December 17, 2003

Opposition rethinks boycott strategy

Opposition rethinks boycott strategy

Swaziland's banned political parties and pro-democracy groups are conceding they may have harmed their cause by boycotting recent parliamentary elections. "If you are in the wilderness, you need all opportunities to be heard. All platforms, even government bodies, must be utilised," Ntombi Nkosi, president of the women's league of the Ngwane National Liberatory Congress (NNLC), said.

"The people want change. They are tired of living under a royal system where their voices are not heard. It is illegal to declare you are a member of a political party – a chief can expel you from your home if you say so – but the people know who is a political progressive. They have followings; they could be elected MPs," declared Jerome Shongwe, a member of the Swaziland Youth Congress, affiliated to the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), which is said to be Swaziland's largest opposition party.

As with the elections, a reassessment is underway in a response to Swaziland's controversial new constitution which King Mswati will decree into law early next year. Written by his brothers Princes Mangaliso and David Dlamini, the constitution perpetuates a ban on political opposition to royal rule, while strengthening palace power over the executive, judicial and legislative arms of government. King Mswati insists the constitution represents the will of the Swazi people, and was assembled after a consultation process with local communities. Labour leader Sithole claimed that a "boycott" of the constitution by pro-democracy groups would not be practical, unless an alternative constitution existed. Instead, he announced that they would test every clause of that constitution. They furthermore expected the authorities to act as they had always acted, and crack down with brute force whenever people raise dissenting voices," Sithole alleged. (IRIN)

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