When Freedom is too expensive, we don’t jump off the Freedom Train!

First, we want to understand the market concept of cost and price, the most basic definition of cost and price is: cost is the expense incurred for creating a product or service and price is the amount the customer is willing to pay for the product or service, right? In some instances, price is what the seller is charging, when supply is scarce and demand is high or when the item being sold is very valuable or exclusive.

For 53 years Swazis have watched helplessly as a regime firmly rooted in classism and oppression gradually turns them into modern day slaves in the name of culture and heritage. eSwatini is at a very critical phase of the struggle to be freed from the clutches of a very ruthless regime, with the masses having woken up from the decades-long political slumber - just like passengers in a train lulled by the rhythmic movements of the train on its tracks for the better part of the journey only to be woken rudely by the screeching and honking to realise that they are trapped in a train going off-track. We have woken up to realise that the same driver of the train is threatening to throw the train into a cliff, being a passenger in the freedom train is excruciating and exhilarating.

While we face the reality of crashing to our death, we scramble for options, jumping out through the windows (which could still lead us to sooner death) or trying to reason with the driver who has lost his senses. Every time someone reasons with him, he throws off a few passengers through the windows to sudden death; to say we are gripped with fear and confusion is an understatement.

In all our innocence which we carried proudly when boarding this train at the train station because it was written Freedom Train, we are slowly realizing that freedom does not come as cheap as a train ticket. So we begin the desperate bargaining with the lunatic of a driver and his crew. We sent petitions, we took to the streets, we cried in parliament and all efforts were met with lethal force. Now we fully realise, we are NOT free at all, never were actually. What will be the price of our freedom? We ask.

The past weeks continue to bring forth uncomfortable twists and turns along the train’s path, travelling on dangerous tracks which were long closed and never maintained (remember our crazy driver took us off-track). Based on other societies’ journeys to freedom, we thought our driver knew the way to freedom, we thought when he talked of first world status he saw the light clearly; we were gullible and now we must fight, fight to get to freedom station, fight to stay alive to see freedom day.

Now we are scrambling for the best way to stay alive and get to where we are going, bargaining has not helped much. They are working overtime to instill fear and lead us to doom where we will be slaves, together with our children forever and ever. As the headlines continue to spew state propaganda, the high profile case of the MPs used once again to emphasize dissenter’s fate, hospitals running dry and social services being deliberately ignored, we desperately pray to God for a sign as we wonder if the struggle is dying.

A new baby among us is rising; the announcement of the formation of the new movement, SWALIMO, has been exhilarating and, to some, it is viewed as something that will bring about the change we want. As we rise out of our naivety and realise that we have ourselves to liberate the country and take control of this runaway train we are trapped in, we must look for the hero within ourselves.

What exactly will be the price we eventually pay for our freedom? We have already paid some instalments and it seems just like a shylock, the seller keeps shifting the posts and adding compound interest and uncontrollable VAT! From some of us freedom fees have already been deducted, from some in blood, from some families in loss of income, from some families such as the incarcerated MPs in induced suffering and persecution. From our children it is with lack of education and no access to health; from the elderly with no proper health care or welfare. Every time we raised a voice about our needs, less and less was given, but also we paid our fee for this train.

When Nelson Mandela spent all of his life fighting oppression and the freedom of his people, the most important approach was realising where the battlefield of the enemy was. Having participated in all forms of activism, and even though he hated violence, he resorted to an armed struggle at some point. Nelson Mandela knew that the greatest battlefield was in the mind, he always sought to sharpen himself there. Though a lot of people the world over can say a lot about Nelson Mandela and what he stood for, little is known or understood about his long struggle to attain an LLB in South Africa. Marked by many failures, sometimes self-imposed and at times faculty induced due to racism within the university, and his frequent visits to jail. It took Nelson Mandela 46 years, three Universities (two South African and one European one to finish his LLB in 1989 which he began in 1943. Even when he was sentenced to life imprisonment and serving at Robben Island, Nelson was the only prisoner allowed study law. This was a man who according to circumstances would never get to practise the law but he refused to surrender the control of his mind to the white man, he refused to do what all the circumstances created around him demanded of him; give up. Even when most of his freedoms had been taken away from him, Nelson would still not surrender the remaining ones. His control of his brain, though his body was squashed in child cell remained intact. His day time was for toiling on the mine but he studied in his night time.

The enemy might own most of the control, the enemy can only try to break us but it is our choice if we will break. The headlines about the persecution of our incarcerated MPs have been meant to break us and scare us into silence. To these two brave men, like the many others less known, we have the choice not to surrender all our freedoms though most of them have already been taken away from us. Let us keep fighting to gain ground on the mental battlefield; let us fight at the higher level, where we refuse to be taught what to think like the shameful cabinet that now functions as a cheer leader squad for the one family turning everyone against each other for their own comfort.

It should be clear by now to all Swazis that freedom is not free and let us brace ourselves for the battle that is still unfolding. Let us be organized, both in the minds and on the ground. Our question for this week would be: what are we willing to pay for our freedom? Let it sink in our minds that freedom is not free and we each have our instalment to contribute. Amandla!