The battle for democracy in the kingdom of Swaziland continues

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:

Contact Project Coordinator at DIPD, Mathias Parsbæk Skibdal: