PUDEMO calls for targeted sanctions against Mswati III

Pudemo has called for economic sanctions against the Swazi king. Archive photo by Abigail Jele

Pudemo calls on international solidarity groups to support economic sanctions against Mswati III.

The People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) a pro-democracy movement in eSwatini, has called for the strengthening of international solidarity against the “war that is waged by Mswati III against the protesters in Swaziland”. The party’s secretary general, Wandile Dludlu, said that they are in need of medical supplies like bandages for those who are injured and that they need forensic pathological services as they are building a case against the king and hope to take it to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. “We are in a humanitarian crisis that requires an immediate medical supply like bandages. But, we also need pathologists’ services as we are looking at putting a dossier with the intention of approaching the Hague. Swaziland is the signatory since 1973,” said Dludlu. He was speaking during a webinar themed ‘The uprisings in eSwatini and international solidarity’ organised by Workers’ World Media Productions and the International Labour Research and Information Group, last week Thursday.

Dludlu also called for economic sanctions to be applied against the king and the companies that he is involved with. “We have in the past come up with smart targeted sanctions which involve making sure that Mswati does not get to travel around the world freely because he is a dictator and a violator of human rights. We are also looking at frustrating his business interests. He literally owns both the public and the private purse in Swaziland,” he said.

According to Dludlu, Mswati’s first born son owns Southern Star, a fuel company that enjoys military escorts at the moment. “We are also mobilising trade unions in the region not to attend to goods from Swaziland including companies that deal with sugar. Swaziland is one of the major suppliers of sugar to Europe and South Africa. Mswati has a 55% stake in the sugar industry. He also has shares in the telecommunication industry, in MTN and eSwatini mobile and that is why he managed to get an internet blackout,” he said.

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Swazis have taken to the street to protest against police brutality. Archive photo supplied

The pro-democracy protests in eSwatini, as Dludlu tells it, started with the death of a university student at the hands of the police and the calls for justice that followed Thabani Nkomonye, a University of eSwatini law student was allegedly shot and killed by traffic police officers and his memorial service was stormed by police firing shots at the mourners. Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch and his net worth is estimated at R730-million while many of his subjects get by with under R20 a day.

In another webinar that was a celebration of the formation of Pudemo 38 year ago, a founding member and former organising secretary of the movement, Mandla Hlatshwayo, said that the no-name sugar sold in major South African retailers comes from eSwatini and Coca-Cola uses sugar from Swaziland to produce its drinks. Swazi activists, the Guardian reported, were accusing the company of propping up the king but King Cola denied that Mswati III received dividends or profits from its eSwatini operations.

A report by the International Trade Union Confederation details the poor working conditions, slave wages and the repression of unions in the sugar industry in eSwatini.

Pudemo’s president, Mlungisi Makhanya, said that they are changing the narrative about the country and that people should stop seeing “Swaziland [as] a museum of backwardness that people get to be invited to see bare-breasted young girls and to smoke marijuana during the Bushfire festival.”

Dludlu, Pudemo’s secretary general, said that it is important “to frustrate Mswati economically by stopping the economic valve which gives lifeblood and oxygen to Mswati.”

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During the seminar, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Swaziland, Thokozane Kunene, called for better organised international solidarity: “We do not enjoy the kind of solidarity that we deserve. I call on you to form solidarity structures that will coordinate campaigns and actions against the king.”

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