SCCCO Statement, 20 March 2008

SCCCO Easter Statement

The Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations wishes a holy and peaceful Easter time to all the people of Swaziland. We hope that the Easter break will be used by all people to reflect on the true natures of peace and justice. In what has been a troubled time in the Kingdom, we call on all parties in any dispute to treat each other with respect and to accord each person the dignity of their rights to hold opposing positions. We call on all the people involved in the current disputes to put their arguments forcefully and clearly, to listen intently, to negotiate honestly and above all to behave peacefully and justly.

Peace is not the mere absence of violence, but the ability to live a full and free life without undue restraint and to obtain, fulfillment, growth and development.

Justice is not about law but about being treated as an equal, being accorded dignity and being respected for who we are and what our views are. It allows fair access to the things we need to enable us to fulfill our dreams and desires.

As Swazis we do not handle diversity of opinion and conflict very well. Conflict is a necessary and vital part of our lives, we have all been given free will and it is ours to do with as we choose. Therefore it is natural and it is healthy to differ, to discuss, to compromise and to identify and solve problems. Handling disputes in an open, honest, restrained and constructive manner is one of the hallmarks of a mature society and these are skills that we all must learn.

We support the rights of the strikers to lawful strike. We support their rights to a peaceful picket. We equally support the police in their efforts to promote and retain law and order. We have been consistent in these views since the Coalition was formed. We do not advocate, support or condone the use of violence from any quarter. It is outside the definitions of democracy, freedom of thought and action and respect for others. We support people’s rights to nonviolent protests and expect those rights to be respected.

We note with dismay the attacks on the police force by some protesters, however we also note that there have been occasions where the police have been extremely provocative. The purpose of this provocation seems to be with the intent that it will give them an excuse to react with massively disproportionate force. We are yet to see an incident where the police have used tactics to calm down and diffuse a situation or to refuse to overreact to minor and even verbal taunts. Our support for strikers is conditional on their ability and discipline to protest peacefully. Our support for the police force is conditional on their ability and desire to display professionalism and understand and respect our and their human rights. We have seen police bullying tactics used at football matches, at the university, against strikers, and with the kombi drivers. It is rarely the intended targets that get hit or gassed but the young, the old, the slow, the vulnerable and the weak. These tactics are counterproductive and just escalate and continue the cycle of violence. Many police forces across the world have learned new methods of crowd control that are more effective and less brutal. Please, please, please Commissioner Hillary do as King Sobuza II instructed, ‘Bad and useless indigenous customs should be given up, and good, meaningful and successful ones from foreigners should be taken over and adapted.’ We again put out our offer to work with RSP and international partners to abolish these destructive and divisive tactics.

The real tragedy in this, is that the terms and conditions under which the women at the factories work under are no longer what is important. The violence has become the story. The fact that the women work for long hours at low pay in dirty and dangerous conditions and cannot make ends meet without resorting to offering sex for money is a shocking indictment on our society. It is this oppressive and demeaning environment in which the scandal of the foetuses in the dam was born.

We are coming into an election year, the nature of elections are that they are competitive and that they are divisive. There will be winners and losers. If they are held properly then we should respect the result. His Majesty has called on potential candidates not to rely on muti, traditional killings and traditional practices to help secure parliamentary seats. We, of course, echo his call but also ask the authorities to go further and not to undertake, order or condone other less traditional practices in our elections, blatant use of the army and police force to break up peaceful and lawful public meetings, rigging of election processes so that alternative and unusual candidates cannot get onto the ballot sheet, using the powers of traditional authorities to hamper canvassing, disrupt voter education and influence voters’ decisions.

We are profoundly discomfortable with the make up of the election and boundaries commission and do not see in it much evidence of independence, fairness or expertise. However, we call upon it to be thorough, balanced and respectful of international standards of democracy and election management.

Under the Tinkhundla system we may be able to only vote for parliamentarians rather than a government but let us elect the best parliamentarians we possibly can.

We urge people to consider not only the candidate’s character and their gender but more importantly to consider what their favoured policies are regarding the great and multiple crises that face our nation. Starvation, death, poverty, ignorance, injustice, inequality and rampant corruption. We cannot lavishly spend our ways out of these problems, nor can we ignore them. We must come together in a new parliament with a new mindset. Parliamentarians, Business, Civil Society, International Partners, the Government and even the Traditional Authorities: we must all change our attitudes and find a way of working together.

It is a definition of pure madness to keep doing the same things as before and to expect the results to be different. Let us all work to heal the wounds of the past. Let us use the message of Easter to forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters and to pledge ourselves to working towards a peaceful, inclusive and just nation. One that respects each other as human beings, as members of our communities, as colleagues and as Swazis. We must not fear change, we need not fear diversity. We cannot hope to develop without them both.

May the peace that comes with the message of Easter be upon everyone.

Statement issued by

His Lordship Bishop M B Mabuza +

Chairperson, Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations

Received by e-mail from Stephen Donaghy,

The SCCCO web site is at:

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