet. The members are encouraged to pay dues because this is a membership based political organization.
TB: How can people join the party?
BM: People can join online at www.swazisfirst.org or through the Regional Coordinators who are distributing the forms in all the regions. We are happy with the rate people are joining the political party.
TB: Can you explain the choice of colours and logo and what it means or represents?
BM: The logo represents social justice and economic justice. orange is for social justice, green economic emancipation, black for Africa, the map for solidarity with Swaziland, and the hands for unity and communal approach to nation building.
TB: What is your view about the upcoming dialogue and how can we transition to dialogue peacefully?
BM: I personally do not believe there is a commitment to any dialogue from the government. The only dialogue will be after the regrettable but necessary push that has to happen as soon as possible. SFDF has committed to a 24 month plan to make sure there is a transitional authority and that this regime is over.
TB: What is your view about the armed struggle?
BM: With due respect, I am not in a position to comment on this. All I can say is that Swazis need to do all in their power to remove the tinkhundla regime. Swazis can use all means in their disposal to make this regime a thing of the past, soon.