The people cannot be silenced through repression. If anything, tyranny leads to a state in which the people become more resolute and determined, so much so that they are prepared to pay the highest sacrifice in order to be free. People need a voice and without that voice, they engage in a struggle to get their dignity. However, it is not always easy to get freedom because the old always refuses to die whenever the new fights to be born.

Engels’s dialectical law of negation of the negation dictates that while the new has to be born in the womb of the old, the old always refuses to die, but it cannot fight nature – at the end of the day, it is negated and eventually dies. That is why Tinkhundla is going and multiparty democracy is coming to eSwatini. The people of Siphofaneni in eSwatini confirmed this last night when they came in their numbers to vote for Nomalungelo ‘LaZwide’ Simelane to be a Member of Parliament (MP).

For the uninitiated, ‘LaZwide’ is the wife to exiled Mduduzi ‘Magawugawu’ Simelane who has been pursued by eSwatini’s oppressed monarchy for leading the agenda for the democratization of the country. The by-election to fill in this vacancy was held yesterday at Siphofaneni. It is also worth mentioning that ‘Magawugawu’ went on to form a political organization, the Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO), of which he is the president. As it has been widely reported, when Simelane went to exile after the 2021 eSwatini uprising, he was eventually expelled from parliament due to statutory absence, and this led to a vacuum in the position of Siphofaneni Member of Parliament. The country’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) called for a by-election.

In the run-up to the election, ‘Magawugawu’ had addressed the nation and appealed for the support of his wife LaZwide to replace him as an MP for Siphofaneni. It would seem that the people heeded the call as the campaign took a shape and we saw thousands of people, including those from other constituencies, participating in campaign rallies. She easily won the primary election and the main day (secondary election) was yesterday, Saturday 30 July 2022.

As reported by this publication last week, the Swazi state had tried to stop ‘LaZwide’ from winning the election, to the extent of instructing Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku to make sure that ‘LaZwide’ loses the election. The Swazi regime clandestinely supported little-known Sabelo Ngcamphalala to contest ‘LaZwide.” Long story short, Nomalungelo ‘LaZwide’ Simelane emerged victorious in yesterday’s election which saw scores of people assembling inside her husband’s local community church in the wee hours of the morning for her victory speech. But, what does this election victory means for the political discourse of the country?

First, this successful campaign is, incontrovertibly, a demonstration of a paradigm shift from what Tinkhundla represents. In ideological terms, eSwatini’s Tinkhundla system of government is a system of entrenched royal supremacy, in which all facets of society are organized by and in the narrow interest of the royal family. It is a system of political and economic accumulation through which the absolute monarch ensures its domination of every sphere of the Swazi society.

LaZwide’s victory was a message to the royal family that people are tired of the system and that they want democracy, precisely because, fundamentally, this election was a contestation of the mass democratic movement (MDM) on the one hand and the Tinkhundla system on the other hand. That is why even the People’s United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) president Mlungisi Makhanya appealed to the nation and people of Siphofaneni to vote for ‘LaZwide’ to ensure that “the revolutionary seat” is not won by the other side (pro-monarchy people). Given, PUDEMO’s ideological inclination and the movement’s tactical position of not participating in the Tinkhundla election, this meant the pro-democracy movement had set aside their political differences and were united in making sure ‘LaZwide’ wins.

If the Swazi monarchy and the Tinkhundla system were correctly reading the barometer, this election victory would indicate to them that their time is over. The people are beginning to defy and openly challenge what they grew up supporting. For the people to reject Tinkhundla-backed candidate(s) and vote for ‘LaZwide’ who is the wife of an exiled pro-democracy leader who is being pursued by the state should serve to demonstrate that the people are embracing the agenda for change. Did the Swazi regime sign a social contract with the people and, if so, where and when did they breach it? Why are people rejecting the system? The state wants people to believe that ‘Magawugawu’ is its enemy and that he means bad for eSwatini but the people’s expression through this election suggests something different – they consider ‘Magawugawu’ as their leader and no one can convince them to stand against democratic change.

Reacting to the victory, SWALIMO Secretary General Dr. Siphetfo Dlamini said, “Congratulations to the people of Swaziland. This is big for our struggle and it is a clear message that the people want change and that there is nothing without the people. It’s a symbol and indication that something unprecedented might happen in the 2023 Tinkhundla elections.”

Secondly, what Nomalungelo Simelane’s victory means is that SWALIMO has branded itself quite well. The campaign was put together by the SWALIMO leadership and this gives the organization some strength in terms of aligning with them, for those who want to participate in the 2023 elections. Remember, SWALIMO wants at least 40 of the 59 seats that are directly elected by the people into the House of Assembly. Therefore, this victory gives them some political energy to intensify their campaign and win more people into their ranks. More candidates might want to join or be endorsed by SWALIMO ahead of the elections so that they are confirmed by the people in their respective constituencies.

A political analyst who spoke to The Bridge on condition of anonymity said, “If I were part of the regime I’d appoint ‘LaZwide’ as a cabinet minister, just to kill the momentum. We all know that her election into parliament is not about ideas and what she will do or not do inside the house, but it was just an expression of people who are aggrieved and rejecting the Tinkhundla system. People wanted to send a statement by replacing ‘Gawuzela’ with his wife.”

Thirdly, this victory means there is an interesting element in our politics that can no longer be ignored – social media! What is referred to as ‘data politics’ have come to define our politics and LaZwide’s campaign was waged on the ground but social media played a huge role. Even her husband spoke to the people of Siphofaneni and the nation through a social media platform. Gone are the days when traditional media like radio, TV, and newspapers were the only means of reaching out to the people! Those who want to build influence and win the hearts and souls of people in politics should consider investing in social media presence and strengthen their campaign from those platforms, especially because a majority of the people of eSwatini are young people.

Furthermore, branding was a huge factor in this election. Look at it this way, ‘Magawugawu’ and ‘LaZwide’ are big brands that have been built over the years, even outside of politics. It is a given that when ‘Lazwide’ starts a campaign against little-knowns like Moshoeshoe and one Sabelo Ngcamphalala, she already has a brand advantage over them and she didn’t need an introduction. Also, big brands like Bishop Mpendulo Nkambule, MP Timothy Myeni renowned comedians like Silwane and Gogo came to endorse LaZwide’s campaign during her rallies and this gave her a competitive advantage.

Lastly, woe unto those who think about joining the 2023 elections without alignment and endorsement by the pro-democracy forces because the people now want leaders who stand for democratic change. Look at the reception Minister David ‘Cruizer’ Ngcamphala got during his recent Thanks-Giving ceremony in his constituency of Sigwe. When the MC called for his name the people were ‘cold’ and not excited. This means they might have been there for food and other reasons but that was not a sign of endorsing him – they are rejecting the faces that stand with the dying system of government. The message is loud and clear. In politics there is what is called “balance of forces” and this is now falling in favour of the mass democratic movement – the agenda for change is gaining momentum and this election victory by LaZwide means the people are aligning with change and rejecting the old order.