Indeed, freedom is not free!

On this day 62 years ago, in a manner reminiscent of 29 June 2021 massacre in Eswatini, the Black township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging, South Africa, was engulfed by one of the most violent incidences under apartheid when police fired on a crowd of Black people, killing 69 and wounding many. On the same day, the apartheid government responded by declaring a state of emergency and banning all public meetings. The police and army arrested thousands of Africans who were imprisoned with their leaders.

However, the murder of Black people did not stop the fight against apartheid; the massacre was one of the catalysts for a shift from passive resistance to armed resistance by the organizations of the people of South Africa as led by the African National Congress (ANC). They continued to wage a relentless struggle against a brutal and murderous regime.

Eventually, South Africa got freedom as a reward for the sacrifices made by ordinary people who faced a highly trained and well-armed regime. The apartheid monster finally did the most reasonable thing and went for the only available option – dialogue and a negotiated settlement. With all of its limitations (every country has) South Africa is a free and democratic society and the people have a right to decide their destiny. In contemporary South Africa this day is commemorated as Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the Sharpeville Massacre is remembered the world over every March 21, declared as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the United Nations.

When people come together and unite in a decisive manner, they always overcome oppression and injustice. There is no government that can oppress people forever! This must serve as an inspiration for the people Eswatini who are still fighting for political freedom and a right to self-determination. The world saw the brutality of the royal government on 29 June 2021 when the police and army opened fire and killed unarmed civilians who were protesting for their basic freedoms. They shut down the internet, set blockades across the country, closed schools and bus stations as they started an unprecedented massacre on Swazi soil. What started as a nationwide peaceful protest was met with disproportionate force and by October 2021 the death toll had risen to over 80 (Amnesty International).

There are growing calls for democratic reforms in the Kingdom of Eswatini

Without doubt, Eswatini is ruled by a minority, discredited and repressive royal regime that continues to violet fundamental human rights. The rights to freedom of assembly and expression are enshrined in the same Constitution of Eswatini and guaranteed under international and regional human rights treaties including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Eswatini is a state party. However, these freedoms are denied to the people on a daily basis, but the people are still fighting – and they will win. The June 2021 generation will go down in history as one that refused to live under oppression and for this they were prepared to lay down they lives.

It happened in Angola and Mozambique under Portuguese rule. Thousands were killed in Cuba under the Batista regime and thousands continue to die in the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the same applies in the ongoing conflict between the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic/Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco. Freedom is not free; it comes at a cost and history teaches us that the people emerge victorious and that no oppressive regime will succeed against the people!