Home / Investigative / I will continue where I left off – Mario Masuku
This is the second part of the exclusive Ziwaphi interview with Swaziland’s ex-political prisoner, Mario Masuku who was released from prison after the courts found him not guilty of terrorism.

I will continue where I left off – Mario Masuku

What would be an ideal institution to co-ordinate whatever initiatives of this nature?

South Africa can play a decisive role, not as a big brother, but as a country that has gone through a lot of ills, transformation and democratic transition and transformation, not because it is a big brother, it is central to the socio-economic and political progress of the region.

Secondly the SADC Secretariat can play a role. Through all those bodies through the Institute of race relations, who can sit at the centre. We are prepared to have a facilitator. Now, the first question that must be asked is whether there is a political will on both the side of the regime and the liberation movements in Swaziland. If there is no political will, hearts will be hardened.

Has the Swaziland regime invited the liberation movement to participate in the resolution of the impasse?

There is this thing they call Smart Partnership which is sponsored by the Commonwealth – our colonial masters. The central person who organizes this is a woman from the Commonwealth, called Mahalia. I say that is unacceptable. We can determine our own fate, not a colonial master being a monitor and a prefect.

I would not mind having somebody like Roelf Meyer and Cyril Ramaphosa mediating. We know they have managed a difficult transition during the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), not a colonial agent.

I have had discussions with Mswati in 1998. He invited me when there was an impasse on the Constitution. Pudemo and civic groups had their own proposals on the process to be followed on how the constitution should be drafted while the king through the advice of the Commonwealth had his own.

The king unilaterally appointed people to draft the Constitution, in there, he included me. But Pudemo believed that was wrong. Pudemo wanted to submit a name of their choice with clear terms of reference, like CODESA, but the terms of reference were already formulated and the names were already decided upon. Suffice it to say that 75% of those people were traditionalists and conservatives.

There were chiefs, princes and princesses and conservatives who were determined to maintain the status quo. You are talking of a commission that was going to debate the future of a nation! You are losers even before you start!

I am not a dull person to cross a crocodile infested river. You can’t fight crocodiles in their terrain.

I discussed with the King and I declined to participate in the process in the manner in which it was configured. They were not interested in listening to my objections, but they instead chose to unilaterally develop the Constitution.

Last Times Sunday, one of the princes who sit in the King’s Advisory Committee, Prince Mahlaba came out with guns blazing, saying ‘why was Masuku acquitted’?” When he was told that it was because of the Constitution, the prince said this Constitution is rubbish. They thought by going it alone, the Constitution was going to serve them. It is not a completely good document, but it also hit them.

There is also another Constitution, called Swazi Law and Customs, as of now it is still uncoded, but it is operational. If for instance a person speaks badly about a Royal Family – chances are that they’d be acquitted because the courts need evidence, but they can also drag the accused to a traditional court, and there they stand no chance because legal representation is not allowed and you are being tried by a group of men without set procedures. In fact in these courts people are guilty as charged. The normal sentences include eviction and expulsion from your area of residence.

What is the way forward?

I have no doubt that what needs to be done is a joint effort and commitment by all the oppressed people of Swaziland. The people must take up a programme of mass action which will give the regime an ultimatum to institute a process towards a people-driven constitution, which talks about representation.

By the way I believe in the commitment of our people in Pudemo, however, Pudemo alone will have it tough. All members of the civil society must buy in. We need an inclusive struggle. All the motive forces must be involved in the struggle. We need a united front

Secondly is that of internationalizing the struggle. The SACP and COSATU have clearly said they back Pudemo. NUMSA also came out in full support of the struggle of the people of Swaziland and the progressive forces in Swaziland.

In Europe we are also getting moral solidarity. Unlike the South African struggle, we do not have structures such as the Anti Apartheid Movement. The ANC knows that there will be no stable South Africa if you do not have a stable Swaziland.

The ANC can do more in terms of mobilizing support for our struggles in Swaziland, particularly on material support, because without material support it would not be easy to achieve our objectives.

Our first priority is to push the enemy out and have a government of the people, and then the in next election political parties can stand by themselves, but the first objective is to push the enemy out. Currently it is even more difficult to start a dialogue because our organizations are banned, and it is for that reasons that we demand that all organizations be unbanned.

Mpumalanga says that they won the World Cup 2010 as an African Cup and they use that as the reason for their cosy relationship with the Swaziland regimes. What’s your view of this assertion?

We are debating that as an organization. There have been suggestions. One of the suggestions is to confront the Provincial Government. We believe that social activities are not devoid of political and economic activities. How can the government of DD enjoy 2010 when the people here are not enjoying their political freedom? You can never have a normal sport in an abnormal situation.

Where do we start? When you say that people will be using guest houses in Swaziland, what about the people who live in shanty towns. Swaziland has the highest HIV prevalence in the world, 67% of the population live below the US$1 per day.

Do you think people coming to stay in guest houses will change those conditions? Definitely not.

You cant put the cart before the horse. The first thing would have been to say, because SA has resources. We want the FIFA World Cup to leave a mark. You’d bring coaches to train rural people to coach, not to invite the President of the Football Association to sit in a luxury hotel and think that will change the situation.

Mbombela Mayor, Lassy Chiwayo says that SADC has not taken a decision to isolate Swaziland and therefore what he is doing is merely following the South African foreign policy and SADC outlook on Swaziland. Do you agree?

That is a naïve position. You do not say because there has not been an alarm that your neighbour’s house burning and then you fold your arms and not assist. What more do they want?

There is a point of view that Pudemo wants to do away with the Swazi Culture and the King?

There are those who say we want to overthrow the Monarchy. Our position is that we are seeking for a multi-party constitutional democracy where the monarchy is not absolute. Where the monarchy is constitutional and the people will decide who will govern. We do not mind him looking at cultural issues. We are not calling for the overthrow of the king. All we want is accountability.

There are also those who say we despise incwala and umhlanga (traditional ceremonies). That is further from the truth. We are Swazis, we cherish our culture. The only difference is that we detest and condemn when culture is being commercialized and politicized. For example when there is Umhlanga and that if you don’t bring your child you are labeled a dissident. When your daughter does not comply she will not get bursaries, scholarships or jobs.

We are saying that is total nonsense. If I want, I will attend the ceremonies. It must be voluntarily, no one should be forced or threatened with withdrawal of benefits such as bursaries and jobs.

Even under the Pudemo government, we will still have those activities. For people who go around that Pudemo will end this it’s just propaganda.

If the king appoints the head of government, a prime minister and is in charge of the finances, there is no accountability.  If you can’t participate in an election then you must not be involved in government. That’s why they say we want to get rid of him.

Was you detention justified?

I have been incarcerated for nearly a year for being perceived as a terrorist. Right from the beginning I knew that I was not a terrorist or a seditionist.

I banked on an independent judiciary system. I banked on my principles of a free and democratic Swaziland. In fact I even prepared myself for any sentence as long as it was just.

You stayed for almost the whole year, but your trial ended in just a few hours. Are you not bitter with your jailers?

Not at all. People have asked me questions like any revenge on the state and people who caused you so much the pain. My response is that the pain is justified for the cause and my ideals. Secondly I don’t bear a grudge, I don’t hate anybody, my principles are still the same and I will continue where I left of.

I don’t bear a grudge to the king, the prime minister and his cabinet and to the police. The only grudge that I have is against the undemocratic system of rule in Swaziland, which I will fight for as long as I live.

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