Indepth interview with Mlungisi Makhanya on nuances of dialogue and all things PUDEMO
PUDEMO President Mlungisi Makhanya has already asserted himself as the live wire and face of the democratic project in the country. Granted, Siphofaneni Member of Parliament Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane has a far bigger appeal and charm because of his background as a Pastor, gospel artist, former TV program host and Member of Parliament but when it comes to coordinating on the ground, political sophistry and ability to combine wit and doing the dirty work on the ground, Makhanya stands heads and shoulders above everyone.
Just as Winnie Mandela kept the memory of the ANC alive in the 80's at a time when the leaders of the party were either exiled or in jail, Makhanya has almost singlehandedly kept PUDEMO alive at a time when many felt the party would be eclipsed by the new political players. As the leader of the country's biggest political party and among the central players in the envisaged dialogue The Bridge caught up with him to discuss everything PUDEMO, dialogue, struggle and everything in between.
The Bridge (TB): Let's start from the beginning Mr Makhanya. And this one is not even my question it was a huge discussion on Twitter. Your people want to know; how are you able to be addressing a funeral in Hlatsi, a donation in Piggs Peak, a rally in Siteki, speaking to the media in Manzini and then attending a civil society meeting in South Africa all in the damn same day? How are you able to do all this? Teach us all your time management skills?
Mlungisi Makhanya (MM): I joined the struggle when I was 15 years old while doing grade nine at St. Francis High school. We used to visit different schools in different regions of the country in one day mobilising and recruiting students to join the Swaziland Association of Students (SAS). That is where one mastered the art of planning one's movements. Remember, back then we relied solely on public transport yet we still mastered the art of manoeuvring the country. Maybe this was because the country has one of the most elaborate road network in the continent. Coming to your direct question, one is now blessed with a motor vehicle so it is easier to drive to all these places especially given that our country is small in size. I must also add that I learnt the art of sleeping few hours during my days in the student movement in South Africa. Unlike Swaziland South Africa is vast and SASCO would have activities in various campuses across the length and breadth of the country and as activists we were called to attend them without fail. Over the years I therefore learnt to sleep for five hours a day and spend a significant amount of time on the road going to various activities of PUDEMO. My target is always to cross the border before midnight for a morning engagement in South Africa. I shall provide details of the revolutionary time management skill in the next political school of PUDEMO to avoid giving it away to the enemy (chuckles).
TB: Thank you for that Songomnyama. We too could learn a thing or two about time management skills because our readers complain about keeping publishing deadlines (chuckles). Now for serious business. Recently the Swazi news announced the formation of MP Mduduzi Magawugawu Simelane's new political party. I know he calls it a movement perhaps not to alienate certain people but come on that's a political party I wonder why he is afraid to be bold and unapologetic about it. After all, he owes no one an explanation why he went that route. We surely need to get over this propaganda of treating associating with a party as a cardinal sin or even seeing the word political party as a swear word. This party, coming at a time when the Economic Freedom Fighters Swaziland is, in the eyes of some people, cannibalising on PUDEMO membership, will be a game changer. How ready is your party for these kind of new players? Because let's admit it, it's a necessary healthy competition to a dominant party like yours?
MM: For 38 years we have fought for political pluralism in our country. During this period we witnessed a number of political parties being formed. Sadly most of them disappear after a few years. We are only hoping that this time around we will have political allies that will endure and wage the struggle side by side with PUDEMO. My advice to these new parties would be; avoid the temptation to define yourselves in opposition to PUDEMO. In the course of this 38 years, PUDEMO has endured all kinds of slander levelled at us by the regime and at times some political parties. Our policy has generally been to ignore it. Maintaining a dignified silence and working on the ground has proven to work wonders for our glorious movement. Also, as a policy position, PUDEMO does not allow double membership hence our members cannot join another political party while still with PUDEMO. As for EFF SWD they are definitely not cannibalising on PUDEMO membership. On the contrary, they are attracting a lot of unaffiliated youths to its ranks, something we applaud. In any event we work very well with the EFF SWD and where differences emerge we are quick to attend to them. That doesn't mean that there are no areas of differences but we generally adopt a collegial attitude in resolving them. We therefore welcome the announcement and appearance of MP Simelane's new political movement and are confident that it will add much needed impetus into the struggle of the people. But I must clarify for the umpteenth time that as PUDEMO are not raffled at all with any new political organisation. If anything we believe our proven track record of principled struggles and experience will be valuable to even the new role players. After all we all have one enemy: ROYAL SUPREMACY!
TB: PUDEMO may be one of the oldest political parties and has borne the brunt of state repression for the longest time. To be fair you guys have done the heavy lifting and been the focus of state propaganda for years. Some say it is only natural that a party as old as yours would obviously get fatigued or stale. How are you repositioning PUDEMO to be relevant now at a time when people’s consciousness is rising and there are new political parties that are emerging with much gusto? And you will understand why I am asking this. Some people just hate or fear PUDEMO for no other reason other than what they were told or heard. How difficult or easy is rebranding the party to attract the newly converted?
PUDEMO President Mlungisi Makhanya pictured here with PUDEMO founding leaders former University of Swaziland Sociology lecturer Dr Ray Russon, former Illovo Managing Director Mandla Hlatjwako and Thuma Mina Foundation Chief Executive Officer Bonginkhosi IB Dlamini.
MM: One of my favourite political leaders Mikail Gorbachev is quoted to have once said "I began to know that the Communist party was dead when all it could do was to appeal to its past than its future" He is further quoted to have said: "If what you have done yesterday, still looks big to you, you haven't done much today." The most potent weapon in the hands of PUDEMO is political theory. Overs the years we have invested a lot in political education. We formally adopted Marxism-Leninism theory as our tools of analysis so that we can be as scientific as possible when reading all political events happening in the country and externally. We are always taught in PUDEMO that as long as you are still just reading Marxism you are a student of Marxism but not yet a Marxist. The only time one becomes a Marxist is when you apply the theory within the struggle to solve society's problems. This explains why when other parties invest a lot in branding we in PUDEMO invest in assisting people in their problems while simultaneously teaching and empowering them to fight back in the context of struggle. It is for this reason that most of PUDEMO initiatives, programs or organisations do not bear our name because ours is to help our people fight their own battles without us taking the glory and standing on mountain tops and shouting 'we did that', 'we formed that organisation' etc. After all, our interests are not separate from the interest of the people. In PUDEMO we don't just help our people with legal representations, bail monies, medical aids and burials but we strengthen them to fight back. Many communities are now actively involved in the struggle because they were empowered to resist and join the struggle. We therefore rebrand our movement every day by being practical in assisting our people in their daily struggles without announcing ourselves. I know there is a huge outcry from communities about the absence of PUDEMO regalia and we are attending to it but not seeing our T-shirts does not mean we are not doing anything. However, it is important to remind our people that as a proscribed organisation most people were arrested and some out of huge bail amounts for merely wearing PUDEMO attire. We therefore tread with caution when distributing our regalia so we don't put our people in harm's way because the reality is that the state can arrest people anytime for wearing our T shirts. That is a real threat. Remember, some political parties are not proscribed and persona non grata like us and can afford to do certain things we cannot do in our name.
TB: PUDEMO has for a long time been synonymous with Mario Masuku. How difficult has it been being your own man and not living inside his shadow? What is different with your leadership and what do you bring to the table that is new?
MM: PUDEMO was extremely fortunate to have had a leader of President Mario Masuku's calibre. His skilled and sensitive leadership, during the over 30 years at the helm, kept the movement together during the most difficult and dangerous times. It was during these trying times of struggle and sacrifice that Comrade Bhambatha (as Mario was called) became our exemplar, both to those at home and in exile. He was always first in sacrifice, first in discipline and first in commitment. When PUDEMO needed a leader who was going to be her face during the brutal era of Liqoqo he was the first to lift up his hand and paid dearly for it. When the organisation resolved that he must leave his high paying job and later told to withdraw from the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) he obliged without questioning. It was to be the case again even when his organisation directed him to stop reporting to the police as per his bail conditions and he publicly announced this resolution knowing that he would be jailed. He subsequently spent a good two years in prison awaiting trial for enforcing a PUDEMO resolution. I am mentioning all these instances of sacrifices to underscore the point that there can only be one MARIO MASUKU. I can only draw inspiration from his exemplary leadership and try my best to follow in his footsteps. But obviously, Mario's shoes are too huge to wear hence must curve my own niche as a leader. One of the things I admired about President Mario was the absence of rancour and his readiness to offer solutions to whatever challenges we were facing at the time. These are values I try to embrace all the time but again I have been in this challenging position for only three years and one can only get better with time. No university can teach you the art of leading such a large, and in many ways, unwieldy movement such as PUDEMO.
I am kind of a leader who doesn't believe in suppressing different views. Even if I don't agree with you, I would grant you the right and opportunity to be heard. I believe that I benefit from every view and wisdom from different people. I always strive to pluck the 'bow of many strings', so to speak, in my handling of PUDEMO affairs. The strings of the founding members—who are largely in exile—the second generation that largely emanated from the University of Swaziland, the insiders which I like to call fire eaters (those who never left the country and suffered the most) and then of course the mass base that just want to have a voice in the affairs of their organisation. I am obviously benefiting a lot from the fact that most of my leadership collective is my peers and we get to peer review each other frequently and robustly. Remember I too grew within the ranks of PUDEMO starting from SAS, to the Swaziland Youth Congress and later PUDEMO. I am, for all intents and purposes, a product of PUDEMO's preparatory school and an activist who is wholeheartedly committed to the struggle of the people of Swaziland. For me, freedom is the end vision of the struggle—the apex. I try to ensure that democracy is, as far as possible, just the means to get us there. Consultation, participation and respect for everyone's rights are my preferred means of reaching the goal.
TB: Now let us talk about the Political Party Assembly (PPA). I have my own misgivings about it especially the pedestal we have placed on it without understanding the difficulties of different parties working together. I remember the ANC tried to have an alliance with the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) but quickly realised this was just a dead end and opted instead to work with the broader civil society hence the emergence of the United Democratic Front (UDF) of the 80's. It was the UDF that significantly changed the political landscape and ultimately saw the collapse of apartheid. How strong and dynamic is the PPA in terms of cohesion and understanding our political landscape? I can imagine these are different parties with opposing political views and strategies. How do you manage to keep it going?
MM: The PPA is a very important and necessary vehicle. However, it is not as strong as we would like it to be. Most of our sister organisations in the Assembly don't take kind to robust engagement and are very fragile to what they view as PUDEMO dominance. We are still yet to agree on the foundational documents and possibly Accord of the PPA. We are currently working in a very loose way and assume every member's fidelity to the cause is sufficient. Remember the PPA was founded by three political parties—PUDEMO, NNLC, SWADEPA and sadly all the founding leaders of all the parties are no more alive. Our approach as PUDEMO is that we must, all of us, make PPA work. We must debate, disagree but ultimately find each other and struggle together as a united force. What unites is bigger than what divides us.
TB: Others have criticised that the PPA has one man political parties or that PUDEMO is overbearing in its influence. How do you ensure that I cannot just form a party with five members then join? And linked to this is how representative is the PPA of all the political parties or there are parties outside the PPA?
MM: We have heard that criticism and it is not entirely misplaced. However, our attitude as PUDEMO is that we must strive to leverage on each other's strengths. Having said that we must not shy away from peer reviewing each other as political parties and check if indeed we are equitably sharing the load. A peer review mechanism need to be developed soon and each affiliate requested to provide details of leadership, key documents and a program of action. This will separate the wheat from the chaff.
TB: In the last meeting with Jeff Radebe what exactly was your take away? Do you feel SADC can do anything for our situation? The reason I am asking this is that the posture taken by SADC has been deeply concerning and disappointing to me. But also I keep wondering what else do Swazis expect from SADC? Do they think the regional body can send an army to invade the country? Seems that we Swazis want to export our role of liberating the country to some outside force whether this is SADC, EU, or even USA.
MM: The last meeting with Minister Jeff Radebe and his team was quite an eye opener for me to how contemptuous the King is to the nation's concerns. It was apparent that the King had amplified the significance of Sibaya, Incwala and other useless structures of the regime in his interaction with them. He had also shown no empathy to the many families whose members were killed by his armed forces. He is completely divorced from reality. Remember, it took the Tuesday working visit by President Ramaphosa for the King, through the Ludzidzini Indvuna, to offer "condolences" to the families who had lost loved ones. Until then he had spoken about "Timbemansangu (weed smokers)", "Tidzakwa (drunkards)", "Labakwabaywa ngemaplango (those hit by planks)", "Emabhodi abo Hallelujah (hallelujah billboards)" and his obsession with damaged business structures. But when it comes to SADC I honestly feel they want to do more except they just waiting for us, the Swazi people, to force them to do something. And there is only one way of forcing SADC to do something and that is to intensify the struggles on the ground.
Mlungisi Makhanya sharing a light moment with PUDEMO founding leaders at a recent consultative meeting.
TB: You will agree with me that the democratic movement is not strong enough to annihilate King Mswati and King Mswati is not strong enough to do the same. We are now at a political deadlock. How do we break this deadlock? Who makes the first move and how?
MM: I agree with you that we are currently in a conundrum. However, the balance has significantly shifted to the side of the pro-democracy forces. I have never been this emboldened in my almost 30 years of activism that the ground has significantly shifted to our favour. However, I must hasten to say that this is the most critical time for us to be extra vigilant. We need to explore proactively scenarios for the much hyped about dialogue lest we are caught flat-footed. Freedom is going to come in our land under three circumstances:
1. Outright defeat of the Tinkhundla regime;
3. or an International Community dilemma (mainly South Africa).
On the third point I refer to a situation where an ultimatum is given to us by the international community—go to a dialogue with Mswati or lose completely our support. Remember we currently receive a lot of support from the international community, particularly South Africa and we don't want to find ourselves in a similar situation the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front found themselves in around1979 when the Front Line States gave them an ultimatum—to go to Lancaster House or get out of their countries. Those comrades had to be taken to Lancaster screaming and kicking. It was said to them, if you don't want to go negotiate, then you are pulling out of Mozambique. It was literally a ‘Aluta Continua’ from home if you don’t dialogue. Imagine Cde Lucky Lukhele being kicked out of South Africa (laughs). The first thing we must appreciate is that the deadlock you are referring to is one that arises out of success—we have pushed the regime to this corner. Without uprisings such as the one we witnessed in late June early July, there would be no talks of dialogue. We would be talking and arguing among ourselves while Mswati and his entourage is globetrotting for another 20 years. Now he is grounded and can't go anywhere. There is just one component that we must effectively introduce in our struggle not as a gimmick but as a decisive tool to make the regime come to PUDEMO. This is the only missing power available to the pro-democracy forces now. If you know you know (chuckles).
TB: Interesting you talk of a new tool that needs to be introduced to propel the struggle to new heights. Some people feel some struggle fatigue though. They feel as though if they go to the street they will be beaten and the cycle repeats itself and nothing happens. This is what drives people into talking arms and violence. You gave a very interesting perspective on Twitter spaces about violence and guns the other day. Is it time for armed struggle?
MM: This is not time to be fatigued, however I empathise with the feeling of the ground. It is crying out for decisive leadership beyond rhetoric. We have entered the final lap of our struggle yet it is the most dangerous one too. I interact with a lot of senior ANC/SACP leaders who were actively involved in the South African struggle at leadership level during the 1980 - 1994 period. They have imparted valuable history lessons to me. History has shown that the most dangerous and deadly period in struggle is when the enemy has sent out signal of wanting to "dialogue." That period requires leadership to be on guard 24/7. In South Africa it was during that period where PW Botha and later FW De Klerk had given signals that he is ready to dialogue. It was during this period that they unleashed the most ruthless killing machines. The world had agreed to the appointment of the seven 'eminent persons', a group led by the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
The establishment and dispatchment of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) was agreed even by Margaret Thatcher, a staunch supporter of Apartheid South Africa. It undertook a series of trips to South Africa meeting with unprecedented number of stakeholders, mass democratic organisations and political prisoners. The EPG was allowed by Botha to freely move around South Africa, listening to people's grievances and making glib recommendations yet it was during this period that Botha launched not less than five attacks on different frontline states killing many innocent civilians. Many ANC leading figures were either killed or maimed by parcel bombs during the said period. A lot of activists were either killled or disappeared during that period of "engagement." I am saying this because many external fact finding missions have visited our country since the massacre, some privately and others in the open, but since the massacre many innocent Swazis have been brutalized and continue to be indiscriminately assaulted by the army and the police. Our communities, rightfully so, regard Mswati's government as deceitful and untrustworthy because of their lived experiences under this regime. There is no doubt in my mind that the time to empower our people to meaningfully defend themselves is long overdue. On the Twitter spaces you refer to I spoke about seven pillars on which we must anchor our resistance. These are as follows;
- 1. Armed Resistance
- 2. Cultural Resistance
- 3. Religious Resistance
- 4. Community Resistance
- 5. Trade Union Resistance
- 6. Professional Associations Resistance
- 7. Political Formations Resistance
All the pillars are already obtaining in our country what is glaringly missing is effective coordination. Lawyers boycotted the courts due to high levels of corruption and judicial capture, nurses withdrew their professional services to law enforcement officers, the four big soccer teams pronounced themselves on playing with teams from the armed forces, leading church leaders have pronounced themselves on the ongoing state sponsored violence, communities are staging protests across the country, trade unions have called protests and stay aways and political formations have held large petitions and protests.
TB: It seems to me how we envisaged dialogue and transition 25 years ago wont be the reality today. I will give you a scenario here. What if the state says dialogue to us means a vusela type of national conversation starting at eSibayeni then going to etinkhundleni, then parliament and maybe add a SMART partnership type of set up jut for ambience and then consolidating these reports into one and then calling it a national dialogue. But PUDEMO has an elaborate document on what dialogue must look like to them. How prepared are you for this type of scenario? Are you dynamic enough to accept something different to what you conceived 25 years ago?
MM: We have a big responsibility to control the whole dialogue process and not allow it to overwhelm us. I am particularly concerned about the seemingly lack of sophistication in our response to this issue. The emphasis seem to be more on the venue as opposed to nuances of a dialogue. The balance of forces have shifted in the region and to a large extent the continent too. Most of the long-serving leaders that Mswati has led with are no more. Change has taken place in Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, just to mention but a few. We now go to those countries and interact with senior government and opposition politicians without even making an appointment. We in PUDEMO have already commenced building a clear PUDEMO position on dialogue/negotiations and have built what we call "an inverted pyramid" of support behind our position. The apex of the pyramid is PUDEMO position, behind it is the mass pro-democratic forces within our country, the active supporters of our struggle outside the country, SADC and, as much as possible, the international community. We have done this informed by the reality that all these forces have got their own perspective of what the victories of the dialogue must entail. Very soon we will be releasing our strategic framework for the entire negotiated settlement, improving on the one we developed years ago. This is beyond rhetoric or whining about the misery royal supremacy represent but real politics. No empty sloganeering is going to deliver us victory at the dialogue. PUDEMO, for it's part, is absolutely committed to a genuine all-inclusive Swazi negotiations process, free of outside interference. While the issue of a neutral venue is important to PUDEMO, it is not our obsession. What we are clear on is that no self-respecting people can dialogue in a kraal, so Sibaya is definitely not an option.
While we would push for a venue outside a royal compound, but we would not as PUDEMO be caught in zig-zag over venues. If Mandvulo Hall has all the important features to host a dialogue so be it. The issue of a "neutral venue" became a sticking point for the PAC in South Africa that insisted on neutral venue being a place outside South Africa to a point where they joined negotiations at the tale end thus depriving themselves an opportunity to influence the direction and content of the South African negotiations process. PUDEMO is adamant that this three separate yet intertwined things must occur for whatever dialogue to be successful in Swaziland.
TB: What then in your view are the conditions for dialogue?
MM: A conducive and enabling climate for dialogue must be established. There are a series of legislations that militate against dialogue, e.g the STA, Public Order Act, Subversion and Sedition Act, etc. Remember it is important that you must have space to convene popular gatherings to fortify your points in dialogue and one can't do that with the Public Order Act in its current form. As for the preconditions for Dialogue we are talking about the release of the MPs and ALL political prisoners, the return of All exiles, the unbanning of political parties, Freedoms of the media, Independent of the judiciary, etc
TB: Let me give you another scenario. What if the state allows political parties to exist even if as mere handicapped social movements and then commissions parliament to draft a bill for their formal recognition but keep PUDEMO proscribed and tell you guys to go to court if you want to clear your name. In this way the other political parties accept this arrangement because it muscles PUDEMO out of the playing field and excludes you for no other reason but to consolidate their base and build their support? Have you thought of this scenario?
MM: President Mario long taught us never to succumb to ennui and despair. We have experienced this kind of behaviour in the past where, due to our proscription by the STA, some felt it is reasonable to proceed without PUDEMO. When the Commonwealth sponsored President Bakili Muluzi process occurred this issue came up. Some, in hushed tones, wanted to proceed without PUDEMO. We warned them that it will be a failure. It collapsed before it even started. Our survival and resilience as PUDEMO is not hinged on our removal from the list of terrorist entities. For 13 years now we have been listed as a terrorist organisation but we continued to exist and grew even stronger. Our survival is dependent on how the people with are fighting for and together with view us. PUDEMO is embedded in the hearts and minds of Swazis as their most potent weapon against royal supremacy.
Remember it didn't take the South African parliament to amend the Suppression of Communism Act for the ANC, SACP, PAC and other liberation movements to be decriminalised. It took a speech from President FW De Klerk to undo everything. There is no political party in Swaziland that has the international networks and acceptance as PUDEMO and no sustainable solution can ever occur in Swaziland to the exclusion of PUDEMO. Any sustainable solution will have to be all-inclusive and no single political party or stakeholder must be left outside. We will never go to captured Tinkhundla courts to fight for our removal from proscribed organisations. That victory we will record through our struggles on the ground. The whole process leading to us and SWAYOCO's proscription was legally flawed anyways. We were never notified and allowed to make representations on why we shouldn't be listed as a proscribed organisation. Remember, even before we were even proscribed in 2008, we were never legally recognised as a lawful organisation; how do you criminalise what you claim doesn't exist in law? That may be a pious wish of our enemies but it will never succeed.
TB: Also, what bargaining chip do we have at the table.
MM: The content of the dialogue. The agenda of the dialogue can't be unilaterally decided upon by one party. It must be collectively agreed upon
TB: The regime itself doesn’t know how to break this deadlock without losing face. What rescue package do you have for the King to make him realise change is for his own preservation too. Remember they have fears, concerns and genuine worries themselves especially after the massacre. They may want to dig in because no one has given them a way out that doesn’t make them feel like they lost everything. What is PUDEMO prepared to forego now in order to win later. In short, what are your sunset clauses?
MM: It is said that "heavy is the head that wears the crown". I think we may consider asking for a new crown dedicated to the service of his or her people. The incumbent has spectacularly failed this test. Our bargaining chip would be that we could consider allowing the Dlamini dynasty to retain the crown, but they will have to consider forwarding someone else other than the one who killed so many innocent Swazis. The crown will definitely not come with absolute powers and would be subjected to the rule of law like everyone else. The issue of control over crown land is something we may consider to leave in their hands subject to thorough investigation of its current usages. There is a lot of historical injustices that happened in the Swaziland Independence Bill, 05 July 1968 vol 767 cc187-903, that would require us to correct in the new dispensation. But I must emphasise that it would be prematurely now to even talk about sunset clauses when we have not checked the extent of royal economic plunder of our national wealth. But equally we are emphatic that we have no rescue package for the king. All we can advise him on is that come to the party now while you can still manage the transition and don't wait for the transition to manage you. The king is in truth not yet prepared to negotiate fundamental change nor to countenance the creation of genuine democratic structures. What now awaits him if he continues to be stubborn is the prospect of the end of royal supremacy and Dlamini domination in the foreseeable future. His program of reform does not seek to end Tinkhundla but seeks to give it a less inhumane face. Our mission is to push them out completely if they dig in.
TB: The conditions in the country militate against any dialogue. Our leaders are exiled. There are a lot of repressive laws, the ground is not level, I could go on and on. In practical terms how would you advise the king to create a climate for dialogue on the one hand and how would you advise SADC and Ramaphosa to ensure they replicate what they demanded from apartheid in SA before they dialogue?
MM: The attitude of the king is the single most important factor determining the possibility for a dialogue and since that attitude is patently obvious, the test of the genuineness of the call for dialogue must necessarily turn on the willingness of those who make this call to change the attitude of Mswati's regime towards this dialogue. It is clear to us, as it has been clear to the respective emissaries that have met him, that this cannot be done without pressure. As things stand Mswati knows that he can continue to ignore the call for dialogue because the governments of major Western countries have undertaken, as a matter of principle, that they will not act against his murderous regime despite the killing of so many innocent Swazis. It is entirely up to us to force him to release our incarcerated leaders, allow for the unconditional return of all exiles and repeal all repressive laws. This we shall do as long as we are still alive.
TB: How do you see the constitution. Do we need to amend it, do away with it completely and just revert to the 1968 one with few amendments?
MM: The current Constitution is defective in many respects and needs to be repealed and a new one ushered in. I do not believe we should bring back the 1968 Constitution either as it has a lot of problematic clauses that ensured the perpetuation of royal domination. The issue of the post Tinkhundla Constitution is taken seriously in PUDEMO and has received serious consideration. Again, as PUDEMO we have turned to international lessons and looked at the Nicaraguan experience. In Nicaragua towards the end of the insurrection, the opposition groups agreed on four principles around which they would campaign. It is always difficult to write a Constitution in advance, not knowing the circumstances within which liberation would be achieved. Imagine us including a chapter that talks to the Monarchy question only to find that the wave of change have swept that institution away. We have resolved on sticking to the issue of constitutional principles. Political pluralism, a mixed economy, participatory democracy, women emancipation and environmental justice.
TB: Is there a need for a referendum on Tinkhundla were the king to insist on that? What condition would you want if you were to go that route?
MM: There is absolutely no need for a referendum on Tinkhundla. And there was never a referendum when 1973 was imposed on us and Tinkhundla shoved down our throat. As a matter of principle, PUDEMO doesn't believe that we can subject fundamental human rights to a referendum. These are inalienable rights and must never be subjected to referendums.
TB: Last one President, how easy has it been for you to work with elders of PUDEMO. Most of PUDEMO founders are still alive, have they recognised your leadership and support you? The reason why I am asking this is that it is natural that if I am a founder I would feel you a young man who can’t take us across the river sikhona and develop some sort of jealousy as you grow as a face of resistance. Are you not threatened, living in the shadow of the founders? How do you work with the different ‘factions’ of PUDEMO at this critical time?
MM: I have benefited immensely from the support that I have received from our pathfinders in the movement. One of the things that pains me deeply, following my close working with these elders, is how their story and that of PUDEMO is not told. Leaders like Cde Dennis Fruhwirth, Cde HM Magagula, Cde Mandla Hlatjwako, Cde Gavin Mcfadden, Cde Raymond Russon, Cde Zodwa Mkhonta, Cde Mphandlana Shongwe and Cde Professor Dlamini just to mention but a few have given me unconditional support. One of my goals, during my presidential term is to tell the PUDEMO story to the Swazi people. PUDEMO is one big happy family that appreciate that unity doesn't mean sameness. We have always drawn from our diversity to fortify our unity. Only those who are inside the movement get to appreciate that our resilience is an outcome of our internal robustness. Many political parties have fallen by the wayside because of their reliance on individual leaders as opposed to collective leadership. Veterans are very important in the life of a political organisation because they become it's conscience. We are fortunate in PUDEMO that we still have a significant number of those who founded the organisation with us. As recent as a few days ago we had a consultative discussion with some of the founding leaders based in South Africa on a project we working on to be announced soon.
TB: Thank you for your time President. Let us release you we have taken too much of your time already.
MM: Thank you comrade. Allow me to end by sending a shout out to our incarcerated MPs and our internationalist Cde Amos Mbedzi. I had the privilege of interacting and working very close with Honourable Bacede Mabuza and Honourable Mthandeni Dube during the struggle and I have no doubt that if these two selfless leaders emerged from prison they would resume the same activities for which they were arrested. These are men of conviction and a higher calling. We are privileged as emaSwati to have such men as our public representatives. God bless them abundantly and grant strength to their families. Soon we shall be free and Victory is certain