The flaring up of animosity between PUDEMO and the newly formed Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) is but an explosion of behind the scenes tug of war that has been concealed from the public and going on for a while.

Back in September Siphofaneni Member of Parliament Mduduzi Simelane had a fall out with the Political Party Assembly (PPA) after he announced a march to the American embassy to his throngs of supporters before agreeing on the logistics with the broader civil society.

Simelane had already spoken to the American Ambassador and gotten assurance that they would welcome the petition something that the PPA felt needed collective input. Simelane’s subsequent pronouncement to the nation that there would be a protest to the Ambassador did not go down well especially with PUDEMO who felt he was using his popularity to make announcements that then required them to do the dirty work of mobilising people to attend on the ground. 

In fact, the meeting was subsequently cancelled as the PPA needed to first get permission from the Zulwini Municipality. PUDEMO leaders charged that Simelane did not have to carry the bargain of organising the warm bodies to attend the marches and the logistical nightmares that came with it. They also insisted that he was being too individualistic and building a cult around his charismatic personality and refusing to work within a collective. 

In fact, one of the meetings Simalene had an explosive ‘ fight’ with Makhanya leading to Simelane indicating that he will form his own party. In fact so bad was the fallout that former Illovo Managing Director Mandla Hlatjwako had to be called in to mediate some of the fallout. Makhanya and Simelane eventually made up in part because they were long term buddies but also because they didn’t want to break the facade of unity that had developed.

 It was here that the idea of a SWALIMO  was conceived as Simelane felt he needed to have his own boots on the ground and not rely on the PPA and to show that he enjoyed far more bigger support.

However, as soon as Simelane initiated the idea of SWALIMO he began to court people he didn't know were PUDEMO and this animated some of the organisation’s leadership and membership. In the main they wanted some of the leaders of the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) who were affiliated with PUDEMO.  

PUDEMO began to be concerned about the threat of this new political outfit especially as Magawugawu, as the Siphofaneni Member of Parliament is often called, was showing to be popular and the leader of public discourse. The Bridge also has it in authority that even though both Makhanya and Simelane had a shared history as former leaders of the Swaziland Association of Students (SAS) the two appeared to have disagreements around the political posture of Magawugawu on a number of things.

During a Twitter Space discussion Simelane was accused of having spoken condescendingly about political parties dismissing them as ineffective something that didn’t sit well with Makhanya.

Makhanya didn't like this because he felt that of all people who had benefited from Political Parties, PUDEMO in particular, Simelane should have been the first to defend them not just because they he had supported him but also because he was entrenching the very foundation of Tinkhundla anti political party politics,” said a source close to Makhanya.

The Bridge also understands that Makhanya had housed Simelane when he escaped from South Africa and supported him with his contacts and links with the idea that he would be the Desmond Tutu of the Swazi struggle without affiliation. Equally, by staying with Makhanya Simalene also got to understand that PUDEMO leadership was divided and not as strong as he had thought.

Having stayed with Makhanya Simelane had a closer insight into the workings of PUDEMO. He felt he was popular and could isolate a few people within the organisation that he had respect for otherwise he didn't think he could join the party. If anything, it didn't look like a cohesive and well run organisation and that he could do better,” said a source close to Simelane.

It was then that the idea of a ‘cult’ started to appear forcefully on social media. Within SWALIMO circles PUDEMO was seen as bullish yet ineffective. 

Within SWALIMO the sense was that PUDEMO wants to benefit from Magawugawu’s popularity. And indeed the recent sentiments on social media has shown that SWALIMO has better support,” said a source within the organisation.

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