PARTY HOPPER OR PRINCIPLED MAN? BRIAN'S SWALIMO RESIGNATION EXPLAINED
Ordinarily a resignation of a junior party member is not newsworthy. After all, a political party loses members as quick as it gets them. But for Brian Shlongonyane, this is not just another resignation.
When news that S'hlongonyane had resigned from the newly established Swaziland Liberation Movement (SWALIMO) it sent tongues wagging about the internal challenges facing the party or his own ability to stay still in one political organisation. After all, he had allegedly been a member of at least three political parties in three years; the Swaziland Youth Congress (SWAYOCO), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and recently SWALIMO. We caught up with Brian to ask him why he has resigned from SWALIMO so early in his political career. Enjoy the conversation below.
The Bridge (TB): Let us start from the beginning. Tell us who is Brian Shlongonyane and what drove you to politics?
Brian Sihlongonyane (BS): I am young activist from Mankayane under Ngwempisi Inkhundla. I started having interests to politics in 2010 when I was in High School. In 2014, I was admitted to LUCT to do a course in Public Relations. It is then that I joined the Swaziland National Union of Students (SNUS) and became branch secretary. During this period I was also introduced to SWAYOCO. On 2015 I was voted as the SRC Director of Academics under the leadership of the late comrade Baphatse George Dhladhla, This is a position I held until 2017. During this period I was in SWAYOCO. I joined politics after realising the hardships in Swaziland under the Tinkhundla system. I realised that for the situation to change in the country we needed a democratic dispensation where we will be able to influence how the country's resources are utilised. Joining students politics was because I realised how difficult life was for students in universities. The living conditions of students was a serious cause for concern as the allowance provided by government is small and in most cases is released late yet a majority of students depend on it for rent, food, buying school materials etc. I felt like I must join student politics to be able to influence how those issues are dealt with.
2. You have been one of the most vocal activist on social media. Some say you cut your political teeth in EFF but you dispute that. What is going on there can you clarify?
I want to put it on record that I was never an EFFSWA member. 2017 after graduating in University, I also left SWAYOCO due to the posture I had then. I felt like the decision not to participate in elections needed to be reviewed, something the organisation did not want to do. I felt like we had to exhaust all measures in order to remove Tinkhundla system including attempting to fight within. Realising that SWAYOCO was not willing to engage on that, I then decided to leave the organisation in 2018. From there I was without a political home until last year. Last year, the only visible party in Mankayane was EFFSWA which was trying so hard to lobby me into the party. I was provided with the organisation's regalia in order to motivate me in. However, I never registered with them. It is then that in August I was lobbied into the idea of SWALIMO and I joined. I am part of the first members of SWALIMO.
3. Take us into your decision to join these organisation and ultimately SWALIMO?
BS: I joined SWALIMO because I liked the proposed idea fighting from within and outside. I liked the idea of continuing where the 3 MPs left. The idea and Charter of the organisation was convincing and I wanted to advance it. It is true that I shot to prominence in national politics when I was SWALIMO because of the crucial position I held as the Manzini District Chairperson.
4. You have been seen in some quarters as a rising star within the movement. But many people say were you an internal critic of the party particularly the President hence your ‘delayed’ resignation?
BS: I have always challenged leadership on the non availability of a constitution. I feel like it is wrong for the organisation to operate without such a crucial document which should be serving as a guiding document. I felt it is wrong for the organisation to keep on hiding under the pretense of saying SWALIMO is young and still growing, which is why it doesn't have a constitution or policies. I tried countless times to engage the NEC to fast track the process of creating documents for the organisation without success. As I speak, the organisation a year later still the organisation does not have a constitution or policies. That was my first objection I raised. We can't be leading such a big movement through a decree as it currently happens. I was also not content with how decisions are made in the organisation. The decision making process is not at all inclusive. It alike the Tinkhundla system whereby a selected few individuals made decisions for all members without engaging them or at least the leaders of those people. An example of such was when the organisation made it public that we will go to Ludzidzini should Mswati call Sibaya. That decision was never thoroughly deliberated and agreed upon by us. Not that the idea was bad but how the decision came about. I felt like we had to be engaged first before it could be taken as an organisational decision. Also, the organisation made a declaration that we will participate in Tinkhundla elections, something we never sat down and discuss as an organisation. Do note, that my problem was not the decisions itself but how it came about. Decision making must be inclusive especially when deciding on matters that touch us.
5. Some accuse you of being a mole from other parties. What do you say to that?
BS: My relationship with the President was good, however we did have our own fair share of misunderstandings or differences which I believed was entirely politically. I am someone who questions things and seemingly the organisation did not like that. They wanted someone to keep quiet and conform to everything, something which is against my principles. We started having serious misunderstandings with the President when we were on our meeting in Durban early this year. He said SWALIMO was his organisation and he makes the rules there lokumhlulako loko akahambe la. It is then that I saw a different side of the President contrary to what I know him to stand for. That was also when I realised I probably did not belong there. I want to be in an organisation that respect democratic principles. As a leader in the organisation, my input should be needed whenever decisions must be taken. I was suspended in the organisation because I refused to accept the SWALIMO Youth League which the people of Manzini that I represent also did not want because it was not created correctly. That Committee was created by 1st DSG and he put only his friends there yet there was a task team that had been formed to create a Youth League Committee .
6. TB: You talk of decision making process in the party. When you raised these objections what was the reception from others? Did they agree with you?
BS: A majority agreed with me but it didn't matter to the organisation cause decisions are made at the top. SWALIMO uses a top down system. Remember there is no Central Executive Committee (CEC) in SWALIMO but the top 9 is called the NEC.
TB: Also, I can expect the same process was followed on the choice of MP for Sphofaneni?
BS: Am not too sure on the Sphofaneni issue. I only heard of it on social media
TB: Thank you Brian and good luck in your new journey.
BS: My pleasure