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Posts from the ‘Swaziland’ Category

To friends and partners of DIPD

WIP2016

DEPPYN: Maiken Kristensen (LAU), Mahmoud Said (Egypt Freedom) & Ahmed El-Sayed (Egypt Freedom)

Dear friends and partners of DIPD.

Among many inspiring events during 2016, we would like to mention a few highlight: Danish youth politicians visited Myanmar; two regional Women in Politics seminars in Myanmar and Nepal; politicians from Danish municipalities conducted trainings in Kathmandu; party representatives from Palestine, Swaziland, Bhutan, Tanzania and Bolivia visited Denmark.

However, it has been a year of much suffering around the world. The Nordic and Global Political Party Peer Meeting took place at Utøya, where 69 young people meeting in the Social Democratic youth wing were killed in 2011. Welcoming us, the former Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, stressed the importance of protecting the democratic space and values that underpin our work.

Let that be a reminder to all of us that we are part of a global community committed to finding peaceful and democratic solutions to the challenges facing societies and humanity.

On behalf of the DIPD Team, I wish you an enjoyable and peaceful holiday period!

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The battle for democracy in the kingdom of Swaziland continues

One of the Social Democratic Party’s most progressive international collaborations is our DIPD-financed partnership with the social democratic party ‘SWADEPA’ in Swaziland. Although the party is only five years old, it has already become an influential force in Swaziland.

This story is written by Charlotte Van Dorn Bernhard, International Intern at the Social Democratic Party, and was originally published in the Social Democratic magazine ”Socialdemokraten” in December 2016.

Many may find it difficult to imagine a Denmark in 1848; a time before our democratic constitution, when our king had absolute power. Seen from a democratic point of view this is the reality in Swaziland today, where the government is appointed by the king; a king who also holds the country’s final power in decision-making. SWADEPA’s mission is to promote social democratic policies to improve the conditions for the people of Swaziland, who are suffering under the current regime. A mission that becomes more real as the party develops – a development that has already given it influence on current legislation and the capability to mobilize other progressive voices in the struggle for a democratic multi-party system.

A partnership with benefits

If you look closer at the party’s development over the last years, it is, according to SWADEPA President, Jan Sithole, impossible to ignore the importance of SWADEPA’s cooperation with the Danish Social Democrats: “This cooperation is the best thing that has ever happened to SWADEPA” Mr. Sithole declares without hesitation. Such a statement is not just empty words but an observation made by a man who has followed the party from it’s very beginning. A journey which has really gained speed since the international cooperation began in 2012. “More than anything the cooperation has enabled us to act out the mandate the party is based on. A mandate to be the needed change and influence, which will benefit both the population and the democratic process” Mr. Sithole explains. He continues: “It has given us the resources to influence legislation on human- and women’s rights, areas that are still highly neglected in our society“.

Jan Sithole (SWADEPA) adressing the Social Democratic Congres.

Jan Sithole (SWADEPA) adressing the Social Democratic Congres.

“We are ready for 2018”

One of the main priorities for SWADEPA and President Jan Sithole is to have the resources to build alliances and thus affect concrete legislative proposals and decisions in parliament. This, the President hopes will be improved by an expected greater acceptance of political parties ahead of the election in 2018: “We see ourselves as an alternative government, but in the case of a lack of majority, we will certainly also be an effective opposition: There is a need for both an accelerator and a brake in a well-functioning system” he concludes.

The youth is the future

Today SWADEPA consists of the mother party, a Women’s Wing and a Youth Wing. The two wings have emerged as the unofficial membership has grown exponentially in recent years, where particularly a large percentage of young people have joined the party. “The cooperation with the Social Democrats has given us the opportunity to reach people in the entire country and to begin a dialogue with them about what it actually means to be a part of a political party. One must remember that the government has demonized political parties as long as people can remember, so there is a lot of preparatory work needed before you can start a democratic process” explains Youth Secretary General Manqoba Zamokuhle Jonga. On the ground the Youth Wing specifically do campaigns at three different levels, beginning with informal meetings with young people in local communities, where after they arrange more permanent and planned activities for those who show interest and desire to participate.

S-SWADEPA partnership

Ideas that can inspire: youth engagement in Denmark

“The young generation will play a key role in the future of Swaziland. Therefore, it is important that SWADEPA has a strong and responsive Youth Wing” Jonga firmly states drawing on his experiences from a recent visit to Denmark: “We have DSU [the Social Democratic Youth of Denmark] to look up to now so both our expectations and ambitions are high”. In September Jonga and four of his fellow activists visited Denmark, where they attended the Youth Folk Meeting and visited DSU Valby to learn more about their way of campaigning. “Denmark as a well-functioning democratic monarchy is a very inspiring country for young Swazis to visit. It was all a great experience – even the small sausage-selling vehicle on the street corner” he concludes, smiling.

More information

Here you can read more about the Social Democratic Party’s ongoing partnership with SWADEPA.

Contact International Consultant at the Social Democratic Party, Iben Merrild: iben@socialdemokratiet.dk.

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: maps@dipd.dk.

 

Youth sets the agenda at first Youth People’s Meeting

On 8 and 9 September 2016, the first ever edition of the Youth People’s Meeting has seen more than 20.000 young people gather for cross-political debates and democratic participation in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Social Democrats and the Social-Liberal Party also welcomed youth delegations from Swaziland and Tanzania to this democratic festival.

In June 2016, the 6th yearly edition of the People’s Meeting saw 100.000 peole gather for cross-political dialogue on the Danish island Bornholm. The event, which has often been used as a destination for DIPD partner delegations, is seen as a excellent display of how open and peaceful the Danish democracy can play out.

And just as strengthe20160909_141728ning the cross-political dialogue is a strategic focus of DIPD, so is the inclusion of youth in political parties and democratic processes. Often one specific aspect of the political life in Denmark is highligthed by visiting youth delegations from across the world: the autonomy of youth parties and the extensive possibilities for political engagement Danish youth enjoy.

The launch of the Youth People’s Meeting is therefore welcome addition to the political calendar, and the inaugural edition has seen the spirit of its more well-known “mother meeting” being well adapted to a younger audience. Most imporantly, large parts of this political festival is for youth, by youth.

The youth wing
In true multiparty fashion, all the Danish youth parties except one, have spent the last two days inviting young people in for discussions on youth issues and promoting youth participation in political parties. With all the parties clung together on one political shopping street at the festival, cross-political discussion often arised spontaniously and visitors could get an excellent introduction to the different political organisations.

The Youth People’s Meeting organizors have worked strategically with the inclusion of of students from the different youth educations, a target group that is often accused of being indifferent to political issues. The experience of the of the youth parties present at the festival was however quite different, with all of the reporting high attendance numbers at debates and a genuine interest in political issues.

Finally, the Friday program also included a cross-political youth party leader debate, where issues such as education, taxation and the declining trust in politicians were discussed in front of a strong audience.

Youth Party Leader debate at UFM 16

Bringing inspiration back home
As part of their ongoing partnerships with Tanzania’s Civic United Front (CUF) and Swazi Democratic Party (SWADEPA) respectively, the Social-Liberal Party and the Social Democrats welcomed youth delegations to the Youth People’s Meeting.

While both Tanzania and Swaziland faces very different political challanges than those the Danish youth discussed at their People’s Meeting, the visit provided useful inspiration:

“For us, it is very interesting to see how a festival like this works together with the education institutions, and how the youth parties engages the youth”, General Secretary of SWADEPA’s youth wing, Zamokuhle Jonga, explained.

DSU tent at UFM 16

DIPD continues to support the inclusion of youth in political parties, both through its multiparty partnerships in countries such as Myanmar and Egypt, but also through a support for party partnerships such as those developed by the Social Democrats and the Social-Liberal Party.

Annual Report 2015 – Postcards from the Field

Postcards are not long and detailed, but they highlight the excitement you feel when experiencing something unusual and memorable. This year we asked all our partners to tell one brief story for the Annual Report, to get a sense of what they think has made a difference.

Read more

The dialogue that disappeared

In September, there were high hopes in some parts of Swaziland’s civil society and democratic movement that a dialogue with the county’s absolute monarch King Mswati III was on the table. Not least because of pressure from the Commonwealth, the USA and the EU. Three months later no such meeting has taken place and that hope seems all but shattered.

By Peter Kenworthy, the Red Green Alliance

 

The meeting was to have taken place between king Mswati III, who has ruled Swaziland almost single-handedly for 30 years, and the so-called G15 group, made up of representatives from Swaziland’s civil society, trade unions and political parties SWADEPA, PUDEMO, Sibahle Sinje and the NNLC.

 

Room for improvement
Former President of Malawi Bakili Muluzi was to have brokered the dialogue, as he had both held meetings with Swaziland’s civil society groups and allegedly formed a personal relationship with the king.

Muluzi had been appointed Special Envoy to Swaziland last year by the Commonwealth due to his heading of a Commonwealth team that had monitored the 2013 Swazi elections.

Here his observer team had concluded that the elections were not credible and that there was “considerable room for improving the democratic system”, and that “legislation [should] be put in place to allow for political parties”, who are presently not allowed to take part in elections in Swaziland.

 

Talks, dialogue or royal lecture?
Negotiations with Mswati were always going to be difficult, as he is an absolute monarch. Any Swazi meeting him is literally on his or her knees when having an audience with him. He or she is only meant to listen, not question what the king says.

On top of this, everyone seems to have a different perception of what the dialogue between the king and Swaziland’s civil society and political parties encompassed.

The EU seemed to believe that there was to be a dialogue about democracy between the king and civil society and Swaziland’s political parties, and subsequently attempted to help capacitate the G15.

The Americans believed that it was too early to discuss such matters and saw it as merely an icebreaker where the king was to meet with a G15 that was made up of representatives of civil society, not political parties.

And PUDEMO President Mario Masuku says he also saw the prospect of a meeting as merely an icebreaker, as this was what he had been told by Muluzi, as did the NNLC.

 

Level the playing field
PUDEMO, who say that they have been prepared to talk with the king and the Swazi government for decades, made several demands for a meeting to take place to level the playing field if there were to be meaningful discussions about the democratisation of Swaziland. They communicated these demands in the press amongst other things to quell rumours that they were “selling out”.

Amongst the demands was that all political parties must be unbanned, multiparty elections must be held, a new constitution must be implemented and the 1973 proclamation, where the kings father assumed supreme power for the monarchy, must be annulled.

Several princes, governors and court presidents have expressed shock at the fact that PUDEMO dared make any demands to meeting the king at all, as “no Swazi could ever set conditions for meeting the king”, as one traditionalist put it.

This coupled with the fact that the meeting has still not taken place would seem to indicate that the king was never really intent on having a meeting with Swaziland’s civil society and political parties that might actually have produced any meaningful changes.

 

King must lead
A draft presentation was prepared for the meeting by one of the members of the G15 and amongst other things, the document starts by thanking the king for his “willingness and openness in leading the nation”, acknowledges his concern “with the development of the country and of its people”, and commends him on his leadership and vision for matters such as the “desire to attain first world status” by 2022.

And even though the document requests the king to “engage in a process of national political discussion on our system of governance towards opening up of political space and the establishment of a system that also enables citizens to have the choice of participating through their chosen political parties during elections by the next elections in 2018” through a “genuine national and inclusive process of political dialogue and negotiation”, such a “change process”, it is stated, must  “be led by the king”.

 

No real pressure
So what does the future hold for the G15-talks that are on the one hand muddled by strategic disagreements on whether to accomodate the king’s rules or make demands, and on the other hand seemingly breaking up?

Sibahle Sinje pulled out of the G15 team in November and rumours have it that others might follow, and an advisor to the king, Prince Masitsela, has stated publically that any chances of a meeting between the G15 and the king are now slim.

But an absolute monarch such as Mswati was never going to accept any challenge to his power as long as there is no real pressure on him, and for the moment, there isn’t really any such pressure inside Swaziland.

And this is regardless of the fact that the USA have recently annulled the AGOA free trade agreement with Swaziland and the EU look set to exclude Swaziland from the EU duty free markets, and that this, combined with the loss in revenue from the Southern African Customs Union, could lead to a collapse in Swaziland’s economy.

 

Bridging the gap
Some members of the G15 still believe that enough pressure can be put on Mswati by the population as well as the G15 organisations to force him to the negotiating table, however. The goal is democracy, but also to ensure that the lower-middle-income country that is Swaziland will provide basic services for the two thirds of the population who survive on less than a dollar a day.

“Through initiating dialogue we seek to bridge a gap between the oppressed and the oppressor. An all-embracing open and democratic Swaziland is being built daily by true Swazi patriots who join hands in putting pressure on Mswati to listen. It is dialogue time your majesty, today”, says Wandile Dludlu, who represents the Swaziland United Democratic Front in the G15.

 

DIPD continues to support the partnerships between the Red Green Alliance and PUDEMO, as well as between the Danish Social Democratic Party and SWADEPA.

Read more about the partnership with PUDEMO here.

Read more about the partnership with SWADEPA here.